The San Francisco Chronicle reported that he was a key advocate of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage. “He was about as instrumental as anybody,” Frank Schubert, a leading Proposition 8 activist, told the paper.
When the pope named Cordileone the bishop of Oakland, Calif., in 2009, the liberal East Bay Express ran an attack piece dubbing him “The Father of Proposition 8.” The article quoted an interview Cordieone had given to a Catholic radio program in which he indicated that the attack on marriage was diabolical and posed an existential threat to society.
"The ultimate attack of the Evil One is the attack on marriage," he said. "If you take marriage apart, everything comes unraveled. It's been frayed at the edges, and now moving more and more toward the center. But you take marriage out, it all comes unraveled. It all comes tumbling down. And again, the evangelicals, they understand that. They understand this is an attack of the Evil One at the core institution."
Cordileone has also spoken out against the regulation Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized earlier this year, and which will take effect Wednesday, that forces health-care plans to cover sterilizations, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
"I am outraged that our religious liberties are violated by this mandate," Cordileone told the Chronicle.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, appointed Cordileone to lead the conference’s panel defending marriage on Jan. 5, 2011.
“Marriage and the family are the essential coordinates for society,” Cordileone said at that time. “How well we as a society protect and promote marriage and the family is the measure of how well we stand for the inviolable dignity and good of every individual in our society, without exception. The consequences for our future—especially that of our nation’s children—cannot be greater and must not be ignored.”
In June 2011, when New York state legalized same-sex marriage, Cordileone condemned the legislation as a “profoundly unjust law” and declared that children have a “basic right” to a mother and father.
“Making marriage law indifferent to the absence of either sex creates an institutional and cultural crisis with generational ramifications yet to be seen,” Cordileone said in response to the New York law.
“To eliminate marriage’s very essence--its essence as the union of husband and wife--from its legal definition is to ignore not only basic anthropology and biology but also the purpose of law generally,” said Cordileone. “Law is meant to uphold the common good, not undermine it. Now, New York’s government will be forced to ignore that children have a basic right to be raised by their mother and father together.”
Cordileone also said that New York’s law set the stage for government to persecute those who defend the moral truth about marriage.
“Also, as demonstrated in other states where marriage redefinition has occurred, officials there will be in a position to retaliate against those who continue to uphold these basic truths,” said Cordileone. “This is a mark of a profoundly unjust law.”
Last November, Cordileone wrote to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee urging it to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act. Cordileone argued, again, that children have a “fundamental human right” to a mother and father and that redefining marriage would lead to attacks on the religious liberty on those who defend traditional marriage.
“In places where marriage’s core meaning has been altered through legal action, officials are beginning to target for punishment those believers and churches that refuse to adapt,” said Cordileone. “Any non-conforming conduct and even expressions of disagreement, based simply on support for marriage as understood since time immemorial, are wrongly being treated as if they harmed society, and somehow constituted a form of evil equal to racism. DOMA represents an essential protection against such threats to faith and conscience.”
At a Friday press conference announcing Cordileone's appointment, reporters asked him two questions about the marriage issue. In each instance, he forcefully stated the Catholic position in defense of marriage. In response to a third question about other “cultural” challenges, the bishop brought up the issue of family and human sexuality on his own.
A reporter from a local television station, asked the bishop: “I would like to know what is your stance on Prop 8 and church abuse?”
Cordileone instantly said: “I am for marriage and against abuse.”
That response brought applause from the audience in the basement of San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Cathedral.
“Marriage is a foundational good, and one of the cultural challenges all throughout the West, and including here, certainly is the erosion of family life, the break up of families, children growing up without their parents, especially without their fathers, abuse in the home,” Cordileone continued. “These are cultural and moral challenges that we have to confront. Children deserve to have a mother and a father, and that is the greatest gift we can give for children. So, we need to do everything we can to strengthen marriage, understanding that it is a benefit for everyone in society.”
On the issue of clergy abusing children, Cordileone said: “Our church has suffered the shame of the sex abuse of children by clergy but we have also had firm resolve in addressing the problem. We have made a lot of progress in doing so, and I am very grateful to my predecessors in the episcopacy here in this country who have had such firm resolve and I hope to build on that and continue that momentum.”
A local radio reporter then asked Bishop Cordileone if he would be willing to back off from the church’s position in defense of marriage given there were so many homosexuals in San Francisco.
“There are a lot of gay and lesbian brethren who feel disenfranchised by the Catholic Church, and from what I understand you’ve been pretty adamantly [for] Proposition 8," said the reporter. "I am wondering now that you are in San Francisco if you’re at all willing to revisit that and what would you say to the gay and lesbian brethren in the Catholic Church?”
“What I said before,” Cordileone responded. “Marriage benefits every one. Marriage isn’t against anyone. Marriage specifically benefits everyone.”
The reporter asked: “What is your stand on same-sex marriage?”
Cordileone answered: “Marriage is the union of a man and a woman because children can only come about through the embrace of a man and a woman coming together. So, my stance is marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and I don’t see how that is discriminatory against anyone.
“I think the challenge for us in the church is to help people who are in a situation of sexual orientations where they feel alienated from the church and sometimes experience it very directly,” said Cordileone. “We need to learn, continue to learn, how to be welcoming, let them know that they love them and we want to help them, and that our stand for marriage is not against anyone but its because we believe this is foundational for the good of our society. “
Later, a reporter followed up by asking the bishop what he thought about the other cultural challenges in San Francisco. Cordileone brought the issue back to family life and human sexuality.
“These are challenges I’ll have to get to know as I get to know the lay of the land and understand the culture here on this side of the bay better,” said Cordileone. “I think the cultural challenges to a large extent revolve around issues of family life, and essentially come down to our understanding of the human person, the purpose of our human sexuality, what God calls us to do and how he calls us to live, and how He calls us to love and what that really means. So, there are, I think, some foundational philosophical issues that manifest themselves through the cultural issues that we are dealing with.”
Cordileone will be officially installed as the archbishop of San Francisco on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis, patron saint of the city where he will lead the Catholic Church.