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Man in the Arena: Stand With, Pray For and Learn From, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone
By Deacon Keith Fournier
September 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
He showed genuine remorse for his actions and asked forgiveness of those whom he disappointed. In an age which is truly shame-less, he admitted that he felt shame! Finally, as a man of real "nitty-gritty" faith, the kind forged in fire, he asked the Lord to pull good - even out of our mistakes. Now that's the kind of real, human, and sincere response which should come from from a mature Christian.
SAN DIEGO,CA (Catholic Online) - By now almost everyone who reads news online, listens to it on the radio or watches it on television has heard of the error of judgment committed by the Archbishop-elect of San Francisco, the Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, on Saturday, August 25, 2012.
My email was filled with comments from readers immediately after it occuured because I had written an article upon the Bishops appointment entitled Abp. Cordileone is One More Foundation Stone as Pope Benedict Fortifies the Church . I extolled the selection of this good Bishop for the formidable challenge he will soon face in providing pastoral leadership to the faithful of San Francisco and prophetic leadership in that critical area of a nation which is in such great need.
The Bishop's defense of true marriage and his fidelity to the unbroken and unchangeable teaching of the Catholic Church are well known. His defense of the fundamental human right to life and religious liberty have been presented in some media sources as having the potential to cause some kind of disruption in San Francisco. However, for the faithful of San Francisco, his selection to succeed the retiring Archbishop George Niederauer in governing the Church of San Francisco is a source of great joy.
Though I do not personally know the Bishop, I have reliable sources - and friends - who confirm what I have read in repeated accounts. He is a warm, caring and compassionate shepherd - and a truly good man. He has demonstrated courage and integrity in his defense of the truth in an age properly characterized by Pope Benedict XVI as a dictatorship of relativism. He has withstood the headwinds of a growing hostility toward the Catholic Church and is ready to assume a critical post in this urgent hour in history.
There is a propaganda effort to portray the Bishop - indeed all who adhere to the Jewish and Christian vision of the dignity of the human person, the primacy of true marriage and family and the necessary moral foundation of a truly free and just civil society - as "backward." Catholics are increasingly portrayed as proposing a return to some alleged "dark age".
In fact, it is the Catholic Church which leads us out of dark ages like the one we are currently in. She offers the world the path to true progress, in part, by offering great leaders in such critical times. From all that I can discern, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone is such a great leader.
Some of those who have written to me since the incident have asked if I have changed my mind in my assessment of this Bishop. The answer is No. Others expressed concern over what happened. Like me, they wanted to know all the facts before they formed an opinion. A few were suspicious. A few were too quick to judge. Now, the facts are out. So is the bishop's honest response:
"While visiting in San Diego this past weekend, I had dinner at the home of some friends along with a priest friend visiting from outside the country and my mother, who lives near San Diego State University. While driving my mother home, I passed through a DUI checkpoint the police had set up near the SDSU campus before I reached her home, and was found to be over the California legal blood alcohol level."
"I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself. I will repay my debt to society and I ask forgiveness from my family and my friends and co-workers at the Diocese of Oakland and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. I pray that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, will bring some good out of this."
Not only are the Bishops comments a sign of his integrity, his mother's comment to a to San Diego's KMFB, is endearing: "We were invited to some friend's house and he loved his wine and they kept filling his glass and filling his glass. And I didn't want to seem like a bossy mother. I should've told him, 'You're drinking too much wine.'" It is all so very human.
Let's reduce this to the simple bottom line. The Bishop and his mother were having dinner at a friend's house near San Diego University with a small group. They were likely celebrating the goodness of the Lord as revealed in his selection for this new assignment. As is often the case in good, wholesome, human celebrations, wine was a part of the experience. So far, there is absolutely nothing inappropriate which should in any way reflect upon the Bishop negatively.
His decision to drive his mother home was the error in the exercise of his judgment. He was stopped by police officers at a sobriety checkpoint near the campus. One of the officers, Mark McCullough, told the local press that the Bishop identified himself as a Catholic priest and was quite polite. "He was a driver that was obviously impaired but he was quite cordial and polite throughout." He was booked, bonded out and the misdemeanor offense was then set for a hearing.
As a former prosecuting attorney, I know this is all standard procedure. The Bishop has no criminal record and no prior offenses. There is absolutely no indication he has any problem with alcohol. He made a mistake in judgment. No one was harmed. Now, at this point, most people would make the State prove the case and work to have it dismissed or pled down.
Now, why do I say that the Bishop's response showed integrity? Because, it was so honest - he owned up to his error in judgment. He showed genuine remorse for his actions and asked forgiveness of those whom he disappointed. In an age which is truly shame-less, he admitted that he felt shame! Finally, as a man of real "nitty-gritty" faith, the kind forged in fire, he asked the Lord to pull good - even out of our mistakes.
Now that's the kind of real, human, and sincere response which should come from from a mature Christian. I fully expect that this incident will become a tutor for the Bishop. He will become a better person and a better leader. That is what the past is meant to do for each one of us. He will make amends, offer the experience to the Lord and then, by cooperating with grace, allow it to become the material out of which he is formed more fully into the character of Christ.
On the wall of the Martial Arts Dojo where I have studied for years there is a great quote from Theodore Roosevelt entitled "The Man in the Arena". It is excerpted from a speech he gave in France in the year 1910 entitled "Citizenship In A Republic":
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
The sentiment expresses a reality to which most of us give an assent. Its truths are demonstrated even more fully in the lives of the great saints of the Church like the one whom we celebrated on Tuesday, Augustine of Hippo. Christians have a perspective which is rooted in and transformed by the Cross. We are not perfect, but we are called to be perfected. Mistakes, failures and yes, even errors of judgment, happen to all of us. The real question is how we respond to them. The Archbishop-elect of San Francisco just gave us all a lesson. We should still stand with, pray for and learn from, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone.
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