S.F. archbishop spokeswoman says he does not 'pander to bigots'

SF Archdiocese spokeswoman on Archbishop's decision to attend anti-gay marriage rally: "We don't hate-monger."

One day after dozens of public officials and civil, gay rights and community leaders called on San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone to cancel his plans to speak at an anti-same sex marriage rally next week, his spokeswoman sought to explain his stance while taking exception to the criticism. 

Archdiocese of San Francisco spokeswoman Christine A. Mugridge said in an interview Thursday that as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Cordileone is obligated to convey church teachings.

"When we speak about defense, we speak in terms of religious liberty, coming from the platform of our religious standpoint," she said. "And when we speak of promotion we're promoting the sacramental understanding of marriage."

That religious discussion has overlapped into the civil arena, she acknowledged. Mugridge called Cordileone a "very open-hearted man" who often engages in one-on-one dialogue with people who may have different beliefs. But she said she personally believes a "person-to-person" conversation would have been more effective than a publicized open letter.

The letter and an accompanying petition criticized some backers and scheduled speakers of the "March for Marriage" to be held in Washington, D.C., on June 19 for "denigrating" gay lesbian and transgender people and likening their unions to incest and bestiality.

The letter's signatories -- among them Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee -- call on Cordileone to reconsider his participation "and join us in seeking to promote reconciliation rather than division and hatred."

Mugridge said the letter appears to be "suggesting that we define how and where and when someone has the right to express their opinion -- and that concerns me."

She likened the request to asking Newsom not to speak at a public rally where others might express views offensive to the Catholic Church.

As for the march and its organizers, she said Cordileone for the time being "is not releasing a statement regarding his speaking venue."

However, she added: "We don't hate-monger, we don't pander to bigots," but rather "promote our understanding of marriage."

Meanwhile, as news of the open call to Cordileone circulated Wednesday, he attended the opening day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring assembly in New Orleans, telling his fellow  bishops: “We are at a critical point in this country as it comes to defense of marriage in the law.”

Cordileone pressed for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution as "the only remedy in law against judicial activism" -- and announced that he would be attending the June 19 march.

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