SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Catholic Church on Thursday installed Salvatore Cordileone, a leader in the fight against same-sex marriage, as archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Following his installation as the religious leader of more than 500,000 Catholics in the largely gay-friendly Bay Area, Cordileone, 56, delivered a sermon and spoke about his recent arrest after failing a sobriety test at a police checkpoint.
“God has always had a way of putting me in my place,” he said. “With the last episode in my life, God has outdone Himself.”
Cordileone spent about 11 hours in a San Diego jail cell in August after he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. On Monday, he pleaded guilty to driving with alcohol in his system, said Gina Coburn, spokeswoman for the San Diego City Attorney.
Cordileone has been particularly outspoken in Church opposition to same-sex matrimony as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, a role that has put him at odds with many Bay Area Catholics.
He also led Church support for the 2008 voter-approved California state constitutional amendment, Proposition 8, that banned gay marriage.
While taking his place as the archbishop of San Francisco and two other area counties, Cordileone called the drunken driving incident a “regrettable mistake.”
Pope Benedict appointed Cordileone to preside over the Archdiocese of San Francisco in July.
“The archbishop is an advocate for immigrants and an opponent of the death penalty, but he comes here perceived as a one-issue bishop,” Brian Cahill, former San Francisco Catholic Charities executive director, wrote in an editorial published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday.
“He can continue to be the aggressive, outspoken leader of the American Catholic bishops in their effort to prevent civil gay marriage, or he can be the shepherd of his flock. He can’t be both, and if he tries, he will fail.”
Cordileone said his grandfather settled in San Francisco 100 years ago.
“If someone had told him that his grandson would become the archbishop of this place, I’m sure he would think they were out of their mind,” he said. “I’m sure there are people who think that today.”
About 2,000 people, including 40 bishops, attended the installation and mass in the Cathedral of St. Mary. Outside the church, dozens of supporters carrying welcoming banners mixed with protesters, including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence - a group of gay male activists who dress as nuns.
Editing by Edith Honan and Mohammad Zargham