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The Archbishop of No

Regardless of what San Francisco’s Catholics may want, anti–gay marriage crusader Salvatore Cordileone won’t let the flock push him around.

The scene one Sunday in December at Most Holy Redeemer would seem to inspire Catholics of any theological stripe. The neat, airy church was packed. Pews were arranged in an evangelical-style horseshoe that put parishioners closer to the altar—a contrast to the standard church’s distant pews. There were women and children, but mostly there were men: couples sitting close, taking communion together. And there was singing, clear and loud.

After mass, the regular din erupted at the post-service social held in the hall downstairs. Congregants sipped coffee and munched on pumpkin bread, and newcomers stuck on name tags. “They have to kick us out of here on Sundays; we can just keep gabbing,” said Sister Marilyn Morgan, who has attended the church for 15 years. “It’s a place of refuge. People aren’t going to be made fun of or mocked or judged for who they are.” There are other churches closer to her home in Portola, Morgan said, but she prefers it here, where she has more of a voice and “women are not an add-on.” At her table, there were new copies of the archdiocese’s directory, its cover featuring a large photograph of Cordileone smiling. “I want the new archbishop to experience the love and the community and the prayerfulness here,” said Morgan. “Maybe he’ll be moved by that, because other people see it. So I hope he can, too.”

Other parishioners were less optimistic. It’s simple, said Hugh Mallaney, a 60-year-old openly gay member of Most Holy Redeemer, sitting at a round table crowded with friends. “He does his thing, we do ours.” After a pause, he added, “I mean, the church is for us, too. We’ve built this community, and I feel more at home here than anywhere. Someone can try and come in and change that. But we will outlast them.”

Originally published in the February 2013 issue of San Francisco Magazine

 

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