I am sure that some people are tempted to indulge a little schadenfreude over the news that the oh, so censorious Archbishop-elect of San Francisco has been charged with a DUI. I hope that the incident will invite Archbishop-elect Cordileone to think with greater compassion about the complicated lives we all lead today. Just as his arrest does not tell us all there is to know about him, so too, does the fact that a couple uses contraception, or that a given man or woman is gay, exhaust all there is to know about them.
I will also point out that, by definition, drinking while under the influence is not an intrinsic evil, but Cordileone better hope his case is settled soon because his colleague, Bishop Morlino in Madison, seems intent on expanding the category of intrinsic evil to include just about anything that does not cohere with the Republican Party platform. Even the GOP, I suspect, is not about to propose overturning drunk driving laws.
Finally, issuing a brief statement about the incident is insufficient. Here, the case is very different from that of Archbishop Roach of St. Paul in the 1980s. Archbishop Roach was already a much-beloved pastor. Archbishop-elect Cordileone is in the process of introducing himself to his new flock in San Francisco. He should have gotten out front of this story from the beginning, and not waited for it to break from others. Then, he should have held a press conference to answer all questions, and hopefully begin putting the episode behind him. Now, he has guaranteed the story will continue to play out as people, quite rightly, want to know the answers to basic questions such as how much over the legal limit he was at the time of his arrest. I think most people sympathize with the circumstance of having one sip too many and being slightly over the limit. Being way over the limit is a different story.
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Crisis are difficult but they are also opportunities. Here is a chance for the incoming Archbishop to show an approriate humility and humanness. He has shown a grave error in judgment by not calling a cab. He has, so far, not handled the media and public aspects of this very well. Last month, at the press conference where his appointment was announced, he acknowledged the confidence the Holy Father had placed in him by elevating him to the archbishopric of San Francisco. He needs to demonstrate in the next few days that such confidence was well placed.