National Organization for Marriage founder to San Francisco post

Maggie Gallagher, a senior fellow at the Washington-based American Principles Project, is the new executive director of the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. She is pictured in a 2014 photo. (CNS/Archdiocese of San Francisco)

Maggie Gallagher, a founder of the National Organization for Marriage as well as the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, has been charged by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to expand and promote the work of the archdiocese's Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship.

According to a July 27 story on the Catholic San Francisco website, Gallagher "will lead the institute from her home in Virginia and in addition will travel regularly to the archdiocese to carry out her work locally. She also expects to be on the road fundraising and promoting the institute nationally."

The institute, based at St. Patrick's Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California, was established in 2014 "to support pastors in their efforts to form lay people for liturgical ministries," reported Catholic San Francisco.

Cordileone, who is known for his affection for the Latin Mass, originally named Benedictine Fr. Samuel Weber director. Weber, a chant expert, helped set up the Institute of Sacred Music in 2008 in St. Louis under then-Archbishop Raymond Burke. Weber will remain a seminary faculty member, and the institute will promote his work, it was reported.

The new executive director is a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based American Principles Project, an organization that advocates "for public policy solutions that respect and affirm: human life from conception to natural death; the union of one man and one woman as the definition of marriage; the freedom to practice and proclaim religion; authentic economic progress for working Americans; education in service of the comprehensive development of the person; and, the legacy of immigrants in contributing to the American story," according to its website.

"Gallagher, 56, graduated from Yale University in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in religious studies and has been published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and has written several books," noted Catholic San Francisco.

With financial backing from the Knights of Columbus, the National Organization for Marriage has been heavily involved in opposing same-sex marriage, including the 2008 passage of Proposition 8 in California which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Then auxiliary bishop of San Diego, Cordileone was the California bishops' point man in helping author and promote the legislation which was ultimately declared unconstitutional.

Cordileone has drawn criticism in the past for being a featured speaker at the 2014 national March for Marriage staged in Washington, D.C., co-sponsored by National Organization for Marriage. Event critics charged that it endorsed an anti-LGBT agenda. Cordileone strongly denied this; however, he did reverse a decision to speak again at the 2015 gathering.

According to the archdiocesan newspaper, "The institute's new emphasis was hammered out in January in meetings with Gallagher, the archbishop and three professors at St. Patrick's Seminary and University in Menlo Park. ... The expanded vision was presented to the board for its deliberation and approval" during the meeting at which members approved the hiring of Gallagher.

"The institute will be reimagined 'as a center for promoting Catholic culture,' continuing its emphasis on promoting sacred music, particularly chant, Cordileone announced," according to Catholic San Francisco.

"In its new format," the article added, "the institute will host at least four lectures on topics related to Catholic art, music, architecture and literature, with at least one of the lectures on some aspect of chant. The institute will host at least one concert of sacred music at the seminary, or a liturgical service such as vespers featuring sacred music."

"For me, Benedict XVI is about opening the door of beauty to God to as many who want to enter by that path," Gallagher told the newspaper. "The Mass, the liturgy and sacred music are indispensable. But encouraging a culture of Catholic art and storytelling is another closely connected goal. San Francisco's amazingly ethnically diverse parishes provide many doors to beauty I'm excited to explore and promote."

[Dan Morris-Young is NCR West Coast correspondent.]

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