Friday, December 16, 2005

ARCHBISHOP NIEDERAUER: On With The (Really Big) Show

The timing could not have been more impeccable. I was standing on the portico of Loggia House yesterday morning, getting some air and sipping my morning coffee, prepping for what had suddenly become a busy day with the appointment of San Francisco's new archbishop, when the Postal Service truck arrived much earlier than usual.

"Presents, already?" I asked the good mailman.

So I opened the box to find -- to my most pleasant surprise -- a gift from the world-famous Jimmy Mac and his partner, Greg. It was a coffee cup from Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Fran's Castro district (my favorite parish I haven't yet been to, though that'll change in mid-February), with images of Jesus and the words "An Inclusive Catholic Community" running along its side.

It's just fabulous, and as I write this I'm drinking my afternoon wake-up call from it with relish. It chose (or deigned, as the new ICEL would have it) to make its arrival on just the right day, and I see an omen in that.

In August, I wrote the following:
Even though his identity isn't public knowledge yet, Levada's successor is already being colorfully referred to in some quarters as "Son of Darth." Barring the unforeseen, his unveiling will be the first major American move of B16's papacy, in a city where the Catholic community has been able to accomplish more by being an instrument of solidarity and civic cooperation than a hard-lined hunter of heresy.
One front-runner has shown his hand on the pastoral approach question. Bishop George Niederauer of Salt Lake City, a native Angeleno and classmate of Levada's said to be the CDF head's preferred successor in San Francisco, has been spotted relaxing in residence at a Southern California parish known for its prominent and extremely committed LGBT parishioner-base, celebrating masses and doing vacation ministry.

If he is, indeed, Son of Darth, it seems a sign that Niederauer would continue his predecessors' tradition of pastoral outreach and engagement by the Bay... Good, good news for San Fran.
Mhmm, and mhmm. Prophecy fulfilled yet again, and reaffirmed in the good pages of the Chronicle
"Some who are seriously mistaken have named sexual orientation as the cause of the recent scandal regarding the sexual abuse of minors by priests," Niederauer said in the interview with the Intermountain Catholic News, which was published Monday.

His reference to "sexual orientation" stands in contrast to the Vatican instruction's description of "persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

Niederauer said gay men committed to Christ and the church can effectively minister as priests, and he said sexual orientation was "a structure of human personality." In contrast, the Vatican instruction states that men "who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture' " are unfit for priesthood.

"I don't think there are any ifs, ands or buts that the Vatican is trying to blame the sex abuse crisis on gay priests, and this man says that is 'seriously mistaken,' " said Sam Sinnett, national president of DignityUSA, an organization in Washington, D.C., of gay and lesbian Catholics.

"Very few bishops have come out and said clearly that this is not about sexual orientation," Sinnett said. He added that, if the statements reflected the bishop's thinking, his appointment in San Francisco would be "more than a small step forward for gay and lesbian Catholics." ...

In 2004, however, Niederauer publicly opposed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that appeared on the Utah state ballot, even though he opposed same-sex marriage.

Many Protestant leaders and the powerful Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported the ban. But Niederauer said he was troubled that the amendment banned any union beside marriage. He also saw the ban as unnecessary because same-sex marriages already were prohibited by Utah law.

Niederauer also helped form the "Coalition of Concerned Religious Leaders," a group of Utah clergy who urged tolerance for gays and lesbians after the state legislature in 1996 banned gay student clubs when students at one school expressed interest in starting such a club.

Before he was assigned to Utah, Niederauer spent his career in Southern California, including a stint at a parish in West Hollywood, which has a large gay population. In a 2003 interview with the (Salt Lake City) Deseret News about his work in West Hollywood, he was enthusiastic.

"I don't have to take a back seat to anyone in the church in my admiration for the people I met," Niederauer said. He added, "They were as wonderful and gifted and generous and compassionate as any you meet."
Not for nothing that the Mormon response to this appointment is, in a word, glowing
[Niederauer']s approach is "something that transcends tolerance," said Elder Alexander Morrison, emeritus member of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who served on the Alliance for Unity with him. "It represents something higher: respect, understanding and acceptance."
Mhmm, and mhmm.