US archbishop Salvatore Cordileone apologises for drink-driving arrest

 

The Roman Catholic archbishop-elect of San Francisco has apologised for his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving, behaviour that he said brought "shame" and "disgrace" on himself and the church, though legal experts said was unlikely to derail his promotion. 

The Reverand Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement issued yesterday by his office that he was driving home from a dinner with friends in San Diego with his mother and a visiting priest friend early Saturday when he was pulled over at a checkpoint near San Diego State University.

The statement said a sobriety test showed his blood-alcohol level to be above the legal limit, although Cordileone did not reveal by how much.

"I apologize for my error in judgement and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself," he said. "I pray that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, will bring some good out of this."

Cordileone, 56, currently serves as bishop of Oakland and is scheduled to be installed as San Francisco archbishop on Oct. 4, five days before his first court date.

Pope Benedict XVI selected him last month to replace Archbishop George Niederauer, who is retiring in October.

Cordileone took a breath test that confirmed his blood alcohol content exceeded California's legal limit of 0.08 per cent, said Officer Mark McCullough, who declined to say by how much.

Cordileone, one of 11 people arrested at the checkpoint that night, identified himself as a priest, said McCullough. An officer did an Internet search and learned he was archbishop-elect.

Canon law experts said a criminal charge would not automatically prompt a delay in Cordileone's installation as archbishop, which is scheduled to take place at St. Mary's Cathedral on 4 October, the feast day of San Francisco's patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi.

Because Catholic bishops are answerable only to the pope, any potential discipline would have to come from the Vatican, said Michael Ritty, a canon lawyer in private practice in upstate New York.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, predicted that Cordileone's arrest, while embarrassing, would only draw a response from Rome if it appeared he had a serious substance abuse problem that prevented him from carrying out the archbishop duties.

While serving in San Diego four years ago, Cordileone was instrumental in devising an initiative to strip same-sex couples of the right to wed in California.

The archdiocese serves more than 400,000 Catholics in the city of San Francisco and Marin and San Mateo counties. In the post, Cordileone would oversee the bishops in Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Stockton.

AP

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