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The PR Guru Who Wants to Take Down San Francisco’s Archbishop Cordileone

Mark Stricherz

Mark Stricherz - published on 03/18/15 - updated on 06/08/17

PR man prays for Pope Francis to remove him

The battle for San Francisco’s Catholic schools has been joined. Will Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone or a public-relations expert survive?

Last month, the  archbishop called for changes to the staff and faculty handbooks of the archdiocese’s four high schools in the 2015-2016 school year—Sacred Heart and Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield, and Junipero Serra in San Mateo. The proposal would add a detailed statement on Church teaching about sexual morality and the sanctity of life.

According to Catholic SF Weekly, the archbishop explained his proposals this way:

"At the outset, I wish to state clearly and emphatically that the intention underlying this document is not to target for dismissal from our schools any teachers, singly or collectively, nor does it introduce anything essentially new into the contract or the faculty handbook,” the archbishop wrote in the letter.

The handbook additions clearly state that the institution believes in the listed items, and does not require each individual staff member or teacher to assent to each stated item of Catholic doctrine. That is because the archdiocese recognizes that some Catholic teachers and other non-Catholic teachers may not agree with all that the Catholic Church teaches, Archbishop Cordileone said. The aim of the handbook additions is to specify for all what the church teaches and require that high school staff and teachers not contradict Catholic teachings in a school environment or in public actions.

Cordileone has drawn criticism from progressives before. As chairman of a subcommittee for the promotion and defense of marriage at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he attended the annual March for Marriage in Washington, D.C. last June. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged the archbishop not to attend the event.

Now public relations strategist Sam Singer has been hired to lead a campaign to pressure Church leaders to remove Cordileone from his post. “Everyone is praying that Pope Francis will get rid of Archbishop Cordileone and these priests,” Singer wrote on his Google+ account, according to Catholic World Report.

Singer suggested the archbishop left sprinklers on at St. Mary’s Cathedral to prevent homeless people from sleeping on its steps. He urged reporters to write about a handbook at Star of the Sea elementary school that reminded students about Church teaching on masturbation, abortion, and gay marriage.

On Monday, protesters held a forum at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco to air their grievances against the archdiocese’s proposals:

At the forum, students and parents told personal stories about their struggles with their sexuality, about their relationship toward a Church they once felt rejected them, and about overcoming infertility. Many spoke of the damage they believe Cordileone will cause with his language in the handbook, especially the phrase “grave evil.”

Gus O’Sullivan, a senior at Sacred Heart, said, “The language is offensive and damaging. As a gay student, I understand the severity of this language.”

O’Sullivan said his struggle to accept his sexuality was difficult enough, but had such language been present at his school during that time, “It would have been detrimental to my mental health and self-worth.”

For months, Singer put the burden on Cordileone to show he was a faithful shepherd of the city’s Catholics. Now conservative and Catholic media as well as one contrarian local publication have put the burden on Singer to prove his moral bona fides.

Catholic World Report cited a long profile of Singer in

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