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San Francisco Catholic leader blasted by sexual abuse victims’ lawyer for brushing off bankruptcy meeting

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Joseph Cordileone attends the mass and imposition of the Pallium at the Vatican Basilica. | Source: Getty Images

A lawyer for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and teachers castigated San Francisco’s controversial Catholic archbishop during the first public meeting of creditors in the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s bankruptcy case.

James Stang, counsel for the creditors' committee, criticized Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for cutting his attendance at the teleconference short. The prelate said he was currently outside the country and needed to rejoin an event he described as a “long-standing commitment.”

The committee was disappointed that he didn’t have time to hear from survivors and answer their questions, Stang said.

“To put it in real layperson's terms, Archbishop, you're the guy,” he said.

Stang also blasted the archdiocese’s decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy without consulting with the victims.

“The committee is made up of adults who were sexually abused as children by people for whom the archdiocese is responsible,” he said. “Neither the committee members nor any of the constituents of the committee wanted the archdiocese to file bankruptcy.

“The committee members feel that taking their cases away from the California state court system and bringing them to a federal bankruptcy court is a fundamental violation of their rights to be heard before a jury,” Stang added.

For its part, the archdiocese characterized bankruptcy as a means to reach a “global settlement” in all the abuse claims.

“I want to apologize very sincerely for the sexual abuse committed by priests and others within the church and for the suffering endured by abuse survivors and their families,” Cordileone said. 

The funeral mass of Archbishop John Quinn at Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, the mother church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco on July 10, 2017. | Source: Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

In August, the Archdiocese of San Francisco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy under the weight of over 500 sexual abuse lawsuits that have been filed against it in recent years. 

Thursday’s hearing allowed lawyers for the victims to publicly question the archdiocese and forced the ecclesiastical district to disclose some of its assets.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco is the only diocese in California that has not published a list of priests who have faced credible allegations of sexual abuse. 

During the meeting, representatives of the archdiocese said there was no such list, and the archdiocese only maintained a list of priests in good standing.

Under an order from a previous case, the Archdiocese is not supposed to be making any payments to credibly accused perpetrators of abuse. Stang asked how they could know whether they were paying an alleged perpetrator without such a list.

“We do know if something’s benefiting somebody who has been accused, but we don’t maintain a list of credibly accused priests,” Father Patrick Summerhays said during the meeting.

As the participants went over the archdiocese’s financials, they also described some of its assets. 

The discussion revealed that the archdiocese has over $57 million invested with investment management firm BlackRock.

It also owns several rental properties in downtown San Francisco. Among them is a rental property at 1600 Van Ness Ave., which currently houses a Toyota parts and service center and a Mattress Firm.

The archdiocese leases a building next door at 1656 California St. to robotaxi company Cruise.

It also rents an office building at 441 Church St. in San Francisco’s Mission Dolores neighborhood to the Children’s Council, a child care nonprofit.

The Archdiocese also owns a 2012 Toyota Camry. In response to questions from the victim’s counsel, representatives of the archdiocese said they believed Cordileone drove that vehicle.

Cordileone has been a controversial figure in ultra-liberal San Francisco for his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.

Last year, he said he would deny then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Communion over her support for abortion rights. In doing so, he broke with the position of Pope Francis, who has opposed the weaponization of the Eucharist against political officials. 

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attends the mass for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at Vatican Basilica on June 29, 2022 in Vatican City. | Source: Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Cordileone also infuriated many parishioners in 2021, when he said in an interview that he had chosen not to get vaccinated yet against Covid because his doctor told him he has a strong immune system. The news led a San Francisco church to delay a visit by Cordileone.

In 2015, over 100 Catholics from the Bay Area took out a full-page advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle calling for Pope Francis to replace Cordileone. The signatories included prominent businesspeople, attorneys and educators.

They characterized Cordileone as divisive and said he forced employees of Catholic high schools to “accept a morality code which violates individual consciences as well as California labor laws.”

In response, the archdiocese said the letter misrepresented the Cordileone and Catholic teaching.

The meeting of creditors will reconvene on Oct. 12 at 9 a.m.