San Fran archbishop-elect apologises for drink-driving arrest

The Catholic archbishop-elect of San Francisco has apologised for his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving, saying he brought “shame” and “disgrace” on himself and the church.

Salvatore Cordileone said he was driving home from a dinner with friends when he was pulled over at a checkpoint.

His blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit, although he did not reveal by how much.

“I apologise for my error in judgment 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.”

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

The pope selected him last month to replace Archbishop George Niederauer, who is retiring in October.

Canon law experts said a criminal charge would not automatically prompt a delay in his installation as archbishop, which is scheduled to take place at St. Mary’s Cathedral on October 4, 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.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Centre at Georgetown University, predicted that the 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.

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