Public Humiliation, Forgiveness and Cardinal Cordileone

I do not drink when I know that I will have to drive later.

By that I mean I do not take a drink. Liquor does not cross my lips. I will not touch the stuff.

The reason? I don’t want to end up like Cardinal Cordileone of San Francisco.

According to an August 27 CNA article, Cardinal Cordileone was driving his mother home from dinner with friends when he was stopped in a DUI checkpoint. He was subsequently arrested for having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.

Any arrest for driving under the influence is humiliating and expensive. For those of us who’ve never been through it, I would imagine that it’s also frightening. It would certainly scare me.

Public figures face a whole other level of humiliation and terror if they are caught drinking and driving. I am sitting here in Oklahoma. Cardinal Cordileone is over 1500 miles away in California. But I know all about his recent troubles. I know about his dinner, the drive with his mother, the DUI checkpoint and subsequent arrest. I also know that he is now issuing anguished press releases about the “disgrace” he thinks he’s brought on the Church.

Since he is a strong supporter of Church teachings on same-sex marriage, abortion and other hot-button issues, those who disagree with him may latch onto his embarrassment as a means of punishing him. He could end up drubbed and defamed from coast to coast. His only hope to slide by relatively unscathed is if other news — hurricanes and political conventions come to mind — prove more interesting.

I feel for every public figure who gets caught in one of these nasty little messes. This is partly because I know that there but for the grace of God go I. As I said, I won’t touch liquor when I know I’ll have to drive later, even if the later is hours in the future. I don’t even want to smell the stuff. But I am aware that there are plenty of other ways that I can walk out my front door and end up on the front page of the newspaper, looking like a fool, or worse. All it takes is a moment of inattentiveness and I am toast. We live in such an unforgiving world, and the media is so harsh in the way it treats people that the most innocent mistakes can and do become instruments of personal destruction.

This brings me to my second reason for feeling sympathy for those caught in these public traps. I’ve seen this kind of thing happen to enough people that I know that these mistakes and mishaps don’t reflect what kind of person they are or even how well they do their jobs.

I am sympathetic with Cardinal Cordileone. I would guess that he is telling the truth when he talks about feeling shame. I think he probably means it when he says he regrets what he sees as the disgrace he’s brought on the Church. But in truth the public facts of this situation are just not all that terrible. Having one too many at dinner with his mother and then getting caught with too much beer under his belt while driving her home is just not the worst story I’ve heard.

I know that driving drunk is dangerous. I am as aware as anyone that automobiles can inflict lethal damage. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been caught and then get the same punishment as anyone else. What I AM saying is that, in truth, nobody was hurt. He is going to pay the fine or whatever. I have a feeling that this is a lesson learned.

And he was driving his mother home from dinner.

It’s a terrible experience to have your private embarrassments become a source of public humiliation. The possibility of that happening is an omnipresent reality for public figures. Cardinal Cordileone has put the wrong foot forward in his new job, and he’s done it a very public and embarrassing way.

He says in his public penance press release that he hopes, “some good” will come out of it. Frankly, if his embarrassment does nothing more than underscore that California law is no respecter of persons, that’s quite a lot.

  • Arkenaten

    First. Thanks for popping over to The Ark’s spot. You picked an interesting post to ‘like’, considering. If you perused some of my other religious posts you will already know my stance on all matters religious.
    Considering what the Catholic Church is faced with on an all too regular basis vis a vis sexual offences, then a bit of drunk-driving is chicken feed. (Not to down play the severity of boozing and getting behind the wheel)
    As a virtual non-drinker myself (Only on special occasion; a toast maybe) anyone caught drunk behind the wheel should be banned from driving. Period. Alcohol related road deaths account for a huge proportion of road deaths – South Africa being no exception – yet the carnage continues and the glamorous image surrounding alcohol persists.
    Priest or Pauper, he deserves to have the book thrown at him.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I guess I just feel a kinship with anyone who only reads the newspapers on Saturdays. :-)

      Seriously, I think Arkenaten’s Blog (hope I spelled that right, too lazy to check) is entertaining, even if, I (as I do) I disagree with some of your thinking.

      As for Cardinal Cordileone, he was arrested, and I assume will be subject to the same legal penalties as anyone else. Beyond that, I’m willing to let it go; as I would for you in the same situation, btw.

      • Arkenaten

        Unfortunately, the public expect more from public figures. ‘Tis the nature of the beast, and he is a representative of the bastion of morality. Er…the church, not God.
        Still, if your Bill Clinton can get away with his little ‘mishap’ – and he should know how BAD for one’s health smoking is – then what’s a little alcohol to a priest? Remember, Jesus is watching…;)

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          It is, as you sort of say, ultimately up to the public. What I said in this post is my opinion.

  • Jessica Hoff

    We ought to remember that we shall be judged by the same measure we judge. I’m going to wait for the one who is without sin to throw the first stone here. Totally agree with you Rebecca.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thanks Jessica.

    • Even If Ministries

      I would like to add to what Jessica has said because there is a lesson in the “first stone” that is often overlooked:

      where they justified in stoning her according to the law? Yes. did they have anguish over carrying out the sentence – did they have remores that someone was going to die in their sin, or was it simple blood lust? I think that is what Yeshua (Jesus) was making a point about.

      The cardinal made a mistake. Accountability is a tough thing. So is loving our neighbor. At the end of the day, the two most important commands according to Yeshua (Jesus) are to Love God and to Love our Neighbor. Can you love God if you refuse to love your neighbor?

      Alcohol can do some terrible damage – I lost my best friend to a drunk driver in the Navy. Alchohol abuse by members in my family tore us to shreds. However, at the end of the day, Yeshua doesn’t say love them unless, He says love them “Even If . . .”

      Blessings to you all!

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        Thank you for this thoughtful comment. I think the important thing is what Cardinal Cordileone does from here forward.

  • Mary K. Doyle

    Thank you for the reminder to look in the mirror before pointing fingers and use someone else’s failure as a reminder for us to keep on track.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Mary.

  • neenergyobserver

    Yes, and all that but alcohol limits (in many places, Cali I don’t know) are very low. He may have been over the limit slightly, we don’t know. To me checkpoints are an unwarranted search, anyway, would an officer stopped him with probable cause?

    I can’t get excited about this at all, and feel sympathy for him, because we (pretty much) all have made that mistake., we just didn’t get caught.

    No, I’m not saying drunk driving isn’t a bad thing but, show me the difference in a guy that had a beer in one hour or one and half hour, that could be the difference..

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      You are the voice of reason, as usual. My husband brought up the unwarranted search issue. I think it has merit. The idea of the police making everyone take a blood alcohol test without any reason other than that they can is a serious issue.

  • Deacon Jim – San Diego

    Rebecca, are the sting operations/checkpoint stops constitutional? If not, what can you do about them?
    Also, Archbishop Cordileone (not Cardinal) was one of over 400 people who were “arrested” for failing a test at these sting operations in San Diego that weekend.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Deacon, I didn’t know the numbers, but that is a very good point which was also raised by another commenter. The Supreme Court has given a lot of leeway on searches of automobiles and stings of this nature. I don’t know if this particular sting operation would be illegal or not, but I think it probably should be. To pull over hundreds of people at random with zero evidence that they have done anything illegal and force them to prove that they are not guilty by taking a test seems way over the top to me, as does mass arrests of over 400 people.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      One other point that I just thought of is that even if the Supreme Court does allow it, the police would have no “right” to it. By that I mean that the California State Assembly could outlaw it locally.

  • DW Miller

    Well said. And, forgiveness is a hard found treasure.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      “forgiveness is a hard found treasure.”

      … and something we ALL need.