Police Commissioner Misrepresents City to Vatican

by Allen White on March 28, 2006

Possible Violation for Unauthorized Use of City Seal

San Francisco Police Commissioner Joe Alioto-Veronese may have violated city law and seriously embarrassed the city while in Rome last week. He led a delegation to witness appointment of former Archbishop William Levada to Cardinal. Given Levada’s statements, and reaction by both the mayor and supervisors, anger, not unbridled praise might be the more expected reaction.

Rather, when Alioto-Veronese made a public presentation of a crystal embossed official Seal of the City of San Francisco he was clearly representing San Francisco. To make the presentation, coupled with lavish statements of praise directly conflict the official position as articulated by both Mayor Newsom and the Board of Supervisors.

This past week, the San Francisco Supervisors in an unusually strong resolution criticized Levada for a directive blocking adoptions by same sex couples through Catholic Charities, the church’s social service arm. In the San Francisco Sentinel, Newsom called Levada’s remarks “divisive” and “wrong-headed” and cancelled plans to join the delegation in Rome.

Alioto-Veronese’s public statements represent a complete disregard for the action of the supervisors as well as Mayor Newsom’s comments.

“I think today was an amazing day for Cardinal Levada. On a personal level, as a San Franciscan, today was an historic day for San Francisco,” he said according to reports by the San Francisco Sentinel.

“We now have a friend in the Vatican who understands San Francisco’s values that could help to break down the walls of disagreement and divisiveness by getting to know each other’s points of view, and respecting those points of view based on mutual respect,” Alioto-Veronese said.

At the Vatican last Friday, Alioto-Veronese not only ignored the city’s position, he clearly misrepresented San Francisco to the Vatican, a country as well as home for the Catholic Church. There appears no question the heart of the city position was left in San Francisco. That the City Seal was left in Rome could prove problematic for the Police Commissioner.

The San Francisco Administrative Code states, “The Clerk of the Board of Supervisors shall have the custody of the corporate seal. The use of the corporate seal of the City and County of San Francisco shall be for purposes directly connected with official business of the City and County; and those matters approved by the Board of Supervisors by resolution.”

In fact, it is impossible to find even one sentence in the supervisor’s resolution to justify presenting the City Seal to Levada. Passed last Tuesday, it says “Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear.”

To make sure they aren’t misunderstood the resolution continues, “The statements of Cardinal Levada and the Vatican that ‘Catholic agencies should not place children for adoption in homosexual households,’ and ‘Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children’ are absolutely unacceptable to the citizenry of San Francisco.”

The resolution continues by saying “Such hateful and discriminatory rhetoric is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors.”

Mayor Newsom was equally strong in his criticism of Levada. In comments to the San Francisco Sentinel, he said, “The idea, the principle that two loving parents of the same sex can’t be great parents and that this church is now going to start attacking gay adoptions in this country and around the world was really disconcerting.”

Friday, in ceremonies at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Levada to Cardinal at a lavish ceremony in St. Peter’s Square. Last year, the Pope appointed Levada Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is the highest Vatican post ever held by an American. Officially his position calls for “promoting an understanding of the Catholic faith and defending the faith against erroneous interpretation.” Pope Benedict held the post for 24 years prior to his election to the papacy.

The comments of Mayor Newsom and the resolution from the Board of Supervisors are just the latest in a series of actions which could ultimately cloud Levada’s personal integrity and have international implications for the Roman Catholic Church.

Catholic Charities, the organization which has implemented this policy, has placed five children in the past six years. Though Levada now judges these adoptions immoral, the irony is they all happened while he was the Archbishop here in San Francisco.

His recent homophobic remarks surrounding adoption by gay men and lesbians is remarkably similar to comments and actions over many years. Alioto-Veronese’s actions become even more puzzling upon review of the moral legacy of the man most believe holds the second highest position, out ranked only by the Pope, in the world wide Roman Catholic Church.

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