SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hundreds turned out for a "family support picnic" held for a Northern California religious leader who is the subject of heated debate over policy changes for Catholic high school teachers.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday that (http://tinyurl.com/kco5tb9 ) San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone posed for photographs, blessed the faithful and accepted the gratitude of the picnickers gathered in a city park.
The archbishop has been the target of demonstrations organized by teachers, students, parents and others who disagree with the proposed morality clauses in teacher handbooks against homosexuality, birth control and premarital sex.
"He's like a rock star," said Eva Muntean, who organized Saturday's picnic near San Francisco's iconic Ferry Building along the waterfront. Muntean said she organized the event because she feels many in the San Francisco Bay area back the archbishop, but that their support isn't being heard over the vocal protests.
Cordileone didn't address the crowd. "I'm just here to thank my supporters," he said. He declined further comment.
Cordileone is also proposing that teachers "affirm and believe" that marriage is restricted to a man and woman, a position that has upset many in gay-friendly San Francisco.
A group calling itself Concerned Parents and Students called on Cordileone to drop his attempts to alter the teachers' handbooks and contracts with the new policies.
"His actions contribute to a hurtful discrimination to which true Catholic teachings stand firmly opposed," group spokeswoman Micaela Presti said in a statement before the picnic. Presti said the "archbishop's actions are far from family friendly."
A small group of protesters stood on the edge of the picnic, holding a rainbow flag.
Picnic attendees said the event wasn't meant to show disapproval of gays or others, but to show support for the archbishop and his values.
"Nobody's saying you have to be Catholic or that you have to send your children to school," said Adele Lindberg, a Catholic from the suburban city of Danville across the bay from San Francisco. "But don't change something that has stood for more than 2,000 years just to meet your agenda."