SAN DIEGO — The Roman Catholic archbishop-elect of San Francisco has apologized for his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving, behavior that he said brought “shame” and “disgrace” on himself and the church, though legal experts said was unlikely to derail his promotion.
The Rev. Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement issued Monday by his office that he was driving home from a dinner with friends in San Diego with his mother and a visiting priest friend early Saturday when he was pulled over at a DUI checkpoint near San Diego State University.
The statement said a sobriety test showed his blood-alcohol level to be above the legal limit, although Cordileone did not reveal by how much.
“I apologize 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.”
Cordileone, 56, currently serves as bishop of Oakland and is scheduled to be installed as San Francisco archbishop on Oct. 4, five days before his first court date.
Pope Benedict XVI selected him last month to replace Archbishop George Niederauer, who is retiring in October.
Cordileone was stopped around 12:30 a.m. on the outskirts of the campus, a residential area of modest houses, apartment buildings and restaurants where college students mix with the general population.
The archbishop-elect was booked into San Diego County jail two hours later then released at 11:59 a.m. Saturday on $2,500 bond, sheriff’s records show. The San Diego city attorney’s office, which prosecutes misdemeanor DUI offenses, said it had not received a report on the arrest.
“He was a driver that was obviously impaired but he was quite cordial and polite throughout,” said McCullough, who was at the scene. “He was not a belligerent drunk at all … There were no problems with him throughout the night.
Canon law experts said a criminal charge would not automatically prompt a delay in Cordileone’s installation as archbishop, which is scheduled to take place at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Oct. 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 in private practice in upstate New York.
“If there was anything, it would be handled in Rome, most likely by the Congregation for Bishops. Depending on the question or type of criminal charge, it might go directly to the pope or as directly as you can get,” Ritty said.
Cordileone is a native of San Diego, where he was ordained as a priest in 1982. He has been bishop of Oakland for a little more than three years, and before that, he served as an auxiliary bishop in San Diego.