It's that time of year — Coughie time! I have come to look forward to Frank Cocozzelli's annual announcement of his Coughlin Award, given to the U.S. Catholic who has, well, here's Frank's explanation of what the Coughie is all about:
The Coughlin Award -- affectionately known as "The Coughie" -- is our way of recognizing the person who has best exemplified an exclusionary, strident interpretation of the Catholic faith in the preceding year. The award is named for Father Charles Coughlin, the notorious radio priest of the 1930s who is the role model for today's Religious Right radio and television evangelists, and other conservative media personalities.
And this year's Coughie winners (so many to choose from, as Frank notes) are: Maureen Mullarkey and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. As Frank observes, when you go so far to the edge of the right-wing cliff that even the journal First Things dissociates itself from you — which happened with Mullarkey this year when her rants about Pope Francis went beyond "measured criticism" in the view of First Things — you've gone really far.
"Che Guevara's Pope," indeed. When I see Maureen Mullarkey's name, I don't ever forget her decision, during the prop 8 débacle in California, to send money out to California (she lives in New York) to assist those seeking to strip gay citizens of California of a right enjoyed by other non-gay citizens of the state — the right to civil marriage. Nor do I forget that, as Brian Sherwin reported in 2009, that money came in part from what she had earned by painting gay pride parades and drag queens, and so integrity????
Nor do I ever forget that, as the biographical précis on her website proudly notes, she has been a contributor to the centrist Catholic journal Commonweal, whose centrism would seem to link far more closely to the world of First Things than, say, the world of New Ways Ministry. (You can learn what I've said previously in this regard by clicking Maureen Mullarkey's name in the labels below this posting.)
I think Ms. Mullarkey makes an altogether splendid Coughie recipient.
As I think Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone does, too. Here's Frank on his reason for awarding a Coughie to His Excellency:
In 2012 Pope Benedict installed Salvatore Cordileone as the archbishop of San Francisco. To say that he was not a good fit for the progressively tolerant City by the Bay is an understatement. The archbishop is both a strong proponent of the Latin mass as well as being a signatory to the anti-marriage equality manifesto known as the Manhattan Declaration. (He went on to chair the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on the promotion and defense of marriage.)
Archbishop Cordileone is such a polarizing figure that a hundred prominent Bay area Catholics took out a full page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle calling for his resignation.
Part of what triggered all this was Archbishop Cordileone's attempt to add a morality clause to the local Catholic high school teachers' handbooks. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this year, "It contains a 2,000-word section calling for staff members -- in their professional and private lives -- to honor church teachings. He specifically cited opposition to abortion, contraception, homosexuality, artificial insemination, cloning and same-sex marriage, not to mention masturbation, fornication and pornography."
Then, as if to outdo himself, in February 2015 a "morality pamphlet" was distributed to elementary School level parochial students within the diocese. Its shocking contents were reported by CBS News:
"Questions included, 'Did I participate or approve of a mercy killing?' 'Did I perform impure acts by myself (masturbation) or with another (adultery, fornication or sodomy)?' ... Star of the Sea parish pastor Father Joseph Illo said when he realized in December the adult content of the pamphlets in December, he halted their distribution."
The many examples of the Archbishop's Coughie-worthy achievements include the sacking of popular priests and the use of sprinklers to keep the homeless away from St. Mary's Cathedral. Archbishop Cordileone may not be a Pope Francis Catholic -- but he may be a Maureen Mullarkey Catholic!
And so as Frank concludes, there you have it, folks: two new Coughies as the long, long year of 2015 ends. I wish each of you and yours a very good 2016.
The graphic, which Frank uses to illustrate his Coughie announcement, is a 1939 ink-and-wash depiction of Father Couglin by artist Ben Shahn, in the Philip J. and Suzanne Schiller Collection of American Social Commentary Art 1930-1970 at the St. Louis Art Museum.