Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco

Coordinates: 37°47′08″N 122°25′27″W / 37.78556°N 122.42417°W / 37.78556; -122.42417
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Archdiocese of San Francisco

Archidiœcesis Sancti Francisci

Arquidiócesis de San Francisco
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryCounties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin
Ecclesiastical provinceProvince of San Francisco
Area6,023 km2 (2,325 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2020)
477,120[1] (24.9%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJuly 29, 1853; 170 years ago (1853-07-29)
CathedralCathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
Co-cathedralOld Saint Mary's Cathedral
Patron saintSt. Francis of Assisi(Primary)
St. Patrick, St. Joseph (Secondary)
Current leadership
ArchbishopSalvatore Cordileone
Bishops emeritusIgnatius C. Wang
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of San Francisco
William J. Justice
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of San Francisco

The Archdiocese of San Francisco (Latin: Archdiœcesis Sancti Francisci; Spanish: Archidiócesis de San Francisco) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Catholic Church in the northern California region of the United States. The Archdiocese of San Francisco was erected on July 29, 1853, by Pope Pius IX and its cathedral is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption.


The Archdiocese of San Francisco covers San Francisco, Marin County, and San Mateo County.[2] It is the metropolitan see of a province that includes the following suffragan dioceses:


1776 to 1853[edit]

The first church in the Archdiocese of San Francisco is older than the archdiocese itself; Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) was founded in 1776, by Franciscan Friars. The friars built the current mission building in 1791.[3][4]

After the end of the Mexican–American War in 1848, California and the Intermountain West became part of the United States. The Vatican erected the new Diocese of Monterey in 1849 to remove these areas from the jurisdiction of the Mexican Catholic hierarchy. The new diocese covered the California Territory east to the Colorado River.[5] St. Francis of Assisi Parish was founded in San Francisco in 1849 and St. Patrick in the same city in 1851.[6][7] In 1850, the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, the western province for the Dominican Order in the United States, was established in San Francisco.

1853 to 1884[edit]

In 1853, the Vatican erected the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Its jurisdiction extended to northern and central California, along with present-day Nevada and Utah.[8] Pope Pius IX named Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany of Monterey as the first archbishop of San Francisco. Old St. Mary's Cathedral on California Street was dedicated in 1854. In 1855, the Society of Jesus founded St. Ignatius Academy in San Francisco, the forerunner of the University of San Francisco.[9] Alemany founded Saint Mary's College in Moraga in 1863, then turned its operation over to the De La Salle Christian Brothers in 1868.[10][11]

As archbishop of San Francisco, Alemany presided over a multinational archdiocese, owing to the influx of people to California during the California Gold Rush. He established parishes for the city's Italian, Irish, French, German and Mexican communities. In 1883, Bishop Patrick Riordan from the Diocese of Chicago was appointed as coadjutor archbishop by Pope Leo XIII to assist Alemany.[12] In May 1883 Alemany purchased land in San Francisco for a larger cathedral to serve the growing Catholic population.[13] When Alemany retired in 1884, Riordan automatically succeeded him as archbishop.

In 1884, Riordan's first full year in San Francisco, the archdiocese contained 175 priests, 128 churches, and 25 chapels and stations to serve a Catholic population of 200,000.[14] Riordan laid the cornerstone in 1887 and dedicated the new Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in 1891.[15]

1884 to 1914[edit]

In early 1894, Riordan protested against the use of Outlines of Mediæval and Modern History by Philip van Ness Myers in San Francisco's public schools.[16] He denounced the book as anti-Catholic and declared that it was "utterly unfit for use in a school patronized by children of various creeds."[17] In April 1894, the San Francisco Board of Education ruled that the book would still be used but allowed teachers to omit any passages that might "appear in any way to favor or to reflect on the particular doctrines or tenets of any religious sect."[18]

In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake caused $2 to $6 million in damages to over 12 churches and other institutions in the archdiocese.[19] Riordan celebrated open-air Masses for his displaced parishioners, who were living amidst the ruins in temporary shelters, and assured them, "We shall rebuild."[20] Riordan temporarily moved in San Mateo, allowing the Presentation Sisters, who had lost their convent, to use the archbishop's residence.[21] Every church that had been destroyed had a temporary structure within two years and was rebuilt within another eight years.[21] By the time of Riordan's death in 1914, the archdiocese had 367 priests, 182 churches, 94 chapels and stations, and 94 parochial schools for 280,000 Catholics.[22] Many of the new parishes under his administration were established for immigrant communities.[20]

1914 to 1962[edit]

Riordan was succeeded as archbishop of San Francisco by Auxiliary Bishop Edward Hanna of San Francisco, appointed by Pope Gregory XV in 1915.[23] The rebuilding of the Mission Dolores Church after its destruction in the 1906 earthquake was completed in 1918. In 1921, Hanna was named chairman of San Francisco's wage arbitration boards; Hanna served on the boards through 1924.[24] Hanna was key to the 1924 opening of St. Joseph's Seminary in Mountain View.[25] In 1932, Pope Pius XI appointed Bishop John Mitty of the Diocese of Salt Lake as coadjutor archbishop to assist Hanna.[26]

Hanna was appointed in 1933 as the chairman of a state mediation board to resolve the cotton strike in Corcoran.[27] During the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike, President Franklin Roosevelt named Hanna the chairman of the National Longshoremen's Board. The board was tasked with resolving the strike by mediating between the International Longshoremen's Association, the International Seamen's Union, and their employers.[24] When Hanna retired in 1935, Mitty automatically succeeded him as archbishop of San Francisco.

Mitty's first act as archbishop was to direct his installation gift from the clergy to restoring Saint Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park.[28] He purchased St. Mary's College of California from the De La Salle Christian Brothers in 1937, and reopened it in 1938.[29] In the twenty six years of his episcopate, 84 parishes and missions were founded in the archdiocese, and over 500 building projects were completed.[30] Mitty caused controversy in 1944 when he called for a boycott of the San Francisco News. The newspaper had reported on the DWI arrest of one of his priests; Mitty called the coverage anti-Catholic.[31] In 1952, the Vatican elected the Mission Dolores Church to a basilica.[3][4] Mitty died in 1961.

1962 to 1983[edit]

Pope John XXIII named Bishop Joseph McGucken from the Diocese of Sacramento as the next archbishop of San Francisco in 1962. That same year, an arson fire destroyed the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.[32] The cornerstone for the new cathedral was laid in 1967 and the building was completed in 1970.

In 1968, McGucken became embroiled in a controversy with Eugene Boyle, a progressive diocesan priest with ties to the Black Panther Party. The group had set up, with Boyle's permission, their Free Breakfast programme at Sacred Heart School for primary school children in the archdiocese. Word soon came out that the Black Panthers were distributing a coloring book at the school that advocated violence against police officers. Boyle said that when he learned about the book, he blocked its distribution.[33] To appease public outrage over Boyle's defense of the Black Panthers, McGucken cancelled a yearly seminar that Boyle would deliver. Facing intense accusations of racial bias from parts of the public, McGucken asked the San Francisco priest's senate to review his decision. In December 1968, the senate ruled that McGucken should reinstate Boyle's seminar, but also denied that McGucken had made his decision on racial grounds.[34]

After McGucken retired in 1977, Pope Paul VI named Archbishop John R. Quinn of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City as the next archbishop of San Francisco. In 1981, at Quinn's request, the Vatican erected the Diocese of San Jose, taking its territory from the archdiocese.[35]

1983 to 2012[edit]

Quinn reached out to gay Catholics in the archdiocese as early as 1983. He issued a document that asked priests to take concerns of gay people seriously. In it, he said he wanted gay Catholics to find "a church where he or she will find acceptance, understanding, and love." Priests were reminded in the letter that many gay Catholics saw their orientation as a positive. He supported the efforts of Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro district in their efforts to reach out to the LGBTQ+ population of the neighborhood.[36] Quinn regularly visited this parish, especially during the annual 40 Hours Vigil held throughout the 1980s in support of those who were HIV-positive and their caregivers. In 1985, Quinn initiated the Catholic Church's first institutional response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When Pope John Paul II visited San Francisco in 1987, Quinn arranged for him to meet with several HIV/AIDS patients, including a young boy.[37]

The damage caused by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake prompted the archdiocese to close a dozen parishes with severely damaged buildings. This plan drew the wrath of many priests, 41 of whom signed a dissenting petition. Quinn sold the former archiepiscopal residence and in 1992 moved into the cathedral rectory, where he lived with fellow clergy until his retirement.[38][39] In August 1995, Archbishop William Levada from the Archdiocese of Portland was appointed coadjutor archbishop of San Francisco by John Paul II to assist Quinn.[40]

When Quinn retired in December 1995, Levada automatically succeeded him as archbishop of San Francisco. In 1996, Patrick O'Shea, a former advisor to Quinn, was charged with embezzling over $260,000 in donations from the archdiocese. In 2004, O'Shea pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served in prison for molestation charges and ordered to pay $187,000 back to the archdiocese.[41] In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI named Levada as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.[42] To replace Levada in San Francisco, the pope named Bishop George Niederauer of Salt Lake City.[43]

2012 to present[edit]

In 2012, Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone from the Diocese of Oakland as the next archbishop of San Francisco, replacing the retired Niederauer.[44][45] In February 2015, Cordileone told teachers in the archdiocesan school system that they were expected to conduct their public lives in a way that does not undermine or deny the church's doctrine.[46] Democratic California State Assemblymen Phil Ting of San Francisco and Kevin Mullin of San Mateo sent a letter to Cordileone urging him to withdraw what they called "discriminatory morality clauses". The letter was signed lawmakers from each community in the archdiocese with a Catholic high school.[47] Cordileone responded, saying he "respects the lawmakers' right to hire whoever may advance their mission and that he is asking for the same respect".[46] Ting and Mulin called for an investigation of working conditions at archdiocesan high schools over the archbishop's proposed morality clauses for teachers.[48]

In April 2015, over 100 Catholic donors and church members from the Bay Area signed a full-page advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle appealing to Pope Francis to replace Cordileone. The signers objected to Cordileone's characterization of extramarital sex and LBGTQ+ relationships as "gravely evil", saying that Cordileone fostered "an atmosphere of division and intolerance". The archdiocese responded that the advertisement was a "misrepresentation of the spirit of the archbishop" and that it was also a misrepresentation to suggest the signers speak for the Catholic community in the Bay Area.[49] The archdiocese claimed to have received over 7,500 letters of support.[50] A subsequent picnic set up to show support for Cordileone[51] was held in May 2015 in San Francisco.

In April 2022, Cordileone warned Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a San Francisco resident, that he would prohibit her from receiving Holy Communion unless she repudiated her promotion of abortion rights. In May 2022, Cordileone notified her and publicly announced that he took that action.[52][53]

Pope Francis erected the Archdiocese of Las Vegas in May 2023, suppressing the Diocese of Las Vegas that had been a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City then became suffragan dioceses of the new archdiocese.[54]

As of 2023, Cordileone is the archbishop of San Francisco.

Sex abuse[edit]

Reverend Patrick O'Shea was defrocked in 1994 after numerous men accused him of sexually abusing them as boys.[55] O'Shea had operated the altar server program at Mission Dolores in the 1960s. He was convicted in 1995 of sexually molesting 13 boys. After serving two years in prison, O'Shea was released in 2002 after all the molestation charges were overturned in an appeals court. The archdiocese in 2005 agreed to a $4 million legal settlement for O'Shea's victims.[55][56]

In a 2006 court deposition, it was revealed that in 1992 Bishop Levada had removed Reverend Joseph Baccellieri from ministry after hearing allegations that he had sexually molested three boys during the 1970s. Levada sent Baccellieri away for treatment and in 1995 assigned him to a new parish, with monitoring and numerous restrictions. At no point did Levada notify Baccellieri's former parish or report him to law enforcement. Levada defended his actions in the deposition, saying he had made the right decision.[57][58] In 2018, the archdiocese reported that had spent $87 million in settling sexual abuse lawsuits since 2005. Archbishop Cordileone said that there were no new allegations dating after 2000.

In 2019, the archdiocese provided documents to California State Attorney Xavier Becerra in preparation for lawsuits after the statute of limitations was temporarily removed in 2020.[59][60] Due to these claims, the archdiocese announced that bankruptcy was highly likely in August 2022.[61]

In 2022, Cordileone released a list of 312 clergy with credible accusations of sexual abuse of minors, going back 100 years.

In August 2023, the archdiocese filed a petition under Chapter 11, Title 11, United States Code in the San Francisco County Superior Court after it officially confirmed it was declared broke, and could no longer afford any cash to pay off the estimated 500 sex abuse lawsuits.[62]


Archbishops of San Francisco[edit]

  1. Joseph Sadoc Alemany y Conill, O.P. (1853–1884)
  2. Patrick William Riordan (1884–1914; Coadjutor Archbishop 1883–1884)
    - George Thomas Montgomery, Coadjutor Archbishop (1902–1907), died before succeeding to see
  3. Edward Joseph Hanna (1915–1935)
  4. John Joseph Mitty (1935–1961; Coadjutor Archbishop 1932–1935)
  5. Joseph Thomas McGucken (1962–1977)
  6. John Raphael Quinn (1977–1995)
  7. William Joseph Levada (1995–2005), appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (elevated to Cardinal in 2006)
  8. George Hugh Niederauer (2006–2012)
  9. Salvatore Joseph Cordileone (2012–present)[63]

Auxiliary bishops[edit]

Other priests of this diocese who became bishops[edit]



The archdiocese has the following historic churches:


All full-time faculty, librarians, and counselors at Archbishop Riordan, Junipero Serra, Marin Catholic, and Sacred Heart Cathedral high schools are represented by The San Francisco Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers, Local 2240, a labor union affiliate of the California Federation of Teachers (AFT, AFL–CIO), and have a collective bargaining agreement with the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The CBA governs the terms of their employment.

Secondary schools[edit]

Marin County[edit]

Marin Catholic High SchoolKentfield

San Francisco[edit]

San Mateo County[edit]

Closed schools[edit]

Mercy High School – San Francisco


Recognized lay ecclesial movements[edit]

  • Fraternity of Communion and Liberation (CL). CL is an ecclesial association of Pontifical Right. Meetings are held weekly at St. Thomas More Church and the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Province of San Francisco[edit]

See List of the Catholic bishops of the United States

The Metropolitan Ecclesiastical Province of San Francisco covers Northern California north of the Monterey Bay, as well as all of Hawaii. The Archbishop of San Francisco, who is ex officio metropolitan bishop of the Province of San Francisco, has limited oversight responsibilities for the Dioceses of Honolulu, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and Stockton.

Prior to the elevation of the Diocese of Las Vegas to an archdiocese in May 2023, the Province of San Francisco also covered the Dioceses of Las Vegas, Reno and Salt Lake City.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "".
  2. ^ "Catholic Hierarchy profile of the Archdiocese of San Francisco". Retrieved April 7, 2007.[self-published source]
  3. ^ a b "Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption". Retrieved April 7, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Mission Dolores Basilica". Retrieved April 7, 2007.
  5. ^ "Monterey in California (Diocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-06-14.
  6. ^ "St. Francis of Assisi National Shrine: History". Retrieved 2023-06-14.
  7. ^ "Our History". Retrieved 2023-06-14.
  8. ^ "San Francisco (Archdiocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-06-14.
  9. ^ "University of San Francisco | university, San Francisco, California, United States | Britannica". Retrieved 2023-06-15.
  10. ^ Branch, Edward. "Black Catholic Voices: Church in the Black Catholic Tradition". Saint Mary's College. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  11. ^ "St. Mary's College Incorporated". San Francisco Chronicle. 1892-05-21. p. 5. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  12. ^ "Archbishop Patrick William Riordan".
  13. ^ Gaffey, James P. (1976). Citizen of No Mean City: Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan of San Francisco (1841-1914). Wilmington, Delaware: Consortium Books. p. 84. ISBN 0-8434-0628-3.
  14. ^ Sadliers' Catholic Directory, Almanac and Ordo. New York: D.& J. Sadlier & Co. 1884. p. 195.
  15. ^ Gaffey 1976, p. 85
  16. ^ The Pacific Unitarian. Vol. II (VI ed.). Pacific Unitarian Conference. April 1894. pp. 162–163.
  17. ^ Gaffey 1976, p. 141
  18. ^ "THE SCHOOL BOARD: Settlement of the History Controversy". San Francisco Chronicle. April 12, 1894.
  19. ^ Gaffey 1976, p. 251
  20. ^ a b The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol. XV. New York: James T. White & Company. 1916. p. 248.
  21. ^ a b Gaffey 1976, p. 253
  22. ^ The Official Catholic Directory. New York: P. J. Kenedy. 1915. p. 236.
  23. ^ "Archbishop Edward Joseph Hanna".[self-published source]
  24. ^ a b Jaime Garcia De Alba (December 20, 2000). "Apostle of the Dock: Archbishop Edward J. Hanna's Role as Chairman of the National Longshoremen's During the 1934 San Francisco Waterfront Strike". Ex Post Facto. San Francisco State University. Retrieved January 5, 2009.
  25. ^ Gribble, Richard (2006). An Archbishop for the People: The Life of Edward J. Hanna. Paulist Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0809144050.
  26. ^ "Archbishop John Joseph Mitty".
  27. ^ Samora, Julian; Vandel Simon, Patricia (1977). "Chapter 18". A History of the Mexican-American People. Archived from the original on January 31, 2009. Retrieved January 5, 2009.
  28. ^ "Pallium to Mitty". TIME. September 16, 1935. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  29. ^ "St. Mary's Resurgent". TIME. January 31, 1938. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011.
  30. ^ "Milestones". TIME. October 27, 1961. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  31. ^ "Catholic Campaign". TIME. October 23, 1944. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011.
  32. ^ "HISTORY OF ST. MARY'S CATHEDRAL". Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption (San Francisco). 16 November 2017.
  33. ^ Burns (1995), Page 17
  34. ^ Burns (1995), Page 21
  35. ^ "History". Diocese of San Jose. Retrieved October 16, 2023.
  36. ^ Michael O'Loughlin (December 21, 2019). "A gay Catholic Church in the Castro". Plague: Untold Stories of AIDS & the Catholic Church (Podcast). America. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  37. ^ Nolte, Carl (June 22, 2017). "Archbishop John R. Quinn, Catholic progressive, dies in S.F." San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  38. ^ Grimes, William (July 6, 2017). "John R. Quinn, Archbishop and Liberal Voice in Church, Dies at 88". New York Times. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  39. ^ "Retired San Francisco Archbishop John R. Quinn Joining USD". Archived from the original on April 21, 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  40. ^ "Cardinal William J. Levada Biography". Archdiocese of San Francisco. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  41. ^ Derbeken, Jaxon Van (2004-01-07). "Former S.F. priest pleads guilty to embezzlement / Molest case against him tossed in 2002". SFGATE. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  42. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 13.05.2005" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. May 13, 2005. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  43. ^ "Archbishop George Hugh Niederauer [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-10-16.
  44. ^ Kuruvila, Matthai (July 27, 2012). "New S.F. archbishop appointed by pope". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b "SF Archbishop Answers Disapproving Letter From Lawmakers After Clarifying Sexual Morality For School Staff". 20 February 2015.
  47. ^ "Lawmakers Urge SF Archbishop to Withdraw Discriminatory Morality Clauses - Assemblymember Phil Ting Representing the 19th California Assembly District". Archived from the original on 2015-02-20. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  48. ^ "Lawmakers Want Investigation Of San Francisco Catholic High Schools Over Teacher Morality Clauses". 23 February 2015.
  49. ^ Matier & Ross (16 April 2015). "Prominent Catholics call on pope to oust S.F. archbishop". SFGate. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  50. ^ "Letters to Archbishop Cordileone Show Waves of Global Support - Cardinal Newman Society". 1 May 2015. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  51. ^ Colliver, Victoria (May 16, 2015). "Hundreds attend picnic to support archbishop". SF Gate. Retrieved October 16, 2023.
  52. ^ Kopan, Tal. "S.F. archbishop says Pelosi will be denied Communion over abortion rights". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  53. ^ Brooks, Emily (May 20, 2022). "Archbishop bars Pelosi from communion over support for abortion rights". The Hill. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  54. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 30.05.2023". Bolletino. Vatican Press Office. May 30, 2023.
  55. ^ a b "Gay man receives $1.7M in abuse case settlement". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  56. ^ Derbeken, Jaxon Van (2004-01-07). "Former S.F. priest pleads guilty to embezzlement / Molest case against him tossed in 2002". SFGATE. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  57. ^ Gordon, Tracy (2010-04-06). "Cardinal under scrutiny for reassigning abusive priest". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  58. ^ Mccall, William (2010-04-04). "Levada defends handling of priest in deposition". SFGATE. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  59. ^ "Half of California's Catholic Dioceses to be Subpoenaed in Priest Abuse Inquiry". 10 December 2019.
  60. ^ "California: Half of Catholic dioceses expect subpoenas over sexual abuse". 11 December 2019.
  61. ^ "SF archdiocese could declare bankruptcy". The Pillar. 2023-08-04. Retrieved 2023-08-07.
  62. ^ "San Francisco Archdiocese files for bankruptcy to pursue sex abuse settlement". Reuters. August 21, 2023. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
  63. ^ "The Catholic Voice - an online publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland".

External links[edit]

Media related to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco at Wikimedia Commons

37°47′08″N 122°25′27″W / 37.78556°N 122.42417°W / 37.78556; -122.42417