The Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco said Monday it's his duty to proclaim "the truth about marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife,'' even when those views are unpopular.
The comment by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone came in response to a coalition of liberal politicians, fellow clergy and gay-rights leaders who have urged him to skip an upcoming March for Marriage event in Washington.
Cordileone, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' subcommittee on the promotion and defense of marriage, is a scheduled speaker at Thursday's march and rally sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and other groups opposed to same-sex marriage.
The Catholic church's position on marriage "requires me, as a bishop, to proclaim the truth - the whole truth - about the human person and God's will for our flourishing,'' Cordileone wrote in a letter made public by his office.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, both of whom say they are practicing Catholics, were among the supporters of same-sex marriage who asked Cordileone in an open letter last week to cancel his appearance.
They said he should not align himself with the event because the views of its sponsoring groups "contradict Christian belief in the fundamental human dignity of all people'' and are out of step with some of the conciliatory statements Pope Francis has made on gay rights issues.
In his written response, Cordileone disputed their characterization of the march and rejected the suggestion that Francis would disapprove of his participation.
"Rest assured that if the point of this event were to single out a group of individuals and target them for hatred, I most certainly would not be there,'' he said.
Cordileone, who was an active supporter of California's now-defunct gay marriage ban, also challenged his critics to practice what they preach, writing that Americans who oppose same-sex unions have become targets of discrimination and intolerance.
"When all is said and done, then, there is only one thing that I would ask of you more than anything else: before you judge us, get to know us,'' he wrote.