SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - It is an unprecedented plea for action that has shaken up members of the Bay Area's Catholic community.
One hundred prominent San Francisco Catholics - doctors, developers, teachers and big business owners - signed a full page ad running in Thursday's San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. It's an open letter to Pope Francis, asking the pontiff to replace San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone.
"This is a drastic step," said Michael Kelly at a Thursday morning news conference. "Why do you take such an unprecedented step? And the short answer is because everyone who signed that ad is worried about our church, about our faith community, about the faculty in our high schools."
Kelly and others said the Archbishop has created an atmosphere of division, intolerance and persecution by asking Catholic high school teachers and staff to sign a morality clause that condemns sex outside marriage and LGBT relationships.
"Worrying about what kinds of sex everyone's having, is that really the most important thing for the Catholic Church? No," said Pia Hinckle, who also signed the letter. "School is out in four weeks and we don't know how many of our teachers are going to come back. They're being forced to either accept and swallow a contract which is threatening to many of them and their families, is threatening to many of their students."
The coalition says the ad comes after months of frustrated efforts to communicate with the Archbishop and with the Vatican ambassador in the U.S.
"I think the Pope is aware of what's going on," said Kelly. "This is not a group of fringe lunatics. These are the absolute bedrock of our Catholic community."
In a statement Wednesday, the Archdiocese said the signers don't speak for the San Francisco Catholic Community.
The Archdiocese said it "has met with a broad range of stakeholders. Together, we have engaged in a constructive dialogue on all of the issues raised in this ad. We welcome the chance to continue that discussion."
Outside St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, some supporters of the Archbishop were shocked by the ad.
"It's unbelievable," said Marcel Balmel. "For me it's unacceptable. This is not the right [way] to handle it."