Benedict XVI Institute in San Francisco Shifts Direction

B16In a major shift in direction, it was announced yesterday in Catholic San Francisco that the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship in the Archdiocese of San Francisco is expanding its focus from sacred music to a wider scope including Catholic art, music, architecture and literature. The newly-named executive director is conservative political commentator Maggie Gallagher.

San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone says of the new development:

This is a broadening of the institute’s mission to include the complete beauty of the church’s rich patrimony.

The Institute’s website, which as of this writing has not been updated for a good long time, says that the Institute

supports pastors in their efforts to form lay people for liturgical ministries, including music directors, parish musicians, acolytes, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

Sacred music will remain among the points of emphasis in the new setup. It is foreseen that at least one annual lecture will be on chant, among at least four annual lectures on art, music, architecture and literature. The Institute will continue to promote the work of Fr. Samuel Weber, OSB, who originally set up the Institute.

Weber, a monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey, teaches at the seminary in San Francisco where the Institute is housed. Alongside the stress on traditional sacred music, the Institute will give some attention to musical ethnic diversity, with outreach to the diverse cultures present in the Bay area.

Gallagher MarriageThe newly named Executive Director of the Institute is Maggie Gallagher. According to the archdiocesan newspaper cited above, Gallagher’s educational background consists of a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Yale in 1982. She is best known as a conservative voice in the so-called “culture wars,” fighting against gay marriage, for example, or defending then-governor Mike Pence’s signing of a controversial religious freedom bill in Indiana.

Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project in Washington DC, which says of itself:

We educate and advocate for public policy solutions that respect and affirm: human life from conception to natural death; the union of one man and one woman as the definition of marriage; the freedom to practice and proclaim religion; authentic economic progress for working Americans; education in service of the comprehensive development of the person; and, the legacy of immigrants in contributing to the American story.

Gallagher has also served as editor of The National Pulse, from which she stepped down because she “could not support Trump for president.” The National Pulse states that it

was formed to promote honesty in politics. Concerned with all the misinformation across traditional and social media channels, our team came together before the 2016 presidential primary process.

The National Pulses says that it offers

conservative political analysis, investigative reporting and Capitol Hill insights. Our diverse team features commentary from some of the best minds in the conservative movement.

Gallagher founded and formerly served as president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, which was a strong public voice defending traditional marriage but is no longer in existence. She is also founding president of the National Organization for Marriage, for which she remains on the board of directors.

Gallagher NOMGallagher is widely published, for example in the National Review, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal, and she is a frequent presenter on various conservative issues. Among the books she has authored are The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love and Enemies of Eros: How the Sexual Revolution is Killing Family, Marriage, and Sex and What We Can Do about It. She has co-authored The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially and Debating Same Sex Marriage.

In October 2013, Pray Tell first reported on the founding of the new liturgical institute in San Francisco, citing an article from Aleteia titled “Restoring the Liturgy.” “Will it make a difference?” that story asked.

Check back next year. In the meantime, serious Catholics in California can only be heartened by the momentum engendered by the new generation of leaders.

In January 2016, Pray Tell reported that the institute was seeking a new executive director after the departure of Fr. Samuel Weber from that role.

Gallagher will perform her new role from her home in Virginia, travelling regularly to California for local Institute work. Her role will include fundraising and promoting the institute nationally.

Gallagher said of her future work, drawing on the pope who for whom the Institute in San Francisco is named:

For me, Benedict XVI is about opening the door of beauty to God to as many who want to enter by that path. The Mass, the liturgy and sacred music are indispensable. But encouraging a culture of Catholic art and storytelling is another closely connected goal. San Francisco’s amazingly ethnically diverse parishes provide many doors to beauty I’m excited to explore and promote.


This post was updated on July 28 to reflect the information from Maggie Gallagher in a comment below about internet sources on her past work which are outdated. Pray Tell kindly thanks her for this assistance.   



  1. It does seem odd to hire someone who lives on the opposite side of the country and who seems to have no obvious expertise (or at least no credentials; I realize they are not the same) in liturgy or the arts. This may have something to do with gaining access to deep pocket donors.

  2. It’s a whale of a commute. Are there no qualified persons on the west coast? This sounds more like corporate culture than church.

    1. @Rita Ferrone:
      If I may summarize something that others have said better in recent years: where the establishment of the US Left is in university-based planet systems with some think-thank and policy lobbying firm satellites, the establishment of the US Right is in think tanks and policy/lobbying/consulting firms with academic satellites. The former involves more tenure, the latter is more entrepreneurial (especially with consulting). But they resemble each other more than either might prefer to think. Both are ways to monetize a living from the world of ideas; they are not only that, but at the end of the day, American ideas people are mostly not vowed religious.

      1. @Karl Liam Saur:
        What you say may be true, but it’s not relevant to what I said.

        I am not saying the person running this institute must be a vowed religious. And far be it from me to suggest that universities do not emulate corporate culture.

        This is just irrelevant to my point.

        Are you suggesting that this new director is an ideas person whose ideas are so rare they cannot be found on the other coast?

      2. @Rita Ferrone:
        Well, I was elaborating on why it looks like corporate culture – I wasn’t disagreeing with you at all, much as it may have seemed. This institute is relatively young, and never got much off the ground to begin with, so count me as unshocked that it becomes an instrument to another set of purposes more aligned with personal needs of a networked person. That stuff happens, and can override the ostensible original mission (or show that the original mission was not deeply rooted after all….).

      3. I suspect the bigger difficulty is people with confidence to create essentially a startup with no salary guarantee and a very small non profit salary living in San Francisco. There was a four year search before the Archbishop and the board decided to hire me. I expect to spend ten days to two weeks a month in San Francisco. Time will tell whether it was a good idea or not. If you have candidates email me:

    1. @Thomas Strickland:

      “Could someone explain to me just what “opening the door of beauty to God” means?”

      I’m just guessing here that it’s along the lines of Bishop Robert Barron’s approach that great art, literature and music can be portals to God.

    2. @Thomas Strickland:
      Classically there are three great doors to God: truth, goodness (the saints) and beauty. We hope to be a center for practical resources for sacred music and liturgy but also a center celebrating Catholic artists across the spectrum

      Incidentally I appreciate this blogpost but a lot of internet info about me is outdated. IMAPP no longer exists. And I stepped down from editing the National Pulse because I could not support Trump for president.

      Moderator note: the original post has been updated to reflect the information in this comment.

    3. In the early days of the church, when few were literate, the beauty within the church that was held in icons, statues, architecture, and music were the gateways to God. We may be more literate at this juncture in history, but are we really people who use our literacy in a way that finds God? Just knowing that there is such a high percentage of the Catholic population that does not even believe in the Eucharist is a good indication.

      And if you look at the kind of music in the church today, which many times emulates protestant praise and worship community style churches, and if you look at the architecture which is devoid of any real beauty, and if you look at how many churches don’t even have one beautiful statue or icon within the walls, I think it is time that we turned back to the things that reached the human heart in ways that perhaps a homily will not.

  3. I’m sure it took a 4-year search for the Abp and board to find someone (probably a scarce commodity on the West Coast) who was prepared to take the Institute in the direction that they wanted. Methinks the unspoken word was: Liberals/Progressives … don’t even THINK about applying!

  4. Maggie – I have known the Archbishop from our San Diego days, a Diocese that had no or very little “Roman noise” and when he came back from an extended assignment at the Vatican serving as a secretary in one of the Tribunal offices, our Chancery, every Rectory, Friary, Priory, Hermitage, Convent, home and place of business experienced a little “Noise of Rome.”. Remember, the Archbishop plays a “mean saxophone!”. Not exactly Sacred Music.

  5. Maggie – Just to keep this discussion “light” as many of us in the Archdiocese, yours truly included, take our selves to seriously! The Holy Spirit will provide and who knows, you may have one day, the same “gift” of the Holy Spirit that was given to our brother Capuchin Padre Pio; the gift of “Bi-Location.!”. When you come out to the WC, stop by the Shrine of Saint Francis. We are in North Beach. Truly a destination point for any visitor with our own 5/7 scale replica of Francis’ Portiuncula within the Shrine. Just like Assisi!

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