In an effort, it appears, to do some damage control after a sex scandal at a North Beach church made national headlines, the church's rector has put a stop to what was once its most controversial element, a plan to inter dead pets on their grounds.

Last fall, administrators at North Beach's Roman-Catholic National Shrine of Saint Francis found themselves going head to head with one of its most powerful and influential parishioners, former president of San Francisco Board of Supervisors (among other things) Angela Alioto.

Alioto, the self-appointed "guardian" of the church, has, as the Chron reported last November, been locked in bitter combat with church leaders over control and direction of the church. When Snider replaced Alioto's Knights of St. Francis (seriously, how Dan Brown is all this stuff) with volunteer docents, things got ugly. When plans to build a pet cemetery beneath the steps of the church started to move forward, things got even uglier.

"No scholar I know, nor myself, a street scholar on Saint Francis, see any causal connection between Saint Francis and dead animals," Alioto told the LA Times last August, while her Knights argued that "pet funerals are against church teaching. Animals are not capable of sin, do not go to heaven or hell and thus cannot be saved."

Snider, who has only been in his current position for eight months, inherited the pet cemetery plan from the previous administration, where it was proposed by chair of the Shrine's Board of Trustees, one Bill McLaughlin. Yes, that's the same vaguely scammy Bill McLaughlin now at the center of the church's kind of crazy sex scandal.

In a lawsuit filed in January, a 33-year-old single mother (with issues of her own) alleges that McLaughlin regularly forced her to submit to "oral, anal, and vaginal sex" in the church's sacristy, or lose her job. Added into the mix were routine bare bottomed spankings, also on church grounds.

McLaughlin has since been terminated, and the church is now "in a process of realignment,” Snider told Catholic San Francisco. Part of that alignment includes dumping the pet gravesite, perhaps realizing that it would be next-to-impossible to raise the $1.5 million the Ex reports the cemetery would have cost for an idea from their allegedly sex-offending former staffer.

“We’re removing a point of contention,” Snider told the Ex. Instead, the area once slated to be a place for pet remains will host events for community organizations like the SFSPCA, which has already hosted at least one pet adoption event in the space.

“I put my feelers out to the religious community and did a random sampling of the core congregation and of the neighborhood,” Snider told Catholic SF.

“It seemed clear that more of the faithful would be served by using our facilities in a different way."

[Catholic San Francisco]
[SF Examiner]