Capuchin Friar Harold Snider
Though its namesake may have preached to birds, rabbits, fish, and even wolves, the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi in North Beach won't be burying your pets any time soon.
The Catholic shrine has abandoned controversial plans to install a pet columbarium under its front stairs. And though we'd like to chalk it up to them finally heeding Stephen King's warnings, the change of plans is actually tied to the ongoing fallout of a sex scandal. The proponent of the pet burial chamber was Bill Mcloughlin, a former church volunteer who is now the focus of a lawsuit by a former employee alleging a quid-pro-quo sexual arrangement.
But it's not just the fall from grace of its main backer that set the pet cemetery on rocky ground, but resistance from parishioners as well. Harold Snider, the Capuchin friar who serves as the shrine’s rector, and was installed after the plans were announced, told the Examiner that congregants were hotly divided on the plans, with many viewing it as an attempt to increase donations from pet owners. “We’re removing a point of contention,” he added. “There was too much arguing […] that’s not what I’m here for.”
Once renovations are complete, the space that would have housed the columbarium will be used for a range of activities including homeless outreach, meetings, and pet adoptions.