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Catholic League drops out of St. Patrick’s Day parade over row about gays

William Donohue of the Catholic League, who was one of the biggest opponents of gay participation, initially signaled his grudging acceptance: “One would hope that all the new entries will conduct themselves in a manner that honors St. Patrick, lest another round of controversy emerges,” Donohue said.
William Donohue of the Catholic League, who was one of the biggest opponents of gay participation, initially signaled his grudging acceptance: “One would hope that all the new entries will conduct themselves in a manner that honors St. Patrick, lest another round of controversy emerges,” Donohue said.

Photo by Patrick Novecosky/Legatus, courtesy of Catholic League

William Donohue of the Catholic League announced that his organization would not take part in next year’s popular celebration of Irish-American culture, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

NEW YORK (RNS) After organizers agreed to allow a gay and lesbian group to march, William Donohue of the Catholic League announced that his organization would not take part in next year’s popular celebration of Irish-American culture, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Donohue said the parade organizers had “betrayed” him by promising that an anti-abortion group would be allowed to participate if a gay group were given a permit. But he claimed the committee later reversed itself and said abortion opponents would not be marching next year.

“They not only told me one thing, and did another, they decided to include a gay group that is neither Catholic nor Irish while stiffing pro-life Catholics,” Donohue said in a statement issued Thursday (Sept. 11). “This is as stunning as it is indefensible.”

The parade organizers had sent mixed signals about whether an anti-abortion group would be marching in the parade.

Initially, parade spokesman William O’Reilly said a group opposed to abortion would be marching but said it hadn’t been selected. Then he said an anti-abortion group had to apply to march, and this week said all the spaces had been taken.

“Had a group filed an application they might be marching in 2015,” O’Reilly told The Wall Street Journal. “But no application, or even phone call, came forward. The parade is … packed. There has to be a cutoff point.”

After years of dogged resistance and legal battles, the St. Patrick’s Day parade committee said earlier this month that it would allow gay and lesbian groups to march under their own banner and they chose [email protected], a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender resource group from NBC, to be the first. The network is a sponsor and broadcaster of the event, which processes along Fifth Avenue.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York greets a New York City firefighter while reviewing the 253rd annual St. Patrick's Day in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on March 17, 2014. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York greets a New York City firefighter while reviewing the 253rd annual St. Patrick’s Day in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on March 17, 2014. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan — the parade’s grand marshal next March 17 —  welcomed the move, a significant change from previous archbishops and one that sparked criticism from many Catholic conservatives.

The rebukes have continued, with one Catholic activist accusing Dolan of “a dereliction of duty” while National Catholic Register columnist Pat Archbold said Dolan’s response was “a shameful and sinful capitulation.”

The parade is not a Catholic-sanctioned event but it is closely identified with Irish Catholicism.

In his statement this week, Donohue insisted that his decision not to march does not mean that he is “at odds” with Dolan.

“Cardinal Dolan has no more rabid supporter than Bill Donohue,” he said, “and nothing that has transpired recently changes anything.”

YS/AMB END GIBSON

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

17 Comments

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  • Though not of the Catholic persuasian myself, I am a big fan of Donohue and his work with the League of Catholics. When he speaks, God-loving Americans of all dinominations listen!

  • Good! It’s heavenly better to have God’s gay children in the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade than Bill Donohue’s devilish, hateful, and illiterate gang of Catholic Leaguers.

    PS: If Donohue were more than only a cultural Catholic, he would be abiding by his church’s old-fashioned ideas of fast and abstinence, along with his demands that everyone return to his old-fashioned, pre-Vatican II notions of what it means to be Catholic and Christian. Obviously too much pizza, even after Donohue became a multi-millionaire peddling Domino’s junk food and sold it for another big chunk of materialistic change.

  • You certainly show a sat illiteracy concerning Donohue, his work, the Catholic League, and Americans of any denominations or none.

    Bill Donohue and his so-called Catholic League are not at all representative of today’s Catholic Church. Donohue is a radical evangelical, as you apparently are. It is no wonder that you, a denomination of one, listens to the likes of Donohue so intently.

    It’s a case of only listening to people with notions that match your own. That’s called prejudice. And all prejudice rises out of illiteracy. And the material of the Bible can be distorted to fit any kind of “persuasion,” “denomination,” or prejudice.

  • PS: Now that Bill Donohue has no worries about constantly amassing wealth, he can devote his time to an unbiased pursuit of philosophy, scripture, theology, etc. He clings to his old church notions because they support his prejudice, the prejudices of a child. Ignorance is the base of all prejudice.

    Change scares people like Donohue. That is why aging scares them, they are unable to adapt “the things of a child” to living as an adult. Living as a mature adult, even religiously, demands growing far beyond the “things of a child.” “Now that I am a man, I must put away the things of a child…” Be an adult!

  • PS, Bill: Being mature allows no room for being “rabid” about anything, not even being a fan of Tim Dolan. Being healthily religious allows no room for being “rabid” about anything. All the history of evil in religion occurred when people were “rabid” about religion or some “religious” person. Study your history, Bill Donohue. Study your history of religion. Study your own church’s history. And while you’re about studying, study some science about sexual orientation. Study some sociology, history, and psychology about the topic. Study, study, study, Bill, before you open your mouth expressing your non-stop prejudices. Being wealthy does not make you wise about any topic, not even money!

  • Bill Donohue is an obnoxious blowhard who is very damaging to the image of Catholics. He is hateful and the antithesis of what our Pope is trying to achieve.

  • Not only are you promoting fat hatred, you are also demonstrating racism. Domino’s was owned by Tom Monaghan, not Bill Donohue. They don’t all “look the same” you know!

  • I hate the notion of defending Cardinal Dolan. The man is such pond scum. But even he showed some measure of sanity. So I must. 🙂

  • He represents belief in himself, covering the Church’s behind and the power of big money. If not for this little capitulation to city politics, you would love the guy. 🙂

  • Question: Would Jesus have been seen today with gays, lesbians, and transgender people? If you know your Bible, you know the answer. If you know Jesus, you know the answer. The answer is “Yes.”
    Many times in the Bible, Jesus is seen with people that society and the church viewed as socially or morally depraved due to ignorance or their religious prejudices to cast down as less than human. Jesus was well aware that what He did could be used against Him. He knew there was a fine line in how people would perceive Him, right or wrong. He only knew one principle: that was; for the love of the person to be the best he or she could be.
    To really appreciate Jesus, one has to understand that He loves all of us. His commandment was simple: love your sister as yourself; love your brother as yourself; love me for I am your Father. It’s not a sin to love. It’s how that love is manifested that can be questioned; not the love we have, even if it’s for the same sex.

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