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NY archdiocese should sever ties with St. Patrick's Day parade

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 04, 2014

You don’t honor a saint by encouraging a sin.

No doubt there have been homosexual persons marching down Fifth Avenue every year in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. There was never any ban on their participation; there was no test of sexual orientation for marchers. But next year the parade in New York will feature something new: a group of avowed homosexuals carrying a banner, promoting same-sex unions, supporting the gay lifestyle.

Next year there will be only one story-line of interest to the reporters who cover the annual parade in the world’s media capital: the triumph of the gay activists. Photographers will be competing for the one “money” shot: the picture of the contingent from OUT@NBCUniversal marching past the reviewing stand at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, under the benign smile of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

And the media will be right to concentrate on that story line, because this is a significant advance for homosexual activists, a significant retreat for the Catholic Church. A generation ago, the late Cardinal John O’Connor said that it would be impossible to include proponents of homosexuality in a Catholic event. Now they will be included—and although the parade’s sponsors, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee*, made that crucial change in policy, it is difficult to believe that they made their decision without sounding out the leaders of the New York archdiocese.

Has Catholic teaching changed, then, to allow this accommodation? Pope Francis, questioned about homosexuality, famously replied, “Who am I to judge?” But in resisting demands from gay-activist groups to be included in the parade, the New York archdiocese was not judging homosexuals. It was simply observing that it would be absurd to include, in an event honoring a saint, a group dedicated to public acceptance of a moral disorder.

But plenty of people have sat in judgment of others during these 20 years of debate about the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Gay activists and their editorial sympathizers judged Cardinal O’Connor to be a bigot. Angry protesters lined the parade route with placards, denouncing the Catholic Church as a citadel of bigotry.

It is a lie to say that the Catholic Church encourages hatred. But now promoters of that lie will be marching triumphantly in a parade advertised as a Catholic-sponsored event. And there will be other lies, too, set forth by participants in this parade dedicated to Saint Patrick: the lie that homosexual acts are normal and healthy, the lie that gender is only a social construct, the lie that a man might really be a woman and vice versa.

The gay-rights movement has never been aimed merely at preventing discrimination. Homosexual activists demand not only that we refrain from judging them, but also that we accept their outlook. We are being warned that if we don’t want to be labeled as bigots, we must accept as good something that we have previously condemned as wrong; we must accept as truths what we know to be lies. That “money” photo from the St. Patrick’s Day parade next year will be taken as a sign of just such acceptance.

Meanwhile, as homosexual activists gain public acceptance, proponents of Christian morality are pushed aside. In 10 years, will it still be possible for someone to write what I have just written? Will media outlets give any space for such views? Will web sites that convey these idea be blocked? If so—if homosexual activists succeed in silencing their intellectual opponents—no small part of the blame will be born by the parade organizers and the Archdiocese of New York.

How has it come to pass, that a parade organized to honor the patron saint of Ireland has furnished the occasion for a major symbolic victory in the fight to overthrow Christian moral standards?

No doubt there was a time, some years ago, when the St. Patrick’s Day parade really was a Catholic observance. But over the years the religious aspect of the event has faded into the background, overwhelmed at first by the tribal celebration of Irish identity, and later by the same forces that govern any civic celebration. For the vast majority of participants and observers, the St. Patrick’s Day parade is no more a “Catholic” event than a Notre Dame football game.

Catholic piety was drowned long ago in the beery atmosphere of the celebration. It was a major blow when Guinness withdrew its sponsorship, siding with gay-rights protesters. But it is even more significant that this year, the pressure for change apparently came largely from NBC, the network that broadcasts the parade. (The homosexual group slated for inclusion is, not coincidentally, an organization for NBC employees.) It was unthinkable that the parade would go on without beer, without corporate sponsorships, without a live broadcast. The St. Patrick’s Day parade had become a city-wide party, a commercial venture, a media production.

Still the tradition had survived that the cardinal-archbishop of New York would stand on the steps of his cathedral, greeting the marchers, giving the parade his endorsement, keeping up the pretense that this march was a religious event. For next year’s parade, Cardinal Dolan had been named grand marshal, emphasizing the link to the Church and the implicit blessing of the participants.

If this really is a Catholic event, it cannot include a group defined by its opposition to Church teaching. If it is a Catholic event, forget Guinness, forget NBC, forget the hoopla, and quietly honor St. Patrick.

But if it is not a Catholic event—if it is just another civic celebration, to which all are welcome, regardless of their attitude toward the Church—then it’s time to end an anachronism. There should be no reviewing stand outside St. Patrick’s cathedral, no sign of Church sponsorship. Cardinal Dolan should step aside as grand marshal.

*- An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the parade's organizers as the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Since 1993, the parade has been organized by this separate group, created by the AOH for that purpose. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: williiam ronner - Sep. 11, 2014 8:57 PM ET USA

    Love the sinner does not mean accepting their behavior if it may compromise their chance at salvation. To allow people who, according to Catholic teachings, are engaging in grave sin, to march, essentially in protest of Catholic teachings, doesn't help them. Heaven is the most important thing we can "will" to those we love. To help them achieve acceptance here as opposed to eternal salvation upon their death is to disdain them which is contrary to Catholic teachings.

  • Posted by: Leopardi - Sep. 10, 2014 7:50 PM ET USA

    Wow, we are really missing the point! What ever happened to " love the sinner, hate the sin"? Cardinal Dolan is absolutely right in participating along with gays and lesbians. He is not showing approval of homosexuality, but rather engaging the issue with a support of the sinners while reviling the sin. How else can he, or the rest of us, be legitimate participants in this arena? How else will our position be considered anything else but the ranting of bigots?

  • Posted by: williiam ronner - Sep. 09, 2014 9:44 PM ET USA

    The laity must act in concert with Catholic teachings. Catholic Schools should not march and parents of students should refuse to allow their children to march. Guiness or our students, take your pick. Next, instead of donating to your parish where some of the funds go to the archdiocese, offer to pay bills directly for the parish, thus donating the same amount but directing the funds to the electric, heating, or other bills. NOTHING goes to Dolan! And write letters registering complaints.

  • Posted by: jacquebquique5708 - Sep. 08, 2014 2:16 PM ET USA

    I agree. However, the parade is not sponsored by the Archdiocese of NY. Cdnl Dolan is just a witness and blesses the festivities. As much as I abhor what happened, gays have the right to petition for involvement in a civic event. Now, we will just have to wait to see just how tasteful the many groups will come to march in 2016. This will be the year of the coronation of Hillary. The PR parade was on one of my trips to NY. Hillary rode and she will be there with the gay influx in March 2016.

  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Sep. 08, 2014 1:04 AM ET USA

    One wonders what Saint Patrick himself would say about the exploitation of his good name by homosexual special interest groups who have no regard for the Catholic Church other than to use it's reputation as the moral voice of society to advance its own agenda. After his escape from slavery St. Patrick returned to Ireland and converted the Irish from the error of paganism to the truth of Christianity would that Bishop Dolan do the same for those deceived by the error of homosexuality.

  • Posted by: seewig - Sep. 06, 2014 4:47 PM ET USA

    From what we know so far, without having heard from Crdl Dolan ( a little caveat), it would be very appropriate for Crdl Dolan to step down as grand marshal, and withdraw the Catholic aspect from this celebration, and in turn, have a true Catholic celebration inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, with no strange banners.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2014 11:20 AM ET USA

    Ever wonder why NY has had only Irish bishops? (DuBois was likely also Irish since many, like mine, have French names from Southern Ireland.) Time for one of Italian, Polish, etc. descent, perhaps? Have those nationalities not also poured enough dollars into the NY Archdiocesan coffers over the last two centuries?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2014 9:26 AM ET USA

    There's an everyday, nuts and bolts issue here that is flying under the radar, and we need to pay attention. Sometime soon after the 2015 parade, the LGBT lobby will bring suits against all Catholic websites, tv, radio, and print publications, arguing that those entities must be required to accept pro-LGBT advertising. They'll claim that since the archdiocese of NY saw fit to let them advertise in the parade, then the whole Church must do so, too. The camel's nose will soon be under the tent.

  • Posted by: geoffreysmith1 - Sep. 06, 2014 7:39 AM ET USA

    I'd say that the loss of sponsorship by Guinness was the decisive factor in the decision to allow gays to strut down Fifth Avenue in this parade. It's a case of know your enemy: all true Catholics should boycott the Guinness company and its products. There are far more Catholics than gays in New York, and the company will soon feel the draught (pardon the pun) from its declining sales.

  • Posted by: curtin241265 - Sep. 06, 2014 7:02 AM ET USA

    We need Archbishop Sheen! "We do not need a voice that is right when everyone else is right. We need a voice that is right when everyone else is wrong."? Venerable Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979)

  • Posted by: jplaunder1846 - Sep. 05, 2014 8:00 PM ET USA

    Maybe St Patrick will appear and perform his "driving the snakes out of Ireland" exercise. I totally agree with Phil's comments. It is political action by the Gay Rights militants in the continuing cultural war that is slowly but surely destroying the West. These militants are a form of moral jihadists. Cardinal Dolan must withdraw any Catholic connection.

  • Posted by: abc - Sep. 05, 2014 7:57 PM ET USA

    Here is a Saint I had no particular devotion in the past, but who has become the one to whom I pray every time I read news such as this: Saint Athanasius. He was the Bishop who stood firm when almost half of the World's other Bishops succumbed to heresy. I pray to him to intercede with God to send us Bishops with a spine (since I think that praying for the current crop of Bishops to grow a spine would be too much of a a miracle).

  • Posted by: Defender - Sep. 05, 2014 3:37 PM ET USA

    Let the cardinal stay out in front of the cathedral and pass out tickets. These "special tickets" will have the heading, "Canon 915" followed by citing the canon, followed, perhaps, with a quote from the Catechism (how about #1867). All those issued will have there names placed on the archdiocesan website. In fact, he can start right away with members of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, Governor Cuomo, VP Biden, etc, etc, etc.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 05, 2014 1:48 PM ET USA

    So disheartening to think that the archbishop would cave in to the parade committee even though the parade is not necessarily a church function but the fact that they're using St. Patrick's name is a sham. What would St. Patrick think and what must those other faiths who stand with us in the battle think?

  • Posted by: Jason C. - Sep. 05, 2014 11:27 AM ET USA

    Don't get your hopes up. Look for a LOLin' Dolan to be up on the grandstand around the Ides of March.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Sep. 04, 2014 6:50 PM ET USA

    I plan to be judgmental this March. If Timothy Dolan participates finally in this charade, I will judge him to be cut from the same cloth as the (and oh-so- appropriately named) Bishop Weakland. After that, I will listen to his voice with the same attention and respect I once reserved for the words and thoughts of the deceased archbishop of Milwaukee, that is to say, none at all.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Sep. 04, 2014 4:45 PM ET USA

    The Holy Father just preached on the evil of sowing disunity: why can't our Church leadership see how these repeated acts sow confusion and scatter the flock?!! Lord, we beg you, help us to wake-up and engage this culture ruled by the evil spirit.

  • Posted by: Ken_H - Sep. 04, 2014 12:32 PM ET USA

    Perhaps just as Christmas has been translated to "Winter Holiday", this event could be called something else? "The Irish Bloke Festival" or something? Perhaps even St. Patrick himself would welcome taking his name off the banners?