Catholic League Drops Out of St. Patrick’s Day Parade Over Row About Gays

William Donohue of the Catholic League. Photo via Patrick Novecosky/Legatus, courtesy of Catholic League/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 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 OUT@NBCUniversal, 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. Photo via Gregory A. Shemitz/RNS.

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.”

David Gibson is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. Via RNS.

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