Fallout from the decision to allow an openly LGBT group to march in New York’s 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will be led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan as grand marshall, continued this week. Many conservative Catholic organizations have been upset both by the parade committee’s decision to be inclusive and Dolan’s acceptance of the change.
Perhaps one of the most stinging and controversial criticisms came from Monsginor Charles Pope, a pastor and blogger in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The Archdiocese of Washington removed Msgr. Pope’s blog post from their site. In the post, Pope stated, in part:
“Now the St. Patrick’s Parade is becoming of parade of disorder, chaos, and fake unity. Let’s be honest: St. Patrick’s Day nationally has become a disgraceful display of drunkenness and foolishness in the middle of Lent that more often embarrasses the memory of Patrick than honors it.
“In New York City in particular, the ‘parade’ is devolving into a farcical and hateful ridicule of the faith that St. Patrick preached.
“It’s time to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Al Smith Dinner and all the other ‘Catholic’ traditions that have been hijacked by the world. Better for Catholics to enter their churches and get down on their knees on St. Patrick’s Day to pray in reparation for the foolishness, and to pray for this confused world to return to its senses.”
Msgr. Pope is right about the drunkenness and foolishness of St. Patrick’s Day, but it must be noted that those behaviors have gone on for the many decades when LGBT groups were not allowed to march.
The Archdiocese of Washington is to be commended for removing this post from their site, as such vindictive commentary is pastorally damaging. The Archdiocese has made no comment as to why they removed the post, though, and it would have been better if they had made a clear repudiation of Msgr. Pope’s attack.
While the conservative Catholic blogosphere was red hot all week with people claiming that Dolan and the parade committees were traitorous, another pastoral voice came from America magazine correspondent Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM. In a blog post on the magazine’s website, Walsh defended Dolan by pointing out the pastoral message that his parade presence was setting. In making that defense, Walsh also touches on some other important issues and re-frames them as pastoral concerns:
“. . . Cardinal Dolan also has pastoral obligations. Many Catholics are gay, are related to gays, have gay friends. That is a reality to be dealt with. The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family voted in 1997 on a statement ‘Always Our Children,’ that addressed the relationship between parents and their gay children. It drew fierce opposition from a number of people, but it cleared the air and comforted families who felt torn between what they understood to be church teaching and the natural love of mothers and fathers for children.
“Where to draw the line?
“Can a gay person participate in the corporal works of mercy, for example, by working in a church sponsored soup kitchen? Why not? Feeding the hungry is a religious obligation that crosses religious lines and is well rooted in Christianity.
“Can a gay person take up the collection at Mass? It’s a service, not a doctrine. Why not?
” . . . Cardinal Dolan’s position on the parade is the pastoral one; you don’t reject people for who they are. If a parent of a gay or lesbian child asked if they should invite their child to Thanksgiving dinner, any decent church person would say yes. When torn between being pastoral or political, a basic understanding of what it means to be a church community demands that pastoral take the day.”
It is refreshing to read these words from Sister Mary Ann, who for many years was a spokesperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and who often defended some of their pastorally harmful stances. Perhaps it is one more sign of the new era of openness being led by Pope Francis.
Perhaps the best news about the conservative protest of the St. Patrick’s Day decision is that the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights has announced that it will withdraw from the parade next year. The leader of this group made wildly outlandish and ridiculous claims about LGBT people throughout his career, and most recently, about their participation in the parade. We elected not to report on them here because they were beyond the standards of civil discourse and reasoned discussion.
In David Gibson’s Religion News Service article about the conservative Catholic camp’s criticism of Dolan, the reporter alludes to the influence of Pope Francis on Dolan’s approach to the parade issue:
“. . . Dolan clearly seems to be comfortable with the more inclusive posture adopted by Pope Francis.
The cardinal last month gave a lengthy interview to the Boston Globe’s Vatican expert, John Allen, in which Dolan indicated that the days of the culture wars in the church were coming to a close.
The effort to withhold Communion from pro-choice Catholic pols “is in the past,” he said. And he also said that Francis wants pastoral, social justice-focused bishops “who would not be associated with any one ideological camp.”
Perhaps a new day is dawning.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry