LGBT Irish-Americans Finally Fully Welcomed to NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade

brendan_fay_insert_courtesy_the_alliance
Members of the Lavender & Green Alliance at last Sunday’s St. Pat’s For All Parade

 

When the St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks off in New York City tomorrow, it will finally be an inclusive celebration of Irish heritage with all LGBT marchers fully welcomed for the first time.

The Lavender & Green Alliance has been invited to march by parade organizers, reported the Washington Blade. The Alliance, which since 2000 has hosted an alternative event in Queens called the St. Pat’s For All Parade, was celebrating the welcome, said founder and chair Brendan Fay. He told the Blade the parade will be “a great day for hospitality and inclusion,” adding:

” ‘History will be made for the first time on March 17. . .I think it’s conveying a message about equality and what I call cultural hospitality. There’s an overall feeling of excitement and just really great and joyful expectation. . .I’ve really come to appreciate how important cultural gatherings and parades are in our lives and communities.’ “

Inviting the Lavender & Green Alliance hopefully ends decades of controversy between LGBT advocates who sought to march openly and conservative Catholic opponents, but attaining such inclusion was not certain and did not come easily. Last year’s welcome of OUT@NBC Universal, the parade’s first openly LGBT contingent, was criticized by many because few marchers were of Irish descent. Comments last June by parade chair John Dunleavy raised the possibility that LGBT groups might be excluded yet another year. Thankfully, parade organizers have welcomed LGBT Irish-Americans under their own banner, about which Emmaia Gelman of the group Irish Queers commented to The Villager:

” ‘The demand to end the exclusion from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has always been for Irish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender marchers to participate in the parade behind their own banner. . .We’re really pleased that’s going to happen. It’s been a long 25 years. . .It’s really a great thing that it’s over.”

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Brendan Fay, left, being interviewed

Fay of the Lavender & Green Alliance, who is Catholic, said the “persistent determination” of the Irish community, and not just LGBT people, helped make this welcome possible. So too did financial pressures from sponsors like Guinness and boycotts by local politicians. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending his two-year boycott of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, telling a crowd last Sunday:

” ‘The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a New York City tradition but for years, Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride. . .Finally they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.’ “

Some advocates, however, do not want the history surrounding this parade too quickly displaced in the name of progress. John Francis Mulligan of Irish Queers wrote in the Washington Blade:

“But this lockstep ‘moving forward’ is like reconciliation without the truth part. It erases history. It erases the power of people to create change collectively. It diminishes the history of the courage and grit of people that push back, stand up and speak out. Even when it has affected us by losing our families, safety, housing, jobs and friendships. The history of the anti-gay NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade is important. This bigotry was a coagulation of very powerful forces: the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the Police Department, the mayor’s office, the courts and the religious right. . .

“Some of the many Irish values I cherish are to be contrary, to stand up for what is right, and to not be afraid when everyone else is walking down the road to stop and walk the other way. . .It may have taken us 25 years of struggle to walk up Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day but we prevailed. Let’s celebrate, give fair dues, remember the history and continue the work.”

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Members of the Lavender & Green Alliance in an earlier, undated photo

Danny Dromm, a gay Irish member of the New York City Council, recalled the struggle, too, reported the Irish Times. During remarks earlier this week at the Irish Consulate, he said:

 

“‘ For all the people who were arrested and who protested, and to my own family who wrote letters against what I am doing here today, today is a day of reconciliation and healing for us all.’ “

Tomorrow’s festivities in New York City are certainly worth celebrating, just as those who made this day possible are remembered. The parade’s inclusion reflects the deep shifts in society and in cultures which have happened around gender and sexuality that are worth celebrating, too. Boston saw a similar victory during last year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and New York City’s St. Pat’s For All Parade is set to continue in Queens in addition to this main parade–all positive developments towards full LGBT equality.

On a final note, the parade’s inclusion of LGBT marchers also more accurately ties it to Ireland. Dignity/New York’s spokesperson, Jeff Stone, explained to the Blade how inclusive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S. rightly relate to the equality victories made in Ireland:

“Eventually the older, more conservative members who were against [LGBT marchers] either left or died or whatever and I understand that Barbara Jones, the consul general of Ireland in New York, tried to urge the committee to let them march. That’s also in line with what’s happening in Ireland, especially now with the pro-same-sex marriage vote. The people of that country have clearly spoken.”

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day through this parade has been a high-point for Irish Americans, and indeed New Yorkers of all backgrounds, since the late 18th-century. The parade is celebrating its 255th year tomorrow. As Bondings 2.0 previously noted, these celebrations will be even better now that LGBT people are welcomed in the spirit of Catholicism’s long tradition of social justice — and perhaps most pertinent here–the Irish charism of unbounded and warm hospitality.

To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the controversies surrounding St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

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Next Year’s St. Pat’s Parade May Not Be As Inclusive as This Year’s Was

While the Irish in Ireland have shown that the overwhelming majority of them support gay and lesbian couples, the Irish-Americans here in the U.S. don’t seem to be as welcoming as their overseas cousins.

John Dunleavy

Irish Central reported earlier this month that several sources have said the chairman of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is looking for a new television broadcaster for the event.  In March of this year, the parade committee, for the first time, allowed an openly gay organization to march: OUT@NBC, the LGBT employees organization of NBC, the parade’s broadcaster.

In addition to the unnamed sources, Irish Central  also reported on a speech made by John Dunleavy, the parade chair:

“[S]peaking at a parade lunch in April, Dunleavy said gay groups would ‘have a problem’ securing a slot in next year’s line of march.”

The news account reported that Dunleavy plans to stand his ground on not allowing an LGBT group march in next year’s parade.  Reporting on an interview with the chariman, the article stated:

” ‘Some of the guys talked to me. There is going to be some changes,’ Dunleavy said when asked about next year’s march by the interviewer at a lunch for parade volunteers held at Antun’s in Queens.

” ‘No major changes but there is going to be changes. I am going to run for another term and [at] that time we will put certain items into the changes that we need.’

“Clearly commenting on the inclusion of gay groups in next year’s march, Dunleavy warned, ‘The parade itself is not there to promote anybody’s particular agenda in any way, shape or form. The parade represents our faith, our heritage and our culture, nothing more and nothing less. So we’re going to keep to that, and anybody who wants to mix that up is going to have a problem next year.’ “

Dunleavy’s strategy may backfire, sources said, because financial backers who were happy with an inclusive parade may withdraw from their parade support.  Even New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the 2015 Grand Marshall, was fine with the inclusion of an LGBT group.

Parade viewers, too, seemed happy with the inclusive approach of the 2015 parade:

OUT@NBC was one of the final marching units to take part in the parade and were well received by those who remained on Fifth Avenue. Their debut as the first gay group in the march was covered by media from around the world, and they were humbled by being the first to break the barrier.”

Dunleavy should listen to the will of the people, who have shown that they are ready for an inclusive parade.  If he doesn’t, then on next March 17th, very few Irish eyes will be smiling.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

St. Patrick’s Day Parades Increasingly Inclusive, But Still Controversial

Protesters at NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade
If you haven’t already done so, please answer our ten-second poll on Pope Francis’ LGBT record by clicking here

Amid St. Patrick’s Day festivities this week, three cities’ parades made headlines in the ongoing debate over whether LGBT groups should be allowed to march in these traditional events. Here are three updates from this year’s celebrations.

New York City

The parade in New York City included an openly LGBT contingent , a move which left many still dissatisfied.  The group from “Out@NBCUniversal” included about 100 LGBT and ally employees of the network which broadcasts the parade, and they were the only group welcomed after last September’s decision to make the event more inclusive.

Boycotters of New York’s festivities included Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and other local politicians as well as LGBT advocates. De Blasio explained his reasons at an inclusive parade in Queens earlier this month:

” ‘A lot of people feel, I think rightfully, that that is too small a change to merit a lot of us participating who have wanted to see an inclusive parade.’ “

Irish Queers member John Francis Mulligan told The New York Times:

” ‘This is only significant in that it’s a back-room deal between NBC and the parade’s organizers…There’s no transparency about how this decision was made, no one ever responded to our application to march, and Out@NBCUniversal isn’t even an Irish group.’ “

The first LGBT contingent in NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The Irish Queers were among groups protesting the parade. Reuters reported that they held signs with messages such as “Who said St. Patrick was straight?” and “Let Irish Gays Into Irish Parade.”

NBCUniversal chief diversity officer Craig Robinson was sympathetic to these concerns, saying they were “sad not to be marching with our gay brothers and sisters today” but that if they refused, no LGBT groups would be marching. He added that “It was never our goal to the the only group marching.”

In response to critics, the vice chairman of the parade’s organizing committee, John Lahey, gave a press conference, about which The Christian Science Monitor reports:

“The inclusion of the LGBT group from NBC was a ‘gesture of good will of historic proportion’…He added that the parade had always included gays and lesbians, however, as they participated freely with other groups.

” ‘The purpose of this parade is not inclusiveness as an end, it’s a parade to celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.’ “

Grand Marshal Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he hoped the parade could continue to be a source of unity, even while facing harsh criticism for participating from anti-gay groups.

Perhaps the best perspective from New York, however, comes from annual attendee Joseph Bertuglia who said,

” ‘I think St. Patrick would love everyone and would be happy…Even Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” So why should anybody else?’ “

Boston

Boston’s parade last Sunday included two LGBT contingents, but lacked the Knights of Columbus. Last Friday, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which is the parade’s organizer, announced that Boston Pride would be allowed to march in addition to the already accepted group, OutVets, reported Boston.com.

For the first time in several years, the parade included Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and other politicians who had boycotted the event for its exclusive policies, reported The Chicago Tribune. However, a Catholic school with a 25-year history in the parade withdrew. In addition, the Knights of Columbus’ State Council  eventually announced their own boycott in a statement, which called the parade “politicized and divisive.”

Norfolk, Virginia

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe leads the Norfolk St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In Virginia, a Knights of Columbus council, which organizes the annual Norfolk parade, also became a focus of controversy, but for an opposite reason:  they decided to include a pro-LGBT politician. Local leaders were criticized for selecting Governor Terry McAuliffe as grand marshal. His support for same-sex marriage was a key reason why local groups, the Virginia Catholic Conference, and the Knights’ national organization all released public criticism.

Virginia’s bishops released a statement condemning the local council’s decision, and the state level Knights of Columbus promised an investigation into how McAuliffe was chosen.

In a letter to parishioners at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Fr. Dan Beeman, pastor, said he was “shocked and saddened” at the McAuliffe choice, so he withdrew the parish from celebrations. The local Ancient Order of the Hibernians and several Catholic schools also withdrew in protest, reported The Washington Post.

Though this year’s parades show signs of progress in welcoming openly LGBT marchers, the celebrations of the holiday still remains controversial. National Catholic Reporter columnist Ken Briggs offers a third way with his suggestion that it is time for St. Patrick’s Day to become a private affair, writing:

“St. Patrick’s Day, therefore, serves no significant purpose in its present form, except for profits, whether or not gays and lesbians march in the big parades. Keep it where there is real passion for things Irish, where it may still have meaning as something other than superiority, but let it become an ordinary occasion for leveling the playing field.”

For Bondings 2.0‘s ongoing coverage of St. Patrick’s Day parade controversies, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

St. Patrick’s Day Parades in NY and Boston Remain Controversial on LGBT Issues

Since St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers in Boston and New York City had both announced last year that they would each allow an openly LGBT group to march in 2015, many of us thought that the decades of controversy surrounding gay participation in this event had ended.

Not so.

The St. Patrick’s Day holiday will still be a flashpoint for debate this year concerning LGBT issues.

The Pipe Band of the NY Fire Department marches in the inclusive St. Pat’s for All parade .

In N.Y.C., which hosts one of  the largest parades in the nation, the mayor has once again decided to bow out of participation because he says that LGBT organizations are still not fully welcome.

On the other side of the political spectrum, a Boston-area Catholic school with a long tradition of marching in that city’s parade has pulled out because it doesn’t support the organizers’ decision to let an LGBT group participate.

Advocate.com reported that N.Y.C. Mayor Bill deBlasio marched last weekend in the St. Pat’s For All Parade, an LGBT-inclusive event in Queens, N.Y., but that for the second year in a row, he would be sitting out the city’s major parade on March 17th unless a solution could be found for greater LGBT inclusion.

IrishCentral.com captured the mayor’s thoughts at the inclusive parade, which was held despite frigid temperatures and a snow storm:

“When asked if he would march in the Fifth Avenue parade after taking the unprecedented decision not to last year, Mayor De Blasio said at this point he’s in discussion with the parade leaders and is not ready to make that commitment.

“ ‘I hope for some more progress with the parade in Manhattan, but there’s still time and we look forward to some additional discussion,’ he said.

“A single LGBT group marching in this years parade is a very narrow concession, Mayor De Blasio said, adding that he would like to see something more inclusive.

“ ‘A lot of people feel, and I think rightfully, that that is too small a change to merit a lot of us participating who have wanted to see an inclusive parade,’ he said before dashing to the podium to greet the crowds.”

Only one group, LGBT employees from NBC-Universal which televises the parade, has been allowed to march in the N.Y. event.

In Boston, parade organizers also decided to allow an LGBT veterans group march, much to the pleasure of Mayor Martin Walsh, who also sat out his city’s parade last year when the organizers failed to reach an agreement to let an LGBT group march.

However, the Boston inclusive decision has angered the administrator of a local Catholic grammar school which has decided to withdraw participation of its marching band.  Brother Thomas Dalton, principal, said:

“We can’t associate with that. It would appear we were condoning it.”

Dalton said he did not consult with the Archdiocese of Boston about his decision. The archdiocese has not commented on the move.

One interesting thing that I learned in researching the parade controversy is that LGBT groups in Ireland march proudly in the St. Patrick’s Day parades in that country.  In 2012, Richard Conway wrote in The Guardian of his bewilderment with the fact that the N.Y.C. parade excluded LGBT groups:

“What this committee might be ignoring is a simple fact about modern Ireland: It’s okay with gay stuff. Recent surveys have shown that a significant majority of Irish people approve of gay marriage, with a 2012 poll showing that 73% approve of gay marriage being allowed in the country’s constitution. Civil unions have been legal in Ireland since 2010, and received all-party support. And, notably, the Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade has regularly included gay-themed floats.

“In 2010, our former president even refused an invitation to be grand marshal on the grounds that the New York parade excludes gay groups; and our current foreign minister has responded to the ban by saying that ‘exclusion is not an Irish thing.‘ “

Some here in the U.S. ague that St. Patrick’s Day parades are religious events, primarily Catholic.  If so, the organizers should focus on toning down some of the rowdiness which is associated with the parades.  In the 1980s, N.Y.’s  Cardinal Terence Cooke controversially kept Catholic schools open on St. Patrick’s Day, in violation of a tradition that made it a holiday, because he did not want youngsters to attend the parade and witness the excesses of the spectators.

If the parades are Catholic events, they should focus on the Catholic values of welcome and hospitality, and they should give up being judgmental.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

IrishCentral.com: “What lies beneath – the struggle for power within the St. Patrick’s Day parade in NYC”

The Best Catholic LGBT News of 2014

thumbs upAs the year 2014 comes to a close, Bondings 2.0 takes a look back at the worst and the best news in the Catholic LGBT world.  If  you want to keep up-to-date on the latest news about the ups and downs of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community, please consider subscribing to this blog.  To do so, enter your email address in the “Follow blog via email” box at the top of the column on the right-hand side of this page, and press “Follow.”  You will then receive an email every time the blog is updated, usually once a day.  You’ll never miss out on the latest news and opinion in the Catholic LGBT world! 

Yesterday, we surveyed the worst Catholic LGBT news of 2014, and today we end the year looking at the best news:  all the good things that have occurred and the advances that have been made.

Yesterday, we also commented on the news story that Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny became the first bishop in known history to explicitly call for the Catholic Church to bless committed lesbian and gay couples.  While in my mind, that could easily take the prize as the BEST Catholic LGBT news of 2014, unfortunately, it came after we had already polled our readers, and so it was not considered in the voting.  I can’t speak for the entire readership of Bondings 2.0, but I don’t think I would be too far off to say that this story certainly deserves an “honorable mention.”

A few days ago, we asked our readers to choose five stories in the “worst” category and five in the “best” category.  Each category had 15 items, and there was an option to “write in” other topics that we might have missed.  The following is the ranking of the top ten items from the “best” category, in descending order,  with the percentage of votes each item received:

1. Both lay guests and bishop participants speak positively about lesbian and gay lives and ministry at the Synod of Bishops in October, revealing a previously unknown progressive school of thought among church leaders. Throughout the year, more and more Catholic leaders support legal rights for same-gender couples.  17.59%

2. Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Blase Cupich to the Archdiocese of Chicago, signaling a new type of more pastorally-oriented “Francis bishops.” Other U.S. bishops soften their rhetoric on LGBT issues, in a seeming emulation of the pontiff. 15.86%

3. The heavily Catholic Republic of Ireland emerges as a leader in supporting LGBT rights. Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmid Martin says: “Anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that—they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people. 12.07%

4.  In an interview with a New Ways Ministry staffer, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley acknowledges that the trend of firing LGBT and ally personnel from Catholic institutions is a situation “that needs to be rectified.”  10.34%

5. Catholic students, parents, and supporters demonstrate in response to the continuing trend of LGBT and ally personnel being fired from Catholic institutions.  8.97%

6.  San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, holds two meetings with representatives of New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA.  5.52%

7. LGBT organizations are given permission to march in both New York City’s and Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parades in 2015.  5.17%

Three-way tie

8.  A Catholic parish in New York City honors the 44-year long commitment of a lesbian couple who are parishioners by featuring a profile about them in the parish bulletin. 4.48%

9.  The School Sisters of Notre Dame reverse an earlier decision and decide to allow lesbian couples to announce their weddings in the alumni newsletter. The Sisters of Mercy re-name a high school soccer field after a married lesbian alumna. 4.48%

10.   Catholic high schools and colleges begin to implement policies which support transgender students. 4.48%

As for analyzing, the results of the poll, I think it is easy to see the “Francis effect” in these events and numbers.  Almost all the responses had to do with something Pope Francis either directly or indirectly affected.  I think his example is inspiring Catholics at all levels to be more courageous in their support of LGBT people.  As one Bondings 2.0 reader and commenter, Casey Lopata, stated with his poll ballot:

“With Pope Francis leading the way by example, the positive remarks about gay people by bishops at the Synod together with more Catholic leaders supporting legal rights for gay people demonstrates that the grassroots supportive efforts of ordinary Catholics have been seen and taken seriously by institutional leaders within the Catholic community. At the same time grassroots supporters, emboldened by the words and actions of Francis, are increasingly becoming more active and in their public advocacy for justice for LGBT people within Catholic structures. As a result, opponents are squeezed between these two movements and find less and less support for their negative positions. May the Spirit lead us to make the most of this momentum in 2015!”

Although no one added any “write-in” suggestions, several other readers also added comments to their poll responses:

Chet Thompson:  “The five that I marked seem to me to be the most important and need DAILY Prayer. BUT we need to continually work to turn around the Homophobia that we have endured ESPECIALLY over the last 30 years!!!”

Brian Kneeland: “There were some real positives – but there certainly needs to be many more in the coming year!”

Diane Rapozo: “All of the above mentioned are important. Thank you.”

Alice Zachmann, SSND: “Thanks for the opportunity to share. I chose the ones that took courage to carry out…my personal opinion! Keep up your great ministry!”

2014 has been quite a year!  It’s been a pleasure and a blessing to share it with all our readers and commenters!  2015 is already sure to be another exciting 12 months, with the already scheduled World Meeting of Families in September, the second Synod in November, and Pope Francis appointing cardinals in February.  And who knows what else the Holy Spirit has in store!  Whatever it is, we look forward to the opportunity to share it with you in the coming year.  Stay tuned!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s LGBT Decision Irks Church Traditionalists

Cardinal Dolan greets a NYC police officer at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

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 particularthe ‘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

 

 

 

When All the World Should Be Bright and Gay

There’s a long history to the controversy between LGBT people wanting to march in St. Patrick’s Day Parades that dates back to the 1990s.  This year, the debate about LGBT participation or exclusion is being waged in the two U.S. cities with the most prominent March 17th parades:  New York and Boston.

NEW YORK

New York City’s new mayor, Bill deBlasio, won’t be marching down Fifth Avenue today in the world’s oldest and largest parade celebrating Irish culture because he disagrees with the parade organizer’s decision to continue to prohibit marchers who want to carry signs expressing LGBT pride.

Religion News Service cites deBlasio’s explanation:

“The new mayor said he will participate in other events to honor New Yorkers of Irish descent on March 17. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,’ he said. “

Mayor Bill deBlasio

Though deBlasio’s decision differs from his immediate predecessor, some LGBT equality organizations are disappointed that the new mayor did not take a stronger stand:

“De Blasio’s predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was a supporter of gay rights but marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. De Blasio did not march when he served as the city’s public advocate. But he said he will not stop any city employee from marching in uniform.

“Gay groups in New York City acknowledge that court rulings have established the parade as a private, religious procession that may exclude gay groups. But allowing city workers such as police officers to march in uniform violates the city’s human rights laws, they argued in an open letter to de Blasio.”

BBC.com reported on Irish reaction on both sides of the Atlantic to deBlasio’s decision:

“Cahir O’Doherty in the New York-based Irish Central website counters that it’s important for gay Irish-Americans to be able to carry a banner in the parade ‘because if you are not seen you are not heard. And when you are neither seen nor heard, bad things can happen to you without anyone noticing. Gay people know this, but apparently quite a few others need to be reminded.’

“The parade controversy is making waves across the Atlantic, as well, where Irish government officials are split on whether to participate or join Mr de Blasio’s boycott. Irish Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who will be in New York on St Patrick’s Day, has announced she will not march. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, on the other hand, has said he will travel to New York to attend.”

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd supports deBlasio’s decision:

“It has just always seemed strange to me that gays were fighting so hard for so long to bust into such a hoary, boozy, corny tradition. Didn’t they have something more fun and cool to do? . . .

“But certainly, if gays want in, they should get in. And that’s why Mayor Bill de Blasio is right to blow off the parade in protest of the Putinesque restrictions.”

BOSTON

In Boston, a bastion of Irish-American culture and history, that city’s mayor did not march in the annual parade, which was held on Sunday, March 16th.  His decision followed weeks of negotiations and decisions by gay rights groups, the city’s mayor, and others.

The Boston parade is organized by the South Boston War Veterans Council, and this year a group of gay veterans requested to march in the parade carrying a banner from Mass Equality, the state’s LGBT rights organization.  The gay vets were members of LGBT Veterans for Equality.

Mayor Marty Walsh

Parade organizers originally denied the request, but then Boston’s Irish-American mayor, Marty Walsh, stepped into the discussion, saying that he would not march in the March 16th parade unless the gay individuals were allowed to participate. The Boston Globe reported his reason for not marching:

 “As mayor, I feel like I should use my influence. I feel the parade should be inclusive.”

Walsh tried to broker an agreement between the two groups.  At one point, there was hope that an agreement could be reached.  According to Gay Star News, the tentative agreement was that the gay vets could march, as long as they didn’t wear any signs which acknowledged their sexual orientation.

MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini

The tentative deal to allow the gay group eventually collapsed because MassEquality said it could not abide by the provision that people not be allowed to identify their sexual orientation.  According to NECN.comMassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini said:

“LGBT people need to be able to identify themselves as LGBT people. It’s as simple as that. There’s a lot of ways that can be done, and that is a conversation we’re having now with organizers.”

So, after two weeks of negotiation, it was decided that the gay group would not march.  Not all loyal Irish Americans were happy with the decision to exclude the group.  The Boston Globe noted one man’s support for the gay veterans:

“Neil MacInnes-Barker, a former sergeant in the US Air Force, said he signed up for the march two weeks ago, as negotiations were starting. He said that normally he does not participate in the parades, including ones celebrating the gay community, but that he wanted to be present in the St. Patrick’s Day event.

“ ‘If there are people — Irish Americans — who are LGBT in South Boston, then I want to march for them,’ MacInnes-Barker said. ‘If they are afraid of being intimidated . . . then I will stand for them.’ ”

Michael O’Loughlin, writing at Advocate.com observed:

“It wasn’t long ago in this country that the Irish and Roman Catholics were both subject to extreme bigotry.

“That some in these demographic groups are in a position to be bigoted toward others is perhaps an accomplishment in itself, showing that they’ve moved up the ranks. But what a sad cycle and a shameful tradition for this great American city.”

Perhaps most significantly, the Sam Adams beer company, announced that they would be pulling out of the parade.  In a statement, quoted by The Boston Globe the company said:

“We were hopeful that both sides of this issue would be able to come to an agreement that would allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade. But given the current status of the negotiations, we realize this may not be possible.”

Chuck Colbert, a gay, Irish American veteran, wrote in The Boston Globe that he hoped some creative solution could be found to the impasse:

“So let me offer a suggestion: If I — or anyone — were to march in an LGBT-identified contingent, holding a small Irish tricolor and rainbow flag, would that be acceptable to parade organizers? What about green T-shirts with a rainbow flag imprinted on it? What about carrying rainbow-colored balloons or banners?

“With all the creativity among the Irish of Boston and the city’s LGBT community, surely we can move the parade to forward march for all.”

And though they won’t be carrying signs about their sexual identities, gay marchers did, in fact, take part in the parade.  According to The Boston Globe,  Randy Foster, a gay man organized a “diversity float” with his neighbors:

Organizers building the diversity float for Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“Foster and his friends and neighbors are not marching Sunday as part of a gay organization. They are marching as South Boston residents who have coalesced around building a park in a corner of the neighborhood known as the Lower End. Many of the people working on the float just happen to be gay. And they have been embraced by the Allied War Veterans Council, the parade’s longtime sponsor.

“’They know us as their neighbors first and as gay second,’ said Foster, an Air Force veteran who served in Desert Storm and who has lived with his husband in South Boston for seven years. Of outside gay groups coming in and hoping to march, he said: ‘How in the world do you ever get compromise if the first statement out of your mouth is, “I’m different than you?” ‘

“Fact: South Boston has a substantial and growing gay population. Fact: A second neighborhood contingent with gay marchers will also be in the parade. Fact: Bill Linehan, City Council president, attacked as unfriendly to gay causes recently by some liberal activists, has been a catalyst behind the scenes to get the neighborhood groups accepted in the parade.”

So, perhaps creativity did make some advancement in the parade, which may help future possibilities for full equality on St. Patrick’s Day.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry