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Discussion: Saint Patrick’s Day Parade & Controversy

 

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Links for information and the news:

The New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade
Gay Groups to March in St. Patrick’s Day Parade as a Ban Falls
St. Patrick’s Day Parade Announcement Isn’t Progress — It’s an Insult to NY’s Irish LGBT Community
When Catholic Leaders Abandon the Faithful
NY archdiocese should sever ties with St. Patrick’s Day parade
Gays, Jesus and St. Patrick’s Day

Cardinal Dolan Responds to Controversy on His Blog

SEAMUS:

What are your thoughts, Father Joe? The blogosphere is in a terrible commotion, for and against the inclusion of a LGBT contingent in the parade. There is a lot of name-calling and other voices are remaining strangely silent.

FATHER JOE:

At a time when Catholics are dying for Christ, is this issue worth the attention it is getting?

But okay, I am not sure what to think or say but I will try.

As a preamble to my thoughts, it is too bad that many critics have lost the art of civil discourse.  As with politics, when people disagree with each other these days they end up demonizing the other side. Our nation and Church are being ripped asunder by polemics and ad hominem attacks.  It resolves nothing but makes fellow citizens into hardened enemies and threatens the Church with a virtual schism.  I know what the Church teaches, but of course, as the good Pope tells us, this must be measured with charity.

Like many conservative voices, by temperament I would also like to strike out and keep Catholic events pure; but as I get older, I worry that a lack of tact could alienate souls that might yet be saved. There is a tension in balancing our witness to the truth with the forgiveness of sins. I can exhort, condemn, and correct— at least addressing sins if not sinners; but maybe time and space is needed for certain sinners to reflect, know mercy and find healing?  I have serious misgivings about the decision in New York, but beyond this parade I have long had concerns about the association of St. Patrick’s Day with ribald antics and public drunkenness.  It seems like a terribly poor manner to remember a great saint of the Church.

MICHAEL:

Time for healing? Am I hearing right? Have you been seduced by the “Church of Nice”? These dissenters are not interested in healing. They get angry when you call them sinners. They want acceptance and they want to change the Church. Some of them would like to see the Church disappear.  We cannot compromise with them.  There is no such thing as a partial Catholic.  You are either in the boat or out.  It is scandalous that a Cardinal of the Church should assert that homosexuality is no big deal.  These [words deleted] are headed straight for hell and those who pamper them will risk going with them.

FATHER JOE:

Is the scenario you present entirely the case?  When Catholic voices are demanding separation and asylum from such public events, are they not giving our enemies precisely what they want?  A dead Church or a Church in hiding is still a win scenario for those who hate her and want the Church gone.  Cardinal Dolan insists that we must find a new language and/or way of dealing with the advocates of homosexuality, divorce-and-remarried persons, users of contraception and even those who wrongly accent freedom over the sanctity of human life.  When asked about how one might both affirm gays and still oppose so-called same-sex marriages, he honestly replied that he did not know yet.  It seems to me that he is grasping for a new hermeneutic that would not betray our core principles.  I cannot say for sure if it is possible.  Personally, I doubt that accommodation will work and fear it will make matters worse.  But he is still a successor of the apostles and must be given the respect as such.  We may suggest that there is a disconnect between the new praxis and the enunciated principles; but it would be wrong to suggest any formal detraction from Catholic moral teaching.  Like the Pope, the Cardinal is Catholic.

MICHAEL:

We need more courage from our shepherds. Priests should speak out!

FATHER JOE:

Priests are men of the Church. Years ago I was told that strong words of mine hurt and embarrassed one of our important shepherds. I am wounded by this memory. Priests, in particular, owe their bishops both RESPECT and obedience. The Church must speak with a unified voice. While seeking to avoid scandal, we should support our pastors and bishops, even when we fail to see things entirely their way. There has to be confidence that the Holy Spirit still guides our shepherds and protects the Church.  This struggle to be faithful and respectful is often hard.  The matter of pro-abortion politicians routinely taking Holy Communion have many times brought me to tears during prayer.  I have long agonized over what I personally feel we should do (withhold the sacrament) over what we are directed to do by just authority.  But as I wrote before, priests are men of the Church.  They pledge respect and obedience, not only to God but to their bishops and their successors.  They must do and say as they are told.  The late Cardinal Hickey was very clear about this and he spoke about how we are extensions of the bishop’s ministry.  While this can be taken too far, his assertion was theological sound.  The laity have a certain latitude that ordained men do not.  However, even they should not breech themselves from their shepherds.  We must all be faithful to the teaching Church; conservatives (to use a political term) have generally been better at this than the more liberal or progressive voices.  But once the lawful Magisterium is attacked, one is no better than the other.

I am sickened by the recent negativity focused upon Cardinal Dolan and how certain voices on the right harshly ridicule Pope Francis. We do not get to pick our Popes. And, as I tell my traditionalist friends, we immediately follow living Popes, not dead ones.  Our support for Church leadership means respectful and civil dialogue, and never recourse to fearful muted criticism or caustic public ridicule

MICHAEL:

I think you are being naïve. Truth is truth and sin is sin. If church leaders compromise themselves and the saving message then the laity should call them out. You never used to mince words!  You’re not the Father Joe I used to know.

FATHER JOE:

Did you ever know me? I am a faithful son of the Church. I took a promise to obey my bishop and his successors. I will be judged as to how I keep that pledge. As for you and the laity, be careful that you do not forget yourselves. You can no more tell Church leaders their business than can the liberal dissenters. Have you forgotten your place? You are not the Magisterium. You cannot defend Catholicism by discarding a major element of her hierarchical nature. This is a common mistake these days, from critics on the right and left. It damages the harmony and good order of the Church.

SEAMUS:

There may be a lot about this parade business to which we are not privy. It is easy to criticize when the weight of such decisions rests on the shoulders of others. The planners and the Archbishop may be in a situation where no decision will please everybody.

This parade is older than the United States and its continuation is in jeopardy. No one wants to be labeled as the person who killed it. The planners’ concession admits that the parade mimics the messiness of our world and society.

FATHER JOE:

Sinners and saints are mixed together. People and relationships are broken. Dreams are made and others are left unrealized. Is it enough to witness within this “messiness” or do we circle the wagons and refuse to associate with the world around us? Jesus went out to the poor, the oppressed, the sick and hurting.

SEAMUS:

He associated with tax-collectors and sinners, even prostitutes. While we must never forget our message and the truths of faith— might this be an opportunity to draw prodigals home?

MICHAEL:

Jesus also called the hypocritical Jewish leadership, “blind guides” and “dead men’s bones.” He refused to even speak with Herod.  When Jesus related to the rabble it was always for purposes of bringing them to repentance and conversion. Where is that here? This “who am I to judge” nonsense from Pope Francis is like an Ebola epidemic spreading throughout the Church. How can we condone activity that will cast souls into hell? It is a lie to perpetrators and an enticement to others to join the procession, or in this case the parade, marching into the mouth of Satan.

FATHER JOE:

There will always be some who will exploit and reject our faith message. While we might argue about a prudential decision here; there is no evil intent from the organizers, Hibernians or the Archbishop. There is no denial of Church doctrine. The Church has been clear and consistent about her teachings in the public forum on human sexuality.  I doubt people will forget this any time soon.  The mechanisms of authority and truth will protect her from going in the direction of our confused Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

Our Lord saw many new faces following him after the multiplication of the bread and fish. Not all followed for the right reason, but he did not stop them. He lamented that some were only interested in the free food. When the real demands of his preaching were voiced, they abandoned him.  It will not be the presence of sinners that will destroy the parade, not as long as we make it clear what is right and wrong.  If we remain resolute, those unhappy about the overall Catholic message will eventually fall away on their own initiative.

MICHAEL:

No doubt some of those who abandoned Jesus were among the crowd that shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar!”

FATHER JOE:

Yes, I suspect so, but that is the chance you take.

SEAMUS:

We are still battling with Caesar. As individuals and as a Church we may face further recrimination and abuse. But that seems to me to be part of the package Jesus gives to his followers.

FATHER JOE:

Returning to basics, what does it mean to be Irish? Some treat being Irish as if it automatically makes one a member of the Catholic club. But those days are over, both here at home and back in the ancient homeland itself. The nation that converted much of the world is now closing seminaries and being ministered to by priests from Nigeria. Scandal and secularism have destroyed in a decade or two what centuries-old British persecution was never able to accomplish.

st_patrick_19646_lgI like parades, and I would not mind tripping up a leprechaun and making a wish upon his gold at the rainbow’s end, but as with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, my emphasis would always be upon Christ and his saints. There is nothing wrong with a pint of green beer. But it does bother me that these accidentals to St. Patrick’s Day should displace going to Mass, seeking God’s mercy and receiving (with the proper disposition) the Blessed Sacrament. St. Patrick was a slave who found his freedom and then came back to the Emerald Isle so that those in slavery to sin might know true freedom. Those who ignorantly worshipped trees would now come to the dead tree of the Cross and adore the one who laid down his life to redeem us. The Irish suffered the destruction of their monasteries and saw their priests humiliated, hunted and murdered; and yet, they still held on to the faith. They suffered starvation and dire poverty, coming to this nation for a new start. Signs advertised, “No Irish Wanted,” and yet they endured prejudice and worked hard to be good citizens and Christians. They had babies and Irish families were large and happy. It may be that traditions of family are among the greatest gifts they brought to this land. Remembering their past, they worked for a better tomorrow for their children. Folklore says that St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland. May we never compromise ourselves with the serpent that began the woes of men in the primordial Garden.

MICHAEL:

Here in the States, many of the Irish have lost their sense of guilt over sin and have increasingly replaced the substance of faith with green beer and fancies about leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold and wearing the green.

SEAMUS:

How closely have you both followed the news in New York? There have been a lot of “fighting words” over the decision by the organizers to allow a gay contingent under their own banner into the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

MICHAEL:

This had long been resisted as incompatible with the Catholic faith.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, it was initially denied because of a conflict with public morals and decency. Today the winds of public opinion have evidently changed direction.

SEAMUS:

But it remains a celebration named after a saint. Is this not a kind of blasphemy? Does it mean that the faith is no longer regarded by the organizers as an intrinsic element of Irish identity?

MICHAEL:

Precisely!

FATHER JOE:

I am no mind-reader but I take the organizers for their word that the issue of faith is still important.  It might simply be an overture of peace to Irish men and women who struggle with their gender identity and yet still want to celebrate their ethnic roots. At least I hope so. But admittedly, I am fearful that a goodwill gesture will be turned against us.

SEAMUS:

The parade committee stated that its “change of tone and expanded inclusiveness is a gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community in our continuing effort to keep the parade above politics.” The statement also reiterated that the event was “remaining loyal to Church teachings.”

MICHAEL:

Empty words— that is all they are.

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FATHER JOE:

No, I think they mean what they say.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the incoming Grand Marshal, acknowledged that the parade committee “continues to have my confidence and support.” He apparently agrees that a measure to keep the peace and to preserve the city parade does not signal religious dissent on the part of the Hibernians or the parade organizers. However, it may not bode well for future negotiations with the more radical groups.  A rash conciliation today could lead to a more severe divide tomorrow.

MICHAEL:

That last remark is quite an understatement.

SEAMUS:

Right now, one somewhat moderate gay group affiliated with the media that broadcasts the parade is involved: OUT@NBCUniversal. They will march under their own banner. The expectation is that they merely want inclusion to celebrate Irish ethnicity and heritage.

MICHAEL:

Don’t be fooled!

FATHER JOE:

Hopefully this will be given a greater weight than any promotion of same-sex attraction; however, I suspect much of the talk and media attention will focus on their homosexuality. It has the potential to kidnap the meaning of the parade.

SEAMUS:

I suppose so, if not this time around then possibly in years to follow.

FATHER JOE:

It is my hope that pages will be taken from the late Cardinal John O’Connor’s book.  He was a strong defender of Church teaching on sexual morality and yet he was a compassionate man.  He volunteered to clean bedpans at an AIDS hospice.  He suffered with calm and composure having a gay activist spit the consecrated host into his face.  He regularly had supper with his Jewish friend, Mayor Ed Koch, on the other side of the divide upon many issues.  We can be strong and still work with one another.  He also knew that some might never come to the truth unless strong stands are made.  Cardinal O’Connor explained his opposition to allowing groups identified as gay from marching in the parade, “Irish Catholics have been persecuted for the sole reason that they have refused to compromise Church teaching. What others may call bigotry, Irish Catholics call principle.”

MICHAEL:

It was admitted that other gay groups would be permitted in the future. What if there should be dozens of gay applicants, each demanding its inclusion? What if participants should become increasingly brazen and vulgar? Will there be a forum to vet costumes, gestures, signs and float designs? Would such be judged as censorship? Will opposing groups get to march, carrying signs and banners for traditional marriage? Once a group that defines itself chiefly by its sexual orientation is permitted, then what about future scenarios where advocates for polygamy, bestiality and pederasty will want their place in the line up? Do I exaggerate?

FATHER JOE:

You do, indeed, paint a nightmare picture of escalating corruption of the parade and its basic meaning. I pray that some semblance of control can be maintained but what was once regarded as unthinkable is realized every day. It is sometimes joked, “Expect the worse and you will never be surprised or disappointed.”

SEAMUS:

I guess I would have less a problem with the concession if past lewdness and/or belligerence were not so often displayed by protesters with their explicit banners, gestures and decorated floats.

MICHAEL:

Evil is incapable of controlling itself.

FATHER JOE:

Such images can torment the conservative mind. Gays were always free to march as individuals, but not under banners that advertised their disorientation. The fear was this would politicize the event. Unfortunately, their exclusion did the very same thing.

MICHAEL:

I bet other more militant gay organizations will not be satisfied. They may even interpret the small concession to one group as an insult. Their angry agenda will not be appeased until the basic meaning of the parade is transformed beyond recognition. Like the Red Army parading its soldiers and missiles, they want to see their victorious legions marching in drag while shocking the crowds with public passion.

Proof for what I say:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3XjSsqd1rM

FATHER JOE:

I recall a NOW rally on the Mall many years ago which included such visual and vocal expressions of foul gay exhibitionism that the liberal Washington Post press took offense and CSPAN refused to repeat the program, at least during the family hour. You are correct, we have seen poor displays of manners and it even embarrasses the more civil and family-minded homosexuals. When a gay activist several years ago spat the consecrated host back into Cardinal O’Connor’s face, several came to me with utter shame to be associated with such reprobates. They were members of COURAGE, started by my cousin, the late Fr. John Harvey. They embrace a life of celibate love, prayer and service.  I wonder why they have no contingent in the parade, given that they abide by Catholic moral discipline?

MIKE:

Unfortunately these men and women have a very low profile compared to most. Stereotypes are realized and literally thrown into the faces of others: “Accept us or else!” When it comes to these militant gays, theirs is not a celebration of faith and heritage, because many of them hate the Church.

FATHER JOE:

I have read already that some of them think OUT@NBCUniversal is a rouse to keep them quiet and to restore the beer sponsors. I had never heard of it but it seems to be a small amalgamation of gays and straights that share basic values and want to keep the parade a family show.

MICHAEL:

Evil is evil. They are painted in the same sickening colors.

SEAMUS:

Still, I think it hardly compares at all with a number of other groups biting at the bit to participate, like the so-called Irish Queers.

FATHER JOE:

Even there name is wrong and offensive. None of them can begin to compare to a group of faithful sons of the Church like the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The AOH is “the oldest Catholic lay organization in America and is dedicated to Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity.” The statement was released: “Organizers (no longer strictly AOH) have diligently worked to keep politics – of any kind – out of the parade in order to preserve it as a single and unified cultural event. Paradoxically, that ended up politicizing the parade.” While we can individually question the prudence of the current decision, I could certainly see how it fits into its appreciation of Christian charity. The problem will remain that others will view it as a matter of obligatory justice, at least as understood by a secular society.

SEAMUS:

Cardinal Dolan referenced the second theme by saying that he hoped the parade would be “a source of unity for all of us.” I pray that it will be so, but I fail to see how it will not be a strained unity.

MICHAEL:

How can we have unity with devils? Mortal sin breeches any viable communion between us.

St-Patricks-Day-Beckman1

FATHER JOE:

Timothy Cardinal Dolan has caught a lot of flak for his involvement and support of the organizers. But he knows too the hearts of the good men among the organizers and of the AOH. We live in a society where we must live together despite ever widening divergences of beliefs and moral practices. The dynamics to this are complicated. Do we retreat to the ghetto so as to be untainted by the world or do we throw ourselves into the mix as a living ingredient of the melting pot? The former would minimize our voice in the public forum, the latter might risk our deformation.  The answers are not as easy as some make out.

Cardinal Dolan has responded to the controversy on his blog:

However, the most important question I had to ask myself was this: does the new policy violate Catholic faith or morals? If it does, then the Committee has compromised the integrity of the Parade, and I must object and refuse to participate or support it.

From my review, it does not. Catholic teaching is clear: “being Gay” is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals. Homosexual actions are—as are any sexual relations outside of the lifelong, faithful, loving, lifegiving bond of a man and woman in marriage—a moral teaching grounded in the Bible, reflected in nature, and faithfully taught by the Church.

So, while actions are immoral, identity is not! In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, people with same-sex attraction are God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice.

To the point: the committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church that are such an essential part of Irish culture. I have been assured that the new group marching is not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching, but simply identifying themselves as “Gay people of Irish ancestry.”

MICHAEL:

I think the matter is black-and-white clear. But the “Church of Nice” is too far gone to see it. Liberality and pacifism rule the day. Those who would speak the truth cower to intimidation. If it is OUR parade then we should just tell the gays to stick to their own. Must they own two New York parades? The mayor can march for them and they can keep the beer and television rights, too. Must everything Catholic be spoiled?

SEAMUS:

The Cardinal states, “Neither my predecessors as Archbishop of New York nor I have ever determined who would or would not march in this parade… but have always appreciated the cooperation of parade organizers in keeping the parade close to its Catholic heritage.”

FATHER JOE:

Honestly, I must acknowledge that I find the expression “Catholic heritage” a tad weak. Many colleges advertise their Catholic “heritage” and “tradition” long after abandoning the Church and any emphasis upon sacraments and holiness. Is a Catholic heritage the most for which we can hope in this broken world? My hope would be, as ridiculous and unlikely as it might sound, that events like the St. Patrick’s Parade would be an overwhelming expression of Christian faith, winning converts and praising God as it proceeds under the massive skyscrapers.

MICHAEL:

Good luck on that one!  It may remain a cultural event but the religious significance has been killed.

FATHER JOE:

I understand where you are coming from and I sympathize, but let me finish. Personally, I would like to see the nature of the parade restored to its religious roots.  Our desire for inclusion and the benefits from commercial sponsorship (as with beer companies) has escalated the secularization of the celebration.  I suspect that if it returned to its pious foundations, the parade would be much smaller and many dissenting groups would want no part of it.  The problem we face would largely take care of itself.

What would I like to see?  Like the processions of old, in my mind’s eye, I can imagine a brilliant monstrance carried down the thoroughfare with believers falling to their knees as it passes. Next we would witness relics of hundreds of saints carried in procession and finally a beautiful float with the Blessed Mother, adorned with flowers. Hymns and chants to Christ and Mary would fill the air. Altar servers in vesture would stretch the length of the parade. Priests and people, mindful of what they really celebrate, would enter St. Patrick’s for Mass and all the other churches would be filled as well. Large screens throughout the city would televise the procession and liturgy. Millions of people would honor the great patron saint and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

MICHAEL:

And they say I am detached from reality. A secular world knows that New York is a godless city. Radical Islamists have attacked what they judge as the home of the Great Satan. I wish things were different, but yours is a silly dream, detached from any semblance of reality.

FATHER JOE:

I know it is not the city we know now, but how about tomorrow? I still believe in the God of miracles. He can heal bodies, change minds and convert hearts.

St. Patrick, do not forget your spiritual children!

O blessed Archbishop Sheen, intercede for us!

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