By Deal Hudson
WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) – The committee in charge of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade have, for the first time, allowed a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender group to march under its own banner – OUT@NBCUniversal. Thecommittee’s rationale was to seek a “change of tone and expanded inclusiveness as a gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community in our continuing effort to keep the pa-rade above politics.”
Many Catholics were surprised when Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York decided to remain as the parade’s Grand Marshall saying, “Neither my predecessors as Archbishop of New York nor I have ever de-termined 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.”
The Cardinal’s decision put his most influential supporter, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, in a peculiar situation: Donohue has fought for years against the attempt of gay activists to use the parade as a platform to cru-sade against Church teaching on sexuality and marriage.
Donohue has been urging Catholics to boycott Guinness because of its withdrawal of support from the 2014 parade in protest against the parade’s exclusion of LGBT groups.
Prior to the Cardinal’s decision and comments, Donohue had already made his position clear. To avoid an open clash with his friend and Cardinal, Donohue began to underscore the problems that may arise at the parade, such as the public behavior of those marching under the OUT@NBCUniversal banner.
His question is not unreasonable given the track record of LGBT groups in public gatherings.
In a SiruisXM Progress radio interview a few days ago, Donohue re-called instances of public nudity in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He could have men-tioned San Francisco where the city council finally had to pass an ordi-nance banning public nudity, but exempted nudity at events such as the annual gay pride event and the Folsom Street Fair.
Whether or not Donohue and the Catholic League will continue to support the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is contingent on whether or not the committee allows pro-life groups to march under their own banner – not an unreasonable request!
Most of the attention, however, has been focused on Cardinal Dolan’s decision to remain associated with the parade, especially given the memories of Cardinal O’Connor’s vigorous and outspoken tussles with gay activists. In 1993 a federal judge upheld the decision of parade organizers, backed by Cardinal O’Connor, not to allow an Irish gay and lesbian organi-zation to participate in the parade because it violated the free speech rights of the parade’s sponsor.
As could be predicted, liberal leaders in the U.S. Church are exuberant, while conservatives are grumpy if not outright furious.
Cardinal Dolan has made a prudential judgment which can be legitimately and respectfully criticized by Catholics, whether lay or religious. In other words, his decision to remain Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade cannot be construed as a “teaching” based upon the Church’s settled issues of faith and morals, which it is his job as a bishop to uphold.
Rather, Cardinal Dolan lent his own “moral authority” to support a decision by the parade’s overseers to admit a LGBT activist group – with explicit positions contrary to the Church – into an event bearing the name of a Catholic saint, the very name that is carved into the stone of his own Cathedral.
That decision, in my view, was a mistake.
But Cardinal Dolan’s mistake, in this prudential matter, is precisely of the same kind made over and over by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops when it allows the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to invest its money in coalitions that contain organizations explicitly committed to ends such as abortion, gay marriage, and birth control. By giving Catholic money to such coali-tions, the bishops are lending their collective moral authority to the work of groups who seek to subvert Church teaching.
The U.S Catholic Church has become, to give it a name, “The Church With Blurred Boundaries.” Needless to say, this is precisely the kind of Church sought by the Catholic left – who now call themselves “progressives” – for over 50 years.
These blurred boundaries are especially noticeable when it comes to the Church’s supposedly settled teaching on issues of sexuality and procreation. The attitude towards those issues has become, it seems, “if we can’t beat them, let’s join them.”
This blurring of moral boundaries has resulted in the Bishop’s attempt to walk alongside, and provide funding to, groups diametrically opposed to their own teaching mandate. On officially settled matters involving sexuality belonging to the Church’s magisterium, the boundaries are being finessed with a wink and a nod and now with a pint of Guinness and Irish good cheer.
The solution, I believe, is a simple one: Friendship does not require one friend to espouse the other. There’s no doubt of the Cardinal’s intention to create good will and relationships with a diverse group of people. Anyone or any group who requires a person to espouse their cause as a prerequisite to friendship is not interested in a relationship but in conscription.
Cardinal Dolan could simply announce he will be joining the parade but not as Grand Marshall. This decision would reflect his seriousness about building relationships with diverse groups and individuals but also draw the line at appearing to endorse the anti-Catholic ideology of any group walking beside him.
Copyright – Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D
[Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, a Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine. Dr. Hudson’s radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network. Dr Hudson is also associated with the Common Good Movement. Thanks for permission to run this essay.]