NEW YORK — When the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks off at 11:30am Thursday, two homosexual groups will be among the hundreds of organizations marching under their own banners.
No pro-life organizations, however, will be marching in the annual parade down Fifth Avenue.
“You have a gay group in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade allowed to march, but the pro-life people are banned? The whole thing is perverse,” said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
Donohue told the Register that he does not regret his decision to pull the Catholic League from the parade last year, after he said the parade organizers lied to him about allowing a pro-life group to march. Instead, the parade committee this year welcomed a second homosexual group, the Lavender and Green Alliance, whose leader, Brendan Fay, has been a vocal critic of the Church’s moral teachings.
“That just tells me that everything is disintegrating, as I expected,” Donohue said.
The parade committee did not respond to a message sent through its public-relations firm seeking comment as to whether any pro-life or pro-family groups had applied to march in this year’s parade, or as to whether they will be allowed to march in 2017.
Two pro-life groups that were interested in participating in last year’s parade — after the committee welcomed a group of homosexual employees at NBC to march — were unsuccessful in their efforts to join the line of march.
Elizabeth Rex, president and co-founder of the Children First Foundation, a New York-based charitable organization that promotes adoption as a pro-life option for women in crisis pregnancies, applied to march last year, but the parade committee rejected her application on grounds that a “right-to-life group” had already been chosen to march. No overtly pro-life group actually marched last year.
“We were double-crossed,” Rex told the Register. “I would never apply again because I fear they could then actually use our entrance to allow pro-abortion groups to march. It’s going to be the end of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which it already is.”
Meanwhile, Dawn Eskew, founder of Personhood Education New York, a pro-life organization that welcomes people of different faith backgrounds to build a culture of life, told the Register that the parade committee never returned her phone calls and emails seeking information about applying to march.
“What bothers me is that they never responded,” said Eskew, whose colleagues told her the parade committee probably considered her group to be “too political.” But then she read about the parade’s board of directors welcoming a second homosexual group to march in the parade.
“‘Gee,’ I thought. ‘That’s pretty political,’” Eskew said.
‘Most Inclusive’ March Ever
John Lahey, the parade committee board chairman, has boasted that the 255th St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be the “most inclusive” in its long history. The committee’s welcoming of the Lavender and Green Alliance also prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had boycotted the parade the last two years, to announce that he will march twice this year; with city police and firefighters at the beginning of the parade and later in the day with the Lavender and Green Alliance.
“For the first time in decades, the whole Irish community will come together to celebrate,” de Blasio said during a press conference at the Consulate of Ireland in New York.
De Blasio also said that, for the prior two decades, there had been a “blemish on this city because we couldn’t be all that we were meant to be,” a reference to the homosexual lobby’s strong push to pressure the parade committee into allowing a homosexual-rights group to march in the parade.
For years, the parade committee resisted changing its policy that no political or ideological advocacy groups with agendas unrelated to Ireland could march. That policy applied equally to pro-life groups and organizations that lobby against same-sex “marriage.”
Prior to the parade committee changing the policy to allow Out@NBCUniversal to march in 2015, it sought Donohue’s support and assured him that a pro-life group would be allowed to march. That promise led Donohue to issue an initial conciliatory statement in September 2014.
But Lahey, who is president of Quinnipiac University, undercut that promise, which had also been made public by a parade committee spokesman, when he told media outlets that no pro-life groups would be marching. “That won’t be happening,” Lahey said, adding that he wanted to keep the 2015 parade focused “on the gesture of goodwill we made towards the gay community.”
Should Catholics Boycott?
Donohue said Lahey’s claim that the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the “most inclusive ever” is a “lie.”
“Inclusiveness only applies to the gay issue,” said Donohue, who accused the parade committee, NBC officials and others of secularizing the parade. “I’m glad I’m out.”
Rex said faithful Catholics should consider boycotting the parade.
“They’re claiming a complete victory for tolerance, but no, they are intolerant to Catholics who believe that life is sacred at the moment of conception,” said Rex, who told the Register that several Catholics will be holding a Rosary Rally during the parade on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 65th Street and 66th streets, from 12 to 1pm.
“We really need to rise up and mobilize, just refuse to attend, refuse to participate and refuse to march,” Rex said. “Let’s celebrate our Catholic faith by praying for our country: that we return to the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, wrote on his blog this week that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was established in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York. Given the strong secular currents in today’s society, the cardinal wrote it is important not to forget why the parade exists.
“It is not just the Irish parade. We march to honor St. Patrick. That is why so many cringe at and resist pleas to weaken the Catholic origins of the parade,” wrote Cardinal Dolan, who added that one cannot observe the St. Patrick’s Day Parade “without celebrating both our ethnic and religious heritage.”
The cardinal added, “While everyone is invited to march in the parade and all are welcome, no one is permitted to use it for causes that are extrinsic to its origins.”
Cardinal Dolan, who was criticized by some Catholics for serving as the parade’s grand marshal last year, also in his statement thanked “those who love and lead the parade for assuring us” that the original intent of the parade — to celebrate the faith, heritage, culture and tradition of Ireland — is preserved.
Said the cardinal, “It would be particularly somber if the forces of secularism were able to what centuries of oppressive rule were unable to do: erase the faith from Irish identity.”
Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.