Tag Archives: catholic

Churches brew new recruitment strategy: Jesus over beer

Angela Caddell started struggling with her Christianity 14 years ago when she came out as gay. But a gathering at a bar to talk faith over a cold beer once a month is helping her feel more connected to her religion.

“If you’re an atheist you are welcome. …. I’m a lesbian, I’m totally welcome,” said the 32-year-old from nearby Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, at a recent gathering.

“Tonight we’re talking about scapegoating. There is no scapegoating that happens here.”

This event is called “Jesus & Beer” and it’s part of an effort by some Christian groups throughout the country to recruit parishioners, connect with people struggling with faith or provide a relaxed outlet to talk religion.

Call it pint-size salvation.

Caddell heard about the event through Brandon Brown, pastor at CollectiveMKE. He started the gatherings once a month at area bars about 11/2 years ago. He doesn’t have a stand-alone church and knew that his non-traditional gatherings wouldn’t attract social conservatives. About two dozen people attend.

“I think it also completely unsettles everyone’s expectations in that they know what it is to talk about their faith in a church but most people have never done it in a bar so it’s a totally new environment and maybe fresh,” Brown said. “In addition to that, I’ll be honest: a beer or two doesn’t hurt the conversation at all.”

After all, everything goes down better with beer.

While bringing people together to throw one back and talk religion isn’t a new idea, groups have been turning to the non-traditional pub setting to attract younger people such as millennials. According to a Pew Research Center study, the number of U.S. adults who are affiliated with an organized religion dropped from 83 percent in 2007 to 77 percent in 2014, a trend particularly striking in the millennial generation.

That younger group is the focus of a monthly bar event organized by the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, said Emily Burds, the Catholic church’s director of evangelization. Besides a free beer, there’s usually a meet and greet, a speaker and discussion.

About 60 to 70 people come each month to the “Brewing the Faith” gatherings, which Burds sees as a “means to an end.”

“Obviously the end is like greater faith and a relationship with God but also to be connected to a parish community somewhere where they are living,” Burds said.

During the summer they also organize “Theology on Tap,” a lecture series that has spread worldwide after starting with the Archdioceses of Chicago in 1981. It involves bars or restaurants and targets younger people.

Burds said they trained some young adults in mingling skills to make sure everyone feels welcome and a sense of belonging — “what every millennial really is searching for,” Burds said.

It worked for James Wronski, 22, a new Milwaukee resident who attended a beer garden event.

“I think this kind of relaxed social atmosphere where you come, you meet people, you drink, you relax and you kind of learn and educate yourself, that’s a big draw to millennials.”

But alcohol certainly isn’t new to Catholicism, with wine being an integral part of the sacrament of Holy Communion, said Rev. John Laurance, associate professor of theology at Marquette University.

“You know one of the Psalms says, ‘God gave wine to cheer up people’s hearts,’ so even the prayer book of the Old Testament sees that this is a gift from God,” Laurance said.



Catholic archbishop seeks to cut ties with Girl Scouts

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson is urging priests to sever ties with the Girl Scouts, saying the organization promotes values “incompatible” with Catholic teachings.

The open letter to priests, scout leaders and other Catholics was posted recently on the archdiocese website. It urges parishes that host Girl Scout meetings to consider alternative programs for girls that are more Catholic- or Christian-based.

“We must stop and ask ourselves — is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?” Carlson wrote.

The letter stops short of demanding an end to Girl Scout meetings at parishes, a common gathering site in the heavily Catholic St. Louis region. Brian Miller, executive director of the Catholic Youth Apostolate, said Friday that the letter is not meant to pressure priests into pushing out Girl Scouts.

“We’re asking parishes to evaluate and review what they can do to form the faith of young women,” Miller said.

Carlson’s letter said the archdiocese and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have been investigating concerns about the Girl Scouts of the USA and the parent organization, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, for several years.

Carlson worries that contraception and abortion rights are being promoted to Girl Scouts. The letter also said resources and social media “highlight and promote role models in conflict with Catholic values, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.” Steinem, 81, is a feminist, journalist and political activist. Friedan, who died in 2006 at age 85, was a feminist and writer.

“In addition, recent concerns about GSUSA and their position on and inclusion of transgender and homosexual issues are proving problematic,” Carlson wrote.

Girl Scouts of the USA said in a statement that it “looks forward to extending our longstanding relationship with faith-based organizations, including the Catholic Church and Catholic communities, throughout the country. As the pre-eminent leadership development organization for girls of every faith and background, we remain committed to building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began investigating the Girl Scouts of the USA in 2012, not long after lawmakers in Indiana and Alaska publicly called the Scouts into question, and after the organization was berated in a series aired by a Catholic broadcast network.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is particularly powerful in the region given that nearly a quarter of the area’s population — about 520,000 people — is Catholic. Its leaders have never been shy about addressing politically and socially sensitive matters. During the 2004 presidential campaign, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke made national news when he said he would deny communion to Democratic candidate John Kerry, citing his stance on abortion.

Carlson asked each pastor at parishes where Girl Scout meetings occur to meet with troop leaders to review concerns “and discuss implementing alternative options for the formation of our girls.” He said several alternative organizations with Catholic or Christian backgrounds can be offered.

His letter also hinted at increased scrutiny of the Boy Scouts of America.

“While the new BSA leadership policy currently offers some protections to religious organizations, I continue to wonder in which direction this once-trusted organization is now headed,” he wrote.

In December, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the nation’s second-largest Lutheran denomination, ended its official relationship with the Boy Scouts over the organization’s decision to allow openly gay Scout leaders.

Irish court rules against anti-abortion laws

The Belfast High Court, in a judicial review case, found laws governing abortion in Northern Ireland in cases of serious malformation of the fetus and sexual crime are in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Judge Mr Justice Mark Horner told Belfast High Court that women’s human rights were being breached by current laws: “In the circumstances, given this issue is unlikely to be grasped by the legislature in the foreseeable future, and the entitlement of citizens of Northern Ireland to have their Convention rights protected by the courts, I conclude that the Article Eight rights of women in Northern Ireland who are pregnant with fatal fetal abnormalities or who are pregnant as a result of sexual crime are breached by the impugned provisions.”

It is illegal in Northern Ireland for an abortion to be carried out, except when the life or mental health of the mother is in danger. Anyone who performs an illegal abortion could be jailed for life.

The judicial review was taken by Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and was joined by Amnesty International and Sarah Ewart, whose first pregnancy was given a fatal fetal diagnosis. She had to travel to England to terminate her pregnancy as Northern Ireland laws did not permit her to receive medical treatment within the region.

Grainne Teggart, campaign manager for Amnesty’s My Body My Rights campaign said: “Today’s High Court decision is a hugely significant step towards ensuring the right to access abortion for women and girls in Northern Ireland who have been raped, are victims of incest or whose pregnancies have been given a fatal fetal diagnosis.

“Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion date back to the 19th century and carry the harshest criminal penalties in Europe.

Teggart continued, “Northern Ireland’s abortion laws must be brought into the 21st century and into line with international law as a matter of urgency.” 

Ewart said, “I hope that today’s ruling means that I, and other women like me, will no longer have to go through the pain I experienced, of having to travel to England, away from the care of the doctors and midwife who knew me, to access the healthcare I needed.”

“I, and many women like me have been failed by our politicians. First, they left me with no option but to go to England for medical care. Then, by their refusal to change the law, they left me with no option but to go to the courts on my and other women’s behalf.

“I am an ordinary woman who suffered a very personal family tragedy, which the law in Northern Ireland turned into a living nightmare.”

Church still evades payments to abuse victims

Making good on their verbal threat in open court to “spend down” the remaining money left in their estate to prevent 575 victims of rape, sexual assault and abuse by clergy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from receiving restitution, lawyers for Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki have filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. They seek to overturn a U.S. 7th Circuit decisive ruling that a fraudulent “cemetery trust” created by former Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now cardinal of New York, was not “protected” by federal religious laws or the First Amendment and can be used to compensate survivors.

A few weeks ago, the archdiocese started carrying out its threat by randomly deposing and, of course, re-traumatizing victims, putting survivors through hours of questioning by church lawyers fishing for reasons to file yet more pointless briefs and run up expensive bills. So far, lawyers’ fees and court costs are soaring near $20 million dollars while Listecki has begrudgingly offered $4 million, total, for all rape victims, less than $7,000 per survivor.

In the latest filing, Listecki again legally howls the discredited excuses of “religious freedom” and “First Amendment rights.”  Clearly these rights are not enshrined in our Constitution for bishops, or anyone else, to cover up sex crimes, as if child rape is no one’s business but their own.

What matters is not winning the brief (they won’t). What matters is that it will be expensive, create more delays and pile up legal fees so there is no money left for survivors. You might as well move the Sunday collection plate over to the lawyers’ offices or, perhaps, the country club. The later location might be easier since, as Listecki wrote in a recent column in a Catholic paper, he will be getting in as much golf as he can this summer. In the meantime, hundreds of victims are languishing through years of bankruptcy without help, much less justice. 

When filing for bankruptcy over four and a half years ago, Listecki urged victims to come forward for “restitution, healing and resolution.” Since then, however, he has claimed that none of the 575 victims, not a single one, has a legitimate case.

It is pretty clear that Listecki filed for bankruptcy in utter bad faith and breech of promise to victims. The bankruptcy was filed to prevent restitution to victims by deploying the federal bankruptcy system and so called “religious freedom” to shield Listecki, Dolan and dozens of child sex offenders from the consequences of their criminal conduct and cover-ups.

Dolan wrote to the Vatican when he sought permission to create his bogus cemetery trust to prevent U.S. courts from compensating victims of priest sex abuse. Since then, it has been shown the archdiocese has at least $300 million available for victim restitution. But so far the archdiocese appears to have found a means to buy its way of justice, in plain sight, out for everyone to see.  Again.

–Peter Isley is Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Vatican: Irish gay marriage vote a ‘defeat for humanity’

The Vatican’s secretary of state has called the Irish vote to legalize gay marriage a “defeat for humanity.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he personally was saddened by the landslide decision, in which more than 62 percent of voters in the Roman Catholic country voted “yes,” despite church teaching that marriage is only between a man and woman.

In comments to reporters on May 26, Parolin referred to remarks by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, that results showed the church needed to do a “reality check.”

Parolin said the church needs to acknowledge the reality “but in the sense of reinforcing its commitment to evangelization.”

He said: “I don’t think you can speak only about a defeat for Christian principles but a defeat for humanity.”

Ireland becomes first nation in the world to vote for gay marriage

 Ireland has voted resoundingly to legalize gay marriage in the world’s first national vote on the issue, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared Saturday even as official ballot counting continued.

Senior figures from the “no” campaign, who sought to prevent Ireland’s constitution from being amended to permit same-sex marriages, say the only question is how large the “yes” side’s margin of victory will be from Friday’s vote.

“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish,” said Leo Varadkar, a Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic constitution.

“There is going to be a very substantial majority for a yes vote. I’m not at all surprised by that to be honest with you,” said Irish Sen. Ronan Mullen, one of only a handful of politicians who campaigned for rejection.

Political analyst Noel Whelan noted that “yes” majorities were being reported even in conservative rural districts and suggested the only question was how large the “yes” majority would be when all ballots in this predominantly Catholic nation of 4.6 million are counted.

Varadkar, who personally watched the votes being tabulated at the County Dublin ballot center, said the Irish capital looks to have voted around 70 percent in favor of gay marriage, while most districts outside the capital also were reporting strong “yes” leads. He said not a single district yet had reported a “no” majority. Official results come later Saturday.

The anti-gay marriage side credited “yes” campaigners with running a creative, compelling campaign that harnessed the power of social media to mobilize young voters, tens of thousands of whom voted for the first time Friday. They also said a “no” victory was always unlikely given that all political parties and most politicians backed the legalization of homosexual unions, just five years after parliament approved marriage-style civil partnerships for gay couples.

Fianna Fail party leader Michael Martin, whose party is traditionally closest to the Catholic Church but like all other parties campaigned to legalize gay marriage, said it “looks like an emphatic win for the yes side.” Voters in his native Cork were being recorded by observers as more than 60 percent yes.

John Lyons, one of the four openly gay lawmakers in Ireland’s 166-member parliament, said he was surprised by how many older voters he met on the campaign trail who were voting yes. But he paid special credit to the mobilization of younger voters, many of whom traveled home from work or studies abroad to vote.

“Most of the young people I canvassed with have never knocked on a door in their lives,” said Lyons, who represents northwest Dublin in parliament. “This says something about modern Ireland. Let’s never underestimate the electorate or what they think.”

Has Marquette University grown weary of John McAdams’ right-wing shenanigans?

A conservative professor at Marquette University remains “off duty” and “under review” more than two months after writing a blog post criticizing a graduate student for not permitting critique of same-sex marriage during her ethics class.

John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at the university and author of the right-wing blog Marquette Warrior, wrote that teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate stifled academic freedom by denying the student’s request, even though she said that same-sex marriage was off-topic for the class. After the blog post appeared, Abbate began receiving inflammatory emails from students accusing her of violating the First Amendment (see editorial, page 16) and trashing her with homophobic slurs.

Another blog site called Daily Nous presented the text of some particularly vicious emails sent to Abbate, along with a post from her Rate My Professor page that said, “If you don’t celebrate a sexual disorder called lesbianism … she will go after you.”

Daily Nous also reported that Abbate is leaving Marquette.

In the Nov. 9 post that apparently sparked the rancor, McAdams led his readers down a rhetorical path that’s quite familiar to them. The essence of his complaint against Abbate was the same one he levels at everyone at Marquette who refuses to genuflect to orthodox Roman Catholic doctrine, because Marquette is, as he repeatedly reminds everyone, a Roman Catholic institution.

“Abbate, of course, was just using a tactic typical among liberals now,” he wrote. “Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

Abbate countered that McAdams was, in effect, harassing her.

“It is astounding to me that the university has not created some sort of policy that would prohibit this behavior which undoubtedly leads to a toxic environment for both students and faculty,” she told Inside Higher Ed. “I would hope that Marquette would do everything in its power to cultivate a climate where Marquette employees, especially students, are not publicly demeaned by tenured faculty.”

In mid-December, after several faculty members called for an investigation of McAdams’ behavior, he received a letter from Dean Richard Holz stating that the university was conducting a review of his conduct and, in the interim, he was “relieved of all teaching duties and all other faculty activities, including, but not limited to, advising, committee work, faculty meetings and any activity that would involve your interaction with Marquette students, faculty and staff.”

McAdams was told that he’d continue to receive his salary and benefits during the review process but he was not to visit campus without first obtaining permission. 

Noting that “our graduate student teaching assistants are students first,” Marquette senior communication director Brian Dorrington said via email that “the safety of our students and campus community is our top priority.”

“The university has a policy in which it clearly states that it does not tolerate harassment and will not stand for faculty members subjecting students to any form of abuse, putting them in harm’s way,” Dorrington added. “We take any situation where a student’s safety is compromised extremely seriously.  … They are learning their craft and it is our expectation that they are mentored and supported by our faculty. 

“It is important to note that under faculty conduct rules, a professor would not be subject to a review of this nature simply for voicing an opinion. The university has expectations of conduct, specifically as they relate to the faculty-student relationship. When concerns are raised that a line has been crossed, it is our responsibility to take action and conduct a review.”

Reporting about the letter on his blog, McAdams appeared stunned.

A hero on the religious right for his anti-intellectual rabble rousing, McAdams has been milking the latest 15 minutes of fame he’s received over Abbate for all it’s worth. For years, he’s been a frequent guest on Charlie Sykes’ talk radio program on WTMJ-620, where listeners savor his sexist, racist and homophobic rants. (Marquette Warrior links directly to Sykes’ blog Right Wisconsin.) 

But in recent weeks, McAdams also has appeared on Fox News and been lauded for his courage by The Christian Post. Ben Shapiro’s online watchdog group TruthRevolt trumpeted “Marquette Suspends Conservative Professor for Exposing Totalitarian Leftist Faculty.” Under that canonizing headline appeared a picture of the professor looking smug and raising a clenched fist.

The last time McAdams received this much attention, it was over a defining moment in Marquette’s history, one that could have set the university on the course that has finally collided with McAdams’ Dark Ages social views. 

In spring 2010, the university rescinded an offer to out lesbian scholar Jodi O’Brien to become dean of Marquette’s College of Arts and Sciences. The university’s unprecedented cancellation of a signed contract prompted protests by students, condemnation from faculty members and a firestorm of controversy throughout higher education. The university’s action imperiled at least one state grant and nearly resulted in censure from numerous academic associations, even after Marquette President Fr. Robert A. Wild apologized to O’Brien and settled with her for an undisclosed amount of cash.

McAdams’ blog was ground zero for provoking the blowback over having a lesbian in leadership at the Roman Catholic university. But although McAdams won that battle, he lost his overriding anti-gay war.

In the wake of the O’Brien scandal, the university expanded its anti-discrimination policy to include LGBT students, staff and faculty. It also began offering domestic partner benefits to the partners of employees in same-sex relationships.

Gay-positive cultural events appeared on campus, including The Laramie Project, a play about the real-life killing of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. Lesléa Newman, the author of Heather Has Two Mommies, presented the 2011 Starshak Lecture on campus.

Predictably, McAdams responded to all of these progressive developments with a vitriolic sneer, proudly positioning himself as the Vatican’s unofficial on-campus representative. His efforts always received kudos from the right, particularly from the angry white men who listen to local hate radio.

So it’s not surprising that McAdams was taken aback by the university’s reaction over his latest anti-gay attack. On his blog, he acknowledges that he expected to get in more trouble over his statement that “feminists grossly exaggerate the incidence of campus date rape” than over Abbate.

Perhaps Marquette has simply had enough of McAdams’ divisiveness, his endless needling of colleagues and minority groups, his lack of collegiality and tolerance for secular thinkers.

The university has changed considerably during his 30 years there. Most recently, it named Michael Lovell, the highly praised former chancellor of UWM, as its first layman president. Has Lovell, who backed equality during his tenure at UWM, decided to clean house?

Marquette, the state’s largest private university, got quite a scare over its rescission of O’Brien’s contract. The censure it faced over the incident would have jeopardized its hard-won stature as a major research university.

Maybe Marquette’s new leadership is more interested in focusing on academic leadership and providing a quality education than in standing in the way of social progress. Maybe the distraction that is John McAdams has finally become too big a thorn in the side of the university’s future.

Or maybe the university simply wants to receive attention for scholarship instead of backward political vitriol that makes it harder for academics there to be taken seriously.

Pope denounces euthanasia as ‘sin against God’

Pope Francis denounced the right to die movement on Nov. 16, saying it’s a “false sense of compassion” to consider euthanasia as an act of dignity when in fact it’s a sin against God and creation.

Francis made the comments to the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors.

Earlier this month, the Vatican’s top bioethics official condemned as ‘’reprehensible” the assisted suicide of an American woman, Brittany Maynard, who was suffering terminal brain cancer and said she wanted to die with dignity.

Francis didn’t refer to the Maynard case specifically.

While denouncing euthanasia in general, he also condemned abortion, in vitro fertilization (or “the scientific production of a child”) and embryonic stem cell research (or “using human beings as laboratory experiments to presumably save others.”)

“This is playing with life,” he said. “Beware, because this is a sin against the creator, against God the creator.”

While shying away from hot-button, culture war issues such as abortion, Francis has spoken out frequently about euthanasia. He considers the assisted suicide movement as a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” that views the sick and elderly as useless drains on society.

Francis urged doctors to take “courageous and against-the-grain” decisions to uphold church teaching on the dignity of life, even if it requires resorting to conscientious objection.

Pope names next archbishop for Chicago

As the leader of two American dioceses, Roman Catholic Bishop Blase Cupich has spoken out against same-sex marriage and against conservative hostility toward gay rights advocates. He has opposed abortion, while urging parishioners and priests to have patience, not disdain, for those who disagree. And he has criticized fellow U.S. bishops who threatened to shut down religious charities instead of pursuing a compromise with the White House over health care policies that go against Catholic teaching.

On Sept. 20, Pope Francis named Cupich as the next archbishop of Chicago, sending a strong signal about the direction that the pontiff is taking the church. Cupich will succeed Cardinal Francis George, 77, an aggressive defender of orthodoxy who once said he expected his successors in Chicago to be martyred in the face of hostility toward Christianity.

“I think what Francis is trying to do with his appointments in both the United States and around the world is to moderate the conversation and get us past the culture wars and the ideologues,” said Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in New Jersey. “Francis is not trying to balance a lurch to the right with a lurch to the left. He’s trying to build up the big middle so we can have conversations and not arguments.”

The Chicago appointment is Francis’ first major mark on American Catholic leadership.

George is two years past the church’s retirement age and is suffering from cancer. The Chicago archdiocese is the nation’s third-largest and among its most important, serving more than 2.2 million parishioners. Chicago archbishops are usually elevated to cardinal and are therefore eligible to vote for the next pope. Both George, and his predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, had served as presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cupich will be installed as archbishop in November.

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, and one of nine children, the 65-year-old Cupich has served in a wide range of roles within the church.

He has been a parish pastor, a high school instructor and president of a seminary. After earning degrees in the U.S. and in Rome, he worked at the papal embassy in Washington, and as a bishop, has led several committees for the U.S. bishops’ conference. For a few years, he led the bishops’ committee on the child protection reforms adopted amid the clergy sex abuse scandal.

In his current posting as head of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, Cupich inherited the fallout from a previous bishop’s decision to seek bankruptcy protection over sex abuse claims. He started a mediation effort that has drawn praise from local attorneys for victims.

At a news conference over the weekend in Chicago, he cited his family’s immigrant history — his four grandparents were from Croatia — in a call for immigration reform. “Every day we delay is a day too long,” he said. As bishop in Rapid City, South Dakota, starting in 1998, then in Spokane, he has worked extensively with immigrant and Native American communities. About 44 percent of parishioners in the Chicago archdiocese are Latino.

Cupich first became a bishop as the American church leadership began taking a more combative approach to culture war issues, under St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Yet, he struck a tone that reflects what Francis has emphasized for the church: a focus on mercy over hot-button policies that the pope says has driven away Catholics.

In 2011, Cupich told the anti-abortion committee and priests in Spokane that he wanted an educational, not confrontational, approach to the issue. He warned for having disdain for those who support abortion rights.

The next year, during the run-up to the Washington state referendum that ultimately recognized gay marriage, Cupich repeatedly underscored church teaching that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But he also wrote at length to parishioners about the suffering of gays and lesbians because of anti-gay prejudice. He condemned violence and bullying that has led some gay teens to suicide.

“I also want to be very clear that in stating our position, the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility toward homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity,” Cupich wrote.

After the Obama administration issued a requirement for birth control coverage for employers, Cupich said faith-affiliated charities should never be forced to provide services that the church considers morally objectionable. However, he condemned threats by some U.S. church leaders that they would shut down social service agencies over the Affordable Care Act.

“These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” he wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Gay group is in, Catholic League is out of NYC St. Pat’s Parade

The Catholic League says it will sit out next year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York because event organizers aren’t letting an anti-abortion group march.

The group, formally known as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has been marching for 20 years, said its president, Bill Donohue.

Its announcement was the latest development in a long-running battle over who can take part in the nation’s oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

After years of refusing to allow gay groups to march under their own banner, parade organizers said earlier this summer that OUT(at)NBCUniversal, an LGBT resource group at the company that broadcasts the parade, would march.

Parade organizers said including the NBC group was meant as a “gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community.”

But gay activists have called that a token gesture. A group called Irish Queers said at a news conference this week that they should be included, and that OUT(at)NBCUniversal members should not march until the parade is opened up more broadly to gay organizations.

Organizers countered that the 2015 parade was already full. They said the Irish Queers group could apply for a spot in the 2016 parade.

Donohue, meanwhile, said parade organizers had promised him that if a gay group could march under its own banner, a Catholic anti-abortion group would be included also.

“Now I am being told that the list of marching units is set and that no pro-life group will march in next year’s parade,” he said. “Accordingly, I have decided to withdraw our participation.”

Parade spokesman Bill O’Reilly called Donohue’s decision disappointing. He added, “The Catholic League is always welcome in the parade.”