Cardinal Timothy Dolan has clarified his support for the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, while acknowledging some remaining concerns amid the controversy over the parade’s decision to include an LGBT advocacy group. “I share the hope of the organizers that the March 17 parade will be loyal to its proud heritage of celebrating Irish identity, culture, and contributions — all a beautiful part of Catholicism — thus bringing this great community together in unity and festivity, and look forward to leading it as grand marshal,” the cardinal said in his Sept. 17 column posted on the New York archdiocese’s website. He explained that he supports the decision to allow an LGBT group to march in the parade under its own banner for the first time this year because he has been told the group will not be advocating homosexual actions, but simply professing a gay identity, which does not violate Catholic teaching. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee had had a long-standing policy that banned most forms of political signs and self-identification. The policy had drawn protests and political, legal and economic threats from LGBT activists and their allies in politics, media and business who demanded the traditionally Catholic parade include LGBT advocacy groups. On Sept. 3, the parade announced that Out@NBCUniversal, an employee resource, recruitment and affinity volunteer group for LGBT people and their supporters within the media corporation NBCUniversal, would march in the parade. The announcement drew significant media attention. In his initial response, the New York cardinal voiced confidence in parade organizers, while clarifying that he had not been involved in making the decision, as he is not part of the parade committee. In his Sept. 17 reflection, Cardinal Dolan acknowledged that his decision to be the parade’s grand marshal had caused “confusion and dismay” among some observers. The cardinal said he had “often” expressed support for the former policy, which he found “logical and fair.” He rejected claims that the previous parade policy was “anti-gay,” and said he did not “push, condone, or oppose” the new policy. He said some of his critics had voiced “thoughtful reasons” against the new policy. “You observe that the former policy was fair; you worry that this is but another example of a capitulation to an ‘aggressive gay agenda,’ which still will not appease their demands; and you wonder if this could make people think the Church no longer has a clear teaching on the nature of human sexuality,” the cardinal summarized. “Thank you for letting me know of such concerns. I share some of them.” The cardinal said that he had considered whether the new policy violates Catholic faith and morals, knowing that if it did then the committee “compromised the parade” and he must object and refuse to participate. However, Cardinal Dolan said that “being gay” is not a sin. Homosexual actions are sins, like “any sexual relations” outside of marriage. “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.” The cardinal said that the committee’s inclusion of the LGBT group “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.” He said he had been assured that the group is “not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching, but simply identifying themselves as ‘gay people of Irish ancestry’.” Cardinal Dolan said that parade committee leaders “tried to be admirably sensitive to Church teaching” and worried that the former policy was being interpreted as biased, exclusionary and discriminatory. “I found their sensitivity wise, and publicly said so,” the cardinal explained, before addressing his critics: “If, in doing so, I have shown an insensitivity to you, I apologize.” “If the parade committee allowed a group to publicize its advocacy of any actions contrary to Church teaching, I’d object,” he said. The well-known parade dates back to 1762. The parade’s website says it is the oldest and largest parade in the world, with participants ranging in number from 150,000 to 250,000. The Archbishop of New York traditionally reviews the parade from the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Many previous archbishops have been grand marshals of the parade. Supporters of the previous policy included past New York archbishop Cardinal John O’Connor, who died in 2000. The parade committee previously defended the parade against lawsuits aimed to force it to approve LGBT groups’ applications. In a statement much quoted in the media controversy over the new parade policy, Cardinal O’Connor in 1993 said that he “could never even be perceived as compromising Catholic teaching” by allowing the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization to march in the parade as an identifiable group. The Out@NBCUniversal Twitter feed promotes LGBT causes and interests, as well as entertainment-related stories. The feed promotes the company’s support for Pride parades and organizations like the LGBT activist foundation GLAAD. It retweeted an Aug. 29 story from the MSNBC news show The Cycle on LGBT activist Matthew Vines. The tweet read, “Meet the inspirational young man who makes the biblical case for same-sex relationships.” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, had long supported the parade’s previous policy. He said he had backed the parade’s policy change on the understanding that a pro-life Catholic group would also be allowed to march. However, he later withdrew the Catholic League’s small contingent, citing the ultimate lack of a pro-life Catholic group in the 2015 parade. He said his choice was not due to the presence of the LGBT advocacy group. Rather, he charged that the parade leadership had not fulfilled a promise to include the pro-life group. Other controversies have surrounded the parade and its relationship to the Catholic Church. In 1983, New York’s then-archbishop Cardinal Terence Cooke refused to review the beginning of that year’s parade because its grand marshal had been Michael Flannery, an alleged Irish Republican Army weapons smuggler.
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