Pro-Life Group Won’t March in St. Patrick Parade But Gay Group Will

By Michael W. Chapman | September 11, 2014 | 6:33pm EDT

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

( – Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said he will not march in the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City because he was repeatedly misled by parade committee officials that a pro-life group would be allowed to march, along with a pro-gay contingent, as part of an alleged rules change agreement.

“My reasons for withdrawing from the parade have nothing to do with Cardinal Dolan or with gays,” said Donohue in a Sept. 11 statement. “It has to do with being betrayed by the parade committee. They not only told me one thing, and did another, they decided to include a gay group that is neither Catholic nor Irish while stiffing pro-life Catholics. This is as stunning as it is indefensible.”

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City has taken place nearly every year, on the feast day of St. Patrick (Mar. 17),  since 1762.  Although the Ancient Order of Hibernians ran the parade for many years, control was handed over to an independent committee in 1994.

Since the 1990s, pro-homosexual groups have sought to march in the parade but were unsuccessful and, in recent years, some public officials and corporate sponsors, such as Guinness, have refused to participate in the march as a sign of solidarity with the gays.

Marchers in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City. (AP)

Bill Donohue has defended the exclusion of a gay group marching with its own banner in the parade because the parade rules prohibited such action, rules that applied to pro-life groups as well. The point of the parade is to honor St. Patrick and the Irish-Catholic heritage.

Donohue explained that, this year, “when I was asked how I would react to a gay group being asked to join, I said I could support this decision only if a pro-life group were also invited. Indeed, I explicitly pressed for confirmation that there has been a formal change in the parade’s rules. I was told that there was and that a pro-life group would march in 2015.”

However, as several days passed last week, Donohue discovered that at least some officials with the parade committee were not being candid about the supposed rules change.  An explicitly pro-homosexual contingent, OUT@NBCUniversal, would be allowed to march with its own banner but no pro-life group.

“The parade committee did not specifically bar a pro-life group, they simply never invited one to join,” Donohue told “This despite the fact that I was explicitly told that one would march.”

“The NBC gay group was hand-picked,” he said. “NBC televises the parade and its chief revenue officer is on the parade committee.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan is the archbishop of New York. (AP Photo)

“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,” said Donohue. “Accordingly, I have decided to withdraw our participation.”

The Catholic League marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the last 20 years.

Asked whether he thought it was appropriate to allow a pro-homosexual contingent to march with its own banner in a parade set to honor a Catholic saint, Donohue said, “If there is to be a gay group marching under its own banner, it should be one like Courage, a Catholic gay group that accepts the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Courage, with more than 100 chapters worldwide, is an apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to persons with same-sex attractions.

The Catholic Church teaches that people with same-sex attractions should be treated with respect and dignity,  like all persons, but that they should not engage in homosexual practices. They should instead seek to live chaste lives or pursue therapy to address what the Church states is an intrinsic disorder.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, has agreed to be the grand marshal for the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Young marchers in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City. (AP)

In a Sept. 3 statement, Cardinal Dolan said, “The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee continues to have my confidence and support.  Neither my predecessors as Archbishop of New York nor I have ever determined who would or would not march in this parade (or any of the other parades that march along Fifth Avenue, for that matter), but have always appreciated the cooperation of parade organizers in keeping the parade close to its Catholic heritage.  My predecessors and I have always left decisions on who would march to the organizers of the individual parades.  As I do each year, I look forward to celebrating Mass in honor of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, and the Patron Saint of this Archdiocese, to begin the feast, and pray that the parade would continue to be a source of unity for all of us.”

The cardinal’s decision has sparked criticism from many Catholic lay leaders, as was previously reported by

As for the ongoing controversy, Donohue said, “Attempts will now be made to pit me against Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the grand marshal of the 2015 parade. The suggestion that I am at odds with the New York Archbishop is not only false, it is despicable. Cardinal Dolan has no more rabid supporter than Bill Donohue, and nothing that transpires recently changes anything.”

On the Catholic League website, Donohue detailed his experience with the parade committee and said he was “double-crossed.”

(AP Photo)

“The goal of some in the Irish community is to neuter the Catholic element in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” said Donohue.  “They want it to be an ethnic celebration. But as I have said, we are not the Irish League: we are the Catholic League. Indeed, our full name is the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.”

He continued, “Under the direction of [Committee Vice Chairman John] Lahey, who has effectively taken over control of the parade, there is no room for a pro-life Catholic group in 2015, but there is room for a non-Irish, non-Catholic, gay group. But the worst is yet to come.”

“When Lahey was told that radical gay groups, led by Brendan Fay, would like to march in 2016, he ‘reacted enthusiastically,’” said Donohue.  “Fay is a former official of DignityUSA, an outfit that works against the teachings of the Catholic Church. ‘I think Brendan Fay will find we’re very receptive,’ Lahey said.”

“For the record, DignityUSA is a group which had Paul Shanley as its chaplain, the most infamous child rapist priest in the history of the Catholic Church,” said Donohue.  “More recently, it opposed the request made by the Catholic League that the Empire State Building light its towers in honor of Mother Teresa’s centenary. …  This explains why the Catholic League is finished with the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

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