Catholic Bishops Call on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to Rescind Appointment of Anti-Catholic

By Michael W. Chapman | August 28, 2019 | 3:25pm EDT
Gov. Ralph Northam (Getty Images/Alex Edelman)

( -- The two bishops who lead the two Catholic dioceses in Virginia called on Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to rescind the appointment of liberal activist Gail Gordon Donegan to the Virginia Council on Women because of her well-documented "pattern of ridiculing Catholic beliefs and employing stereotypes designed to malign people of faith."

Over the years, Donegan has made numerous anti-Catholic comments on Twitter, such as “Abortion is morally indefensible to Catholic priests bcuz it results in fewer children to rape.” On Ash Wednesday in 2011, Donegan tweeted, “Go tell a Catholic they have dirt on their forehead,” and in 2010 she wrote, “Saw a bumper sticker: ‘You can’t be both Catholic & Pro-Choice.’ Add: You can be a pedophile though!”

An Aug. 27 statement from the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and the Virginia Catholic Conference says, "First reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and subsequently by dozens of media outlets, Ms. Gordon Donegan has demonstrated a pattern of ridiculing Catholic beliefs and employing stereotypes designed to malign people of faith. Had these comments been directed toward any other group of persons, they would have disqualified her from this role.

"Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, and Bishop Barry C. Knestout, Catholic Diocese of Richmond, are jointly calling on the Governor to rescind this appointment.

"Bishop Burbidge noted, 'We expect anyone appointed to a council, board or commission for the Commonwealth to be respectful of all faith groups and civil in his or her public comments. Her statements are offensive to Catholics and our faith.

Catholic nun Mother Teresa and some of her Missionaries of Charity praying in Sacred Heart
Catholic Church in Atlanta, Ga., June 12, 1996.  (Getty Images)

"The Virginia Catholic Conference has issued an Action Alert to the faithful, asking all Catholics and people of good will to join Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Knestout in calling on the Governor to rescind this troubling appointment." repeatedly contacted Gov. Northam's press office by email and telephone on Aug. 28 and asked whether the governor would rescind the Donegan appointment and whether he found Donegan's anti-Catholic comments acceptable. The governor's office did not respond. 

On Monday, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a statement that said, "Gail Gordon Donegan is a local political activist. She is also a vicious anti-Catholic bigot. Now, thanks to Gov. Ralph Northam, she is an appointee to the Virginia Council on Women. It is an appointment the governor must withdraw -- at once!" 

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, said, “Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's appointment of an anti-Catholic activist to the state council on women’s issues is the most recent and blatant example of bigotry emanating from the Democratic party’s leadership.

"Unlike other party leaders who have tried to cloak their anti-Catholic bigotry with rhetoric, Northam’s appointee brandishes hers. Her vile tweets ruthlessly mock Catholicism and make plain her disdain for Catholics and all they believe. We call on Governor Northam to withdraw the appointment and apologize to the Catholic community for the insult it represents.” 

(Twitter, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Some of the tweets made by Donegan over the years were collected and re-published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and are presented below,

  • in 2016 tweeted to [Cornel] West and in 2017 to then Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-10th, of Northern Virginia, calling them “shithead.”
  • tweeted “F--- YOU!” at Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in 2010.
  • referred to state Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Chesterfield, last year as “Glen Turd Event.” In 2018, Donegan wrote: “Richard ‘Dick’ Black is the actual name of a State Senator from Ashburn. Glen is State Senator Glen Sturtevant. I dubbed him ‘Turd Event.’”
(Twitter, Richmond Times-Dispatch)
  • in 2017 tweeted to Radkiha Jones, the editor in chief of Vanity Fair, and told her to “F--- off, eat shit, and crawl back to hell.”
  • made jokes about Catholic priests being pedophiles. In 2010, Donegan wrote: “Abortion is morally indefensible to Catholic priests bcuz it results in fewer children to rape.”
  • “Go tell a Catholic they have dirt on their forehead,” she wrote in 2011, with the hashtag #waystooffend
  • Donegan wrote in 2010: “Saw a bumper sticker: ‘You can’t be both Catholic & Pro-Choice.’ Add: You can be a pedophile though!”
  • Donegan retweeted a tweet in 2010 that said Christmas is “the one time of year the Catholic Church is allowed to focus on a little boy.”
  • In response to a 2011 news story about Catholics in New York being subjected to hepatitis A by taking Communion on Christmas, Donegan wrote “LOLz.”
(Twitter, Richmond Times-Dispatch)
  • tweeted a joke in 2013 to John Whitbeck, then-chairman of the 10th District Republican Committee, and to Ken Cuccinelli, then the Republican nominee for governor: “Dr, lawyer & priest on Titantic [sic]. Doc: save the children! lawyer: f--- the children! Priest: Is there time?” (Donegan made that same joke again on Twitter in 2018 and called it “my fave joke.”)
  • referred to the Boy Scouts in 2017 as “p---y snowflakes.”
  • regularly told supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to “f--- off.” In 2018, Donegan wrote: “Bernie Sanders and his shithead followers need to f--- the f--- off.”
  • in 2011 called then-U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, a “dumb bitch.”

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