One hundred and seventy years ago, in the spring of 1844, noted American inventor, Samuel FB Morse sent the first message over the telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore. The message read “What God hath wrought?”
The message is timely. There have been two messages surrounding this year’s upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The first is not new and I am not sure it is relevant…the old, tired message sent by the St. Patrick’s Day Committee that gays and lesbians cannot march with a banner.
Whether the committee cares to admit it or not, gays and lesbians have been marching in the St. Paddy’s Day Parade since its inception. Gay police officers. Gay sanitation workers. Lesbian school teachers. Yes, and even gay priests and lesbian nuns! There are gay and lesbian represented at every level of working life in the parade. The difference is that they did not use a LGBT banner to identify themselves. We don’t have pro-life groups marching with a banner either.
If the ban on sexual orientation as opposed to same sex marriage is the issue then I respectfully request that the St. Patrick’s Day Committee read the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 1997 pastoral letter “Always Our Children,” which was directed towards parents of homosexual children. It is quite enlightening, sensitively and sensibly written.
And most recently, Pope Francis asked, “Who am I to judge?” and it is with these words, he speaks to everyone—that we are not to judge, but we are to have mercy.
Our technology has certainly been updated since Morse invented the telegraph line. So has the Church’s pastoral guidelines towards gays and lesbians have been updated since Vatican II. I humbly suggest that the St. Patrick’s Day Committee update their thinking about banning gays and lesbians from marching in the future. “What God hath wrought?” Is God really telling the Committee to ban gays and lesbians?
The second message sent out by this year’s St. Patrick Day Parade was by newly-minted Mayor DeBlasio’s firm decision not to march due to the so-called ban on gays and lesbian marchers. I always thought that the Mayor of New York City was the Mayor for all the people.
Unfortunately, the Mayor’s decision sends the wrong message of intolerance and lack of respect. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is based on a religious holiday and the celebration of the contribution of the Irish in this great city and country. The Mayor’s rationale is narrow-minded and misconstrued. He fails to appreciate the wider picture of this parade and its 250 year plus glorious tradition.
Many Irish journalists, including my good friend, Niall O’Dowd (hardly a conservative pundit) have written publicly to offer Mayor de Blasio a well-reasoned and convincing argument to change his mind on Fifth Avenue while literally and figuratively walking the high road. His answer so far—a resounding no!
What message does that send to a pluralistic New York City that has many ethnic groups and faith traditions that we may not always embrace and agree with. However, every faith tradition has their freedom of worship as supported by our nation’s Constitution. The Mayor’s decision not to march in the parade sends the wrong message to a multi-ethnic, multi-religous New York City. Perhaps Mayor de Blasio needs to be reminded of some Irish folklore.
On July 17, 1938, Irish American aviator, Douglas Corrigan flew a solo flight from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY with the hope of returning to Long Beach, CA. The next day on July 18, Corrigan landed in an airfield outside of Dublin, Ireland. He went the wrong way!
As a result, he was dubbed Wrong Way Corrigan. His story has provided tremendous comic relief for the Irish for decades. However, Mayor de Blasio, this year’s St. Patrick Day Parade is no laughing matter. After a brief analysis of what went wrong, Corrigan believed he was given the wrong direction from an advisor and he discovered he had a faulty compass.
In the same way, I contend that the Mayor has been given the wrong direction from his advisors and lacks a moral compass to make the right decision to march in the parade. Mister Mayor, two wrongs don’t make a right. The St. Patrick’s Day Committee needs to update itself and so does your faulty logic. You are the Mayor of New York for all the people not just the “progressive people.” Please send out the right message and direct us toward the right way.
* Father Brian Jordan, is chaplain, the New York City Building Trades and long time advocate on Irish and immigration issues.