The president of the Catholic League has declared that it is “finished with the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”
The Catholic rights watchdog group, which according to the Wall Street Journal has sent roughly 200 of its members to march in the parade each St. Patrick’s Day for the last 20 years, will not be marching in 2015.
Bill Donohue announced this decision following what he views to be the parade committee’s broken promise to permit a pro-life group to march if an LGBT organization was allowed.
In a statement published on the Catholic League’s website, Donohue explains that his decades of support for the parade committee’s rules were “based on the principal that no groups with their own agenda could march.”
“I have constantly defended the exclusion of pro-life Catholic groups on this basis, using it analogously to defend the right of parade officials to exclude gay groups,” Donohue writes.
The Catholic League president reveals that he was privy to the impending change in the committee’s rules that would allow an LGBT group to march long before IrishCentral broke the news of the announcement last Wednesday.
“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. Count me in, I said.”
But, he continues, the parade committee broke their promises to him. “I was asked to keep the news of the parade rule change confidential prior to being announced on September 3. I did. I was also told that the parade’s new spokesman, William O’Reilly, would call me on September 2 to inform me of how he was going to roll out the story. He never called.”
The parade committee has since declared that the marching roster for the 2015 parade is set, and that no further groups will be allowed to join.
This comes as a blow to both Donohue, who says he was assured a pro-life group would be able to march, and to New York’s Irish LGBT organizations, who formally applied to march earlier this week.
Both Donohue and the leaders of Irish Queers and the Lavender Green Association are questioning why Out@NBCUniversal, a group without any clear ties to Ireland or the Irish American community would be included over those with a stronger connection.
“My reasons for withdrawing from the parade have nothing to do with…gays. It has to do with being betrayed by the parade committee,” Donohue told the Wall Street Journal.
“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,” he said
However, parade spokesman William O’Reilly said that the parade committee had not received any applications from pro-life groups. Had they, he added, they would likely have looked upon it favorably.
O’Reilly called the Catholic League’s withdrawal “disappointing” and said that they would always be welcome in the parade.
He also noted that the absence of the Catholic League contingent in the 2015 parade would not change anything for the LGBT groups that have since applied – registration for the parade is closed.