Dinkins move infuriates Cardinal, Hibernians

Another major confrontation over gay and lesbian participation in the traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade is taking shape in New York city.

The city has awarded the parade permit to a new group, in effect taking control of the parade away from the Ancient Order of Hibernians which has held the permit for 150 years. Strong behind-the-scenes pressure from embattled Mayor David Dinkins who was at the heart of last year’s bitter fight was evident.

New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor, never one to shrink from a fight, immediately challenged the action which would impose the presence of homosexual activists on the traditionally Catholic celebration.

The Catholic League issued a statement strongly backing the Cardinal and condemning the mayor’s ill-disguised effort to wrest control of the event from Catholic sponsorship.

The League statement called Mayor Dinkins “a pawn of homosexual militants in their cynical attempt to exploit the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

The statement praised Cardinal O’Connor for “defending the right of Catholics to honor their own saints the way they think appropriate” and for “defending the right of all Americans to declare their beliefs publicly without governmental interference.”

Cardinal O’Connor noted that the parade’s new sponsors had been chosen because they “have promised to transform [the parade] from a religious celebration of a Catholic saint into a more open forum for political expression.” The Cardinal went on to ask if the same “open forum for political expression” criteria would be applied to all parades? We might well ask, for example, if the city will insist on inclusion of the PLO in the next Jewish parade?

The Cardinal noted that the parade had been labeled a “religious celebration ofa Catholic saint.” He went on to point out that that was precisely the point of the whole parade. St. Patrick is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of New York and the parade has been sponsored by a Catholic organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, since its inception in 1836. He pointedly asked the mayor and the police commissioner what right they had to alter the very nature and purpose ofthis celebration?

For its part the Ancient Order of Hibernians was not content to remain silent. A three-page press release raised many of the same issues as the Cardinal’s statement. It opened with a very pointed tale of Nazi Germany’s repression of civil rights for groups considered persona non grata.

The AOH has called for a total boycott of the parade by all its units. As this newsletter went to press the new organization which had been given the parade permit appeared to be nearing collapse and the parade had lost some 95% of past participants.

AOH attorneys are challenging the city’s denial of their parade permit in the courts and what happens next is anybody’s guess.

Stay tuned. With the luck of the Irish, we may just win this one!

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