Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bishop Martino threatens to close Scranton's Cathedral on St. Patrick's Day...

Bishop Martino has been acting decisively like a bishop who understands he is accountable for scandal created in his diocese and he is not going to sit back quietly.

From the Scranton Times-Tribune

In a letter to the heads of three local Irish-American organizations, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton has threatened to close St. Peter’s Cathedral during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations if the groups feature elected officials who support abortion rights at their annual events.


Published: Thursday, February 19, 2009 4:11 PM EST

In a letter to the heads of three local Irish-American organizations, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton has threatened to close St. Peter’s Cathedral during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations if the groups feature elected officials who support abortion rights at their annual events.

The letter, which was signed by Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty, reports that Bishop Joseph F. Martino is “determined to prevent scandal,” which would be caused if the organizations “in any way” should “honor pro-abortion officials” by giving them parade or dais positions or opportunities to speak and “the Catholic Church is seen to be involved in this honoring.”

In direct terms, the letter reiterates the bishop’s publicly stated position that elected officials who vote to support abortion rights will be denied Holy Communion if they attempt to receive the sacrament in the diocese, including at St. Patrick’s Day Masses. The closing of St. Peter’s Cathedral is offered as an additional measure to prevent the honoring of such officials.

Auxiliary Bishop Dougherty wrote that the bishop hopes the groups’ “judicious choices” about which elected officials to honor will make any actions by the bishop unnecessary, but that the letter was sent “to avoid any surprise should (Bishop Martino) be required to take action in this most serious matter.”

The morning Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral has been a traditional element of the parade day celebration for decades. An additional Mass on the feast day also is offered at the cathedral and is particularly important for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, one of the groups the auxiliary bishop addressed.

Leaders of that group, as well as the other two Irish-American groups, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Association of Lackawanna County and the Society of Irish Women, reacted to the letter with surprise, disappointment and some confusion.

Evie Rafalko McNulty, a founder of the Society of Irish Women, explained that her group is not even Catholic.

“We’re not a Christian organization. We’re not ‘saint’ anything. We’re just a group of Irish women,” she said. Her group pays $500 to help defray the cost of the Mass given at St. Peter’s Cathedral on parade day, because it was asked to help contribute.

“If he doesn’t have the Mass, then we save $500,” she said.

John Keeler, president of the Friendly Sons, said the members of his group, a 103-year-old Irish Catholic organization, were chagrined by the letter but believe they already are in compliance with it.

“The suggestion that we would at any time do anything to create a scandal to the Catholic church is somewhat disappointing, considering that most, if not all, of our members are daily communicants in the Catholic faith who live their faith and support their church to the fullest extent possible,” he said.

In particular, the group’s disappointment stems from the section of the letter that says the bishop may close the cathedral, he said, because “many of our Irish ancestors played a major role in the physical construction of churches, including the cathedral.”

Mr. Keeler, who is also a past president of the parade association, said the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick are always “very much aware” of Catholic positions on political issues, like abortion, when they choose a speaker and do not plan to feature anyone this year who would be contrary to the bishop’s position. The group’s principal speaker this year will be Mark Durkan, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland.

The Society of Irish Women has not yet confirmed a speaker for its annual dinner, but Mrs. McNulty said the group has not invited anyone who has a legislative voting record on any abortion issue.

Mike Harrity, the president of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Association, did not return calls for comment.

The annual St. Patrick’s Parade through downtown Scranton is one of the largest in the country, and the dinners hosted by the Friendly Sons and the Society of Irish Women often have featured prominent national and international figures. Last year, President Barack Obama, then a senator, spoke at the Irish Women’s dinner; Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern spoke at the Friendly Sons’ dinner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then a senator, marched in the parade.

Although bishops of the diocese have historically attended the Friendly Sons’ dinner, Bishop Martino has never participated.

Bishop’s long fight

■ April 11, 2004: Bishop Martino says in an interview that he would “very, very seriously consider” denying Holy Communion to politicians who have supported abortion rights.

■ Sept. 29: The Catholic Light prints a statement by Bishop Martino: “A Catholic would be unworthy to receive Holy Communion if he or she were deliberately to vote for a candidate precisely because of that candidate’s permissive stand on abortion.”

■ Sept. 15, 2005: The bishop issues a pastoral letter: “I will not tolerate any politician who claims to be a faithful Catholic who is not genuinely pro-life.”

■ Sept. 30, 2008: Bishop Martino issues a pastoral letter to be in read at Masses telling Catholic voters that no other voting issue but euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research are as morally grave as abortion.

■ Oct. 19: Bishop Martino arrives unannounced at a voters’ forum in a Honesdale church and chastises the group for discussing excerpts from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ position on voting issues. The document defines abortion and euthanasia, as well as racism, torture and genocide, as among the most important issues.

PDF of Actual Letter

Recent Posts on Te Deum Laudamus involving Bishop Martino:

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!