Peter Baklinski

Choosing Hope and Grace: How two babies who shared one heart momentarily brought heaven to earth

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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(Editor’s note: LifeSiteNews dedicates this story to Luci and Chris who celebrate tomorrow the 3rd anniversary of the passing of their children Hope and Grace. Luci told LifeSiteNews that the Klare family is flourishing with baby Joseph being born just in time (2 weeks ago) to give older sister Maria, age 2, a playmate.)

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COVINGTON, Kentucky, June 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Luci and Chris Klare were barely married three months when, in December 2008, a pregnancy test revealed that they were nine months away from becoming a family. The couple was exuberant.

“It was joyful and frightening, but mostly pure elation,” recounted Luci on her family’s blog.

But the parents’ elation was short-lived. Two months into the pregnancy a visit to the doctor revealed that Luci was carrying conjoined twins who amazingly shared a single beating heart.

The doctor gave the twins one percent chance of survival.

Luci and Chris remember experiencing an impossible mix of emotions. They were elated by the thought of having twins but devastated by the thought of losing their babies so quickly.

The couple spent a number of days crying in each other’s arms, trying to find a way to make sense of the situation.

“God, why us?,” they asked time and time again.

Luci found consolation in remembering the loud and clear thumping of her babies’ heartbeat that she had heard during the doctor’s appointment. “When I heard their heart beat for the first time, I was in love.” The echo of that heartbeat in her memory reminded her that she was still a mother and these unusual babies were still her children.

“It didn’t matter what form they came in or what their chances were, they were our children,” the parents realized.

But the parents could not help but look upon the forthcoming birth of their children with fear and uncertainty.

“We struggled countless times, but we took it one day at a time and one prayer at a time. Each day brought new hope as we grew closer to them being born. We still cried often together — when we were scared of what our future held — but those days were less often than the ones where we laughed and felt overjoyed to feel them kick, to see them grow in our weekly ultrasounds, and to hear their heart beating…”

While the parents did not “completely understand” how to make sense of what was happening, they “simply wanted to trust” that what was put before them “was the will of God, and therefore perfect”.

Luci and Chris’s close friends and family members found it hard to understand why the young couple was given such a heavy burden to bear. But the young couple began to see things through the eyes of faith.

“We feel chosen for this task”, the parents learned to say to their friends and family members. “Our sufferings come in so many different ways and in so many different sizes. The suffering is only not knowing when they will be with us or leave us. But we have been chosen and are grateful to be given this chance to love two children of whom many mothers and fathers would have chosen to terminate their chances of life.”

Treasuring the Gift

In June 2009, Luci gave birth to conjoined girls, naming them Hope and Grace. Together they weighed 6.8 pounds. Each had a full head of hair.

“They were born kissing and hugging each other, and they were beautiful,” Chris remembers.

The parents knew that they did not have much time with their precious daughters.

The doctors gently placed the baby girls into the arms of Chris, who immediately baptized them so that they would now belong to God’s family. During the brief ceremony, both girls had their eyes open and were gazing upon their father and their mother.

“One of the girls looked over at her mom and gave her a big wink,” Chris remembers.

For the next 46 minutes, Luci and Chris’s whole universe revolved around treasuring the fragile gift of their tiny children.

Luci held the girls upon her chest, placing their single heart right next to hers. “We cried in joy and love. And we sat there together as a family in love,” she said.

“They watched every breath and savored each second” recounted Luci’s sister Maria who was in the hospital room.

Luci and Chris could not stop gazing upon their girls with love.

Maria recounted how Luci kept saying over and over again, “I’m just bursting with joy, I can’t explain it. I just love them so much.”

“I’m not sure what it feels like for Heaven to pour down on me, but this must be it,” said Luci. “I am just so happy.”

The girls’ time of departure was beginning to draw near. Chris held his babies until they took their last breath and their single heart gave its last beat.

“Then the little girls peacefully, so very peacefully, left for their trip to paradise. Hand in hand, they went eagerly to see the King who created them so specially,” said Maria.

Shortly after the girls’ passing, Luci and Chris invited family members into the hospital room to bid farewell to the tiny babies.

“Everyone rotated into the hospital room a little at a time,” said Maria. “Most of us held the little treasures and marveled at their tiny hands and long feet … Everyone just kept saying, ‘They are so beautiful.’”

It was finally time for Luci and Chris to say a final farewell to their baby girls. The parents wept bitterly.

“From the depths of their souls came a sorrow that only a parent who has lost a child could know,” said Maria.

Love Letters

Two weeks passed by.

Luci found the courage to share on her family’s blog the miracle of love that took place in the hospital room. She wrote her thoughts in the form of a love letter to Hope and Grace.

“My Dearest Daughters,

“I miss you. I love you. It’s hard to believe that it was more than two weeks ago that I received the news that you were to be born to me that Tuesday evening. I was so scared. I was so unprepared to finally meet you. I truly was not ready to part from the joy you brought while I carried you.

“I shook with such anguish knowing that once you left the comfort of my belly, that you would shortly leave me forever here on earth.

“You came to us at 6:01 pm, and you both took your first breaths of life. When I saw them carry you both over to the warming table and your Pappa by your side to baptize you, it was the proudest moment of my life. I couldn’t believe that you were mine and that God had given me such a beautiful family.

“It is an image I will never forget - Your Pappa in his blue scrubs baptizing your foreheads with holy water, and though I could not see your face Hope, I know your eyes were open looking at your father. And Grace your eyes open looking at me for the first time. To see your eyes so big and beautiful staring back at me let me know that the ultimate gift had been given to your Pappa and I - the gift of life.

“When your Pappa brought you over to my arms I was so impatient to get every glimpse of you I could. We sat together for the first time as a family. How big all our hearts grew in that moment.

“In your Pappa’s arms and my hand caressing your faces, I was in love.

“I fell in love with your curly hair, your smooshed noses, your long fingers and long feet and so in love with your beautiful bodies that were connected together in a hug so tight, that even God did not choose to separate.

“I was so proud to show you to our families that gathered in prayer and love to welcome you into this world. We were all there, expecting you to come to us and to fill our hearts, and you did.

“How I miss your sweet lives in my arms. It is a feeling I will never forget for the rest of my life.

“When I go to bed, I can still feel you on my chest, pressing our hearts against each other, as we did in the hospital bed. And I hold my heart so tightly as though I am holding you again.

“And though your sweet heart finished beating, the hearts of your Pappa and I are still here.

“We were not overwhelmed with grief or pain: we saw such beauty and comfort in knowing that you were here and with us. I couldn’t stop the awe that overwhelmed me in that you were right there in my arms snuggling with me. It was truly what I had asked the Lord for, and he did give it to me.

“And as I watched your Pappa bathe you and dress you, and look at you in such pride and love, I think I fell in love with you three all over again.

“And today, my sweet Hope and Grace, I have to continue without seeing your faces or watching your Pappa hold you, until we are called to be with you in Heaven. And this hurts my heart the most.

“I know you must hate it when I cry everyday and have this longing pain to be with you, but it is because I love you. It is good this pain and suffering I feel for you daily, for I hope that it only makes me stronger to be a saint like you have taught me; that way, I may go to Heaven right away and sweep you back into my arms again where I desperately need you to be.

“Please pray for me, girls that I will be strong, that I will be patient and most of all that I will be completely surrendered to God’s Will.

“We have had such a tremendous journey together. Haven’t we? You have been with me at each second, of each moment of each day for the past 8 months and now you are with Jesus.

“Thank you my darlings for bringing me the greatest joy my heart has ever known. Thank you my sweet dumplings for making me so proud of who you have become to so many people who have heard your story of life.

“Thank you Hope and Grace for filling my heart with your love. I will always cherish and appreciate that God gave you to us. He gave your Pappa and I life with you in our arms; something that was supposed to have never even have happened.

“I am so unworthy of such a gift.

“You brought to me Heaven in a little room, in this big world.

“God has called you girls each by name. We love you and will be with you again.”

A year later, on the anniversary of their birthday, Chris wrote his own letter of love to his departed daughters.

“One year ago today at 6:01 pm you made me the proudest and happiest Papa ever! It was on June 23, 2009 when I finally received the answers to my prayers.

“I got to see you face-to-face … I got to meet my beautiful daughters.

“It was both of you who showed me the beauty of life, the heavenly sacrifices and the gratitude of all that God has blessed me with. I thank you both for giving me the honor of loving you, reading to you, holding you until you left for a higher journey, and for allowing me to be your Papa.

“You girls, mean more to me than words can ever describe. So much that I have reserved a place in my heart especially for you. A place that can never be filled and a constant reminder of what I must fulfill to someday be given an eternal opportunity to meet you face-to-face and hold you again.”

The Beauty of Life

Photographer Melanie Pace, whose profound pictures capture the birth, life, and death of the two girls summarized in her own words the power of love that she witnessed that day in the hospital room: “God gave us these girls to teach us the beauty of life. To remind us how blessed we are even in times when it feels quite the opposite.”

Today, Luci and Chris find consolation in the words of the Psalmist: “you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14).”

“To this very day I read this verse and look at pictures of Hope and Grace and see God’s perfection,” said Luci to LifeSiteNews. “I see how much effort God put into ‘knitting’ two such beautiful souls together through one heart and how blessed I am to be their mother. Their lives have touched so many people in so many incredible ways.”

“Hope and Grace, you showed me that all this time your Pappa and I were right about you, in that you are fighters for life and for faith! We were right in that, even though God has asked so much of our little family, that much was also given to us. It is something only that our four souls will truly ever know … how beautiful it all really was ... and is.”

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Are you praying for the upcoming Synod on the Family? You should be, and here’s why

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By John-Henry Westen

Catholics, and all Christians who value family values, should be praying earnestly for the Catholic Church as a struggle over critical family issues is coming to a head in the run-up to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which takes place October 5-19. 

Augmenting the concerns is the fact that some of the cardinals closest to Pope Francis himself are increasingly in public disagreement over crucial matters related to faith and family. For some, the concerns reach right to the pope himself.

While Synod preparations have been going on for a year, Sunday’s weddings of 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica by Pope Francis presented a figurative, and perhaps foreboding launch.

In a press release prior to the ceremony, the Rome diocese inexplicably went out of its way to highlight the fact that some of couples the pope was going to marry were cohabiting. "Those who will get married Sunday are couples like many others,” it said. “There are those who are already cohabitating; who already have children.”

Unsurprisingly, the mainstream press took the bait and seized upon this statement to run headline after headline pushing the confusing notion that the event was a prelude to, or evidence of, a change in Church teaching on marriage.

Headlines like: 

All I can do is pray that the public fallout from these wedding ceremonies does not foreshadow the public outcome of the Synod. If so, we could be headed for a tragedy akin to the tragedy of the late sixties when, despite the proclamation of the truth of Humanae Vitae against contraception, the effect among ordinary Catholics was a near universal rejection of the teaching in practice.

What to expect at the Synod

The official list of those taking part in the Synod includes 114 presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, 25 heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, nine members of the Ordinary Council for the Secretariat, the Secretary General, the Undersecretary, three religious elected by the Union of Superiors General, 26 members appointed by the Pontiff, eight fraternal delegates, and 38 auditors, among whom are 13 married couples and 16 experts.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of Cardinal Kasper’s intervention at the Consistory of Cardinals earlier this year, in which he laid out a contentious proposal to allow Catholics who have been divorced and then ‘remarried’ outside the Church to receive Communion. 

Since then a bevy of heavy-hitter cardinals have fought that proposal, including:

Today, however, Cardinal Kasper said the “attacks” from these cardinals were not so much directed at him but at Pope Francis, since, claims Kasper, he discussed his intervention with the pope and gained his approval.

The claim has some basis, since the day after Kasper made the proposal, before it was made public, Pope Francis praised it publicly.  According to Vatican Information Service, the Holy Father said:

I read and reread Cardinal Walter Kasper's document and I would like to thank him, as I found it to be a work of profound theology, and also a serene theological reflection. It is pleasant to read serene theology. And I also found what St. Ignacius described as the 'sensus Ecclesiae', love for the Mother Church. ... It did me good, and an idea came to mind – please excuse me, Eminence, if I embarrass you – but my idea was that this is what we call ‘doing theology on one's knees’. Thank you, thank you.

Of note, Vatican correspondent Sébastien Maillard, writing for France’s La Croix, reports today that Pope Francis is “irritated” by the release of a book containing criticisms of the Kasper proposal by five cardinals.

As LifeSiteNews.com reported yesterday, one of those authors, Cardinal Raymond Burke, is being demoted from his headship of the Apostolic Signatura. The only post planned for the 66-year-old cardinal thus far is patron of the Order of Malta. 

Cardinal Burke’s pre-Synod interventions go beyond the divorce and remarriage question and into the matter of homosexuality.  In a recent interview Cardinal Burke gave a clear refutation of the misuse of Pope Francis’ famed ‘Who am I to judge’ quote to justify homosexuality.

While the issue of the Church’s teachings on homosexuality is seldom raised in reference to the Synod, with most of the emphasis being placed on the question of divorce and remarriage, it is mentioned in the working document, or ‘Instrumentum Laboris’, of the Synod.

As with the matter of divorce, no doctrine regarding homosexuality can be changed, but much confusion can still be sown under the auspices of adjustments to “pastoral” practice. Without a clear teaching from the Synod, the effects could be similar to the shift in “pastoral” practice among dissenting clergy after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, which led to the use of artificial contraception by most Catholics.

Already and for many years there has been de facto broad acceptance of homosexual sexual practices in many Catholic schools, universities and many other institutions, with many staff being active homosexuals in open defiance of Catholic moral teaching.

Regarding the Synod’s deliberations on homosexuality, it does not bode well that one of Pope Francis’ personal appointees to the Synod is retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels.  The selection is remarkable because of Danneels was caught on tape in 2010 urging a victim who had been sexually abused by a bishop-friend of Danneels, to be silent.  Then, only last year Danneels praised as a “positive development” that states were opening up civil marriage to homosexuals.

Then, just this week, as reported on the Rorate Caeli blog, one of the three Synod presidents gave an interview with the leading Brazilian newspaper in which he said that while stable unions between homosexual persons cannot be equated to marriage, the Church has always tried to show respect for such unions.

The statement matches that of another prominent Synod participant, Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who in 2010 spoke of giving more consideration to ‘the quality’ of homosexual relationships. “We should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships. A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous,” Schönborn said.

In the end, while there is currently a public battle in the Vatican that is unprecedented in modern history, the faith will not and cannot change.  As faithful Catholics, and Christians, we must cling to the Truths of Christ regarding the family and live them out in our own lives first and foremost.  That is difficult, to be sure, especially in our sex-saturated culture, but with Christ (and only with Him) all things are possible. 

Plead with heaven for the pope and the bishops in the Synod.  LifeSiteNews will be there reporting from Rome, and, with your prayers and support, be of service to those defending truth.

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Poet: I ‘would’ve died’ for my aborted daughter’s ‘right to choose,’ just ‘like she died for mine’ (VIDEO)

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By Ben Johnson

What kind of mother asks her baby to die for her? And what kind of media outlet celebrates that?

To take the second question first, The Huffington Post is promoting a video featuring Scottish “poet” Leyla Josephine, celebrating her decision to abort her daughter. The video, “I Think She Was a She,” was uploaded to YouTube a month ago.

In the video Josephine, decked out in military camouflage, justifies herself in part by saying that she would have been willing to serve as a sacrifice to abortion just as she offered her daughter to the idol of “choice.”

“I would’ve supported her right to choose – to choose a life for herself, a path for herself. I would’ve died for that right like she died for mine,” she said.

In the next rhyming line, she addresses her unborn daughter: “I’m sorry, but you came at the wrong time.”

“I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed," she continues – a phrase she repeats a total of six times. She repeats the phrase "This is my body" three times. (She also takes the Lord's name in vain once.)

In the early part of the video, she describes her belief that her child was a girl and imagines a life where she had given birth to her daughter.

“I know she was a she,” she says. “I would have made sure that there was space on the walls to measure her height,” she adds. “I would have made sure I was a good mother.”

At one point she appears to describe the emotional aftermath of her choice as “a hollowness that feels full, a numbness that feels heavy.”

But she later calls the idea that her child was a girl or a boy “bull---t” and affirms, yet again, she is not ashamed.

This provokes a few observations:

1. If she knew her child's sex, she must have had a late-term abortion. Our gentle, healing restoration is needed in a world marred by so much aggression and anger in the name of political orthodoxy.

2. Fr. Frank Pavone has written, ”Did you ever realize that the same four words that were used by the Lord Jesus to save the world are also used by abortion advocates? 'This is My Body.'” To paraphrase him, he notes the difference. One, by surrendering His life on the Cross, gave life to the world. The abortion industry uses this phrase to impose its will on the bodies of separate, living human beings who have not harmed anyone.

3. The most chilling phrase in the video is her statement, “I would’ve supported her right to choose...I would’ve died for that right like she died for mine.”

First of all, her daughter did not die for the “right to choose.” Her daughter was not sacrificed for the inalienable “good” of keeping abortion-on-demand legal (and, in the UK, taxpayer-subsidized). Politicians are bribed to maintain it; no baby needs to die for it. Josephine's child died because HuffPo's hero of the moment chose not to carry the baby to term and place him/her in the hands of loving adoptive parents who would have cherished her baby – whether it was actually male, female, or intersex.

Josephine describes the emotions that actually led to the abortion only metaphorically – e.g., she compares the abortion to chopping down a cherry tree – but that angst is the root (so to speak) of the abortion, not the great and grand cause of assuring that other women have the right to go through the same soul-crushing grief.

That intimation that her daughter died for “choice” – that she offered her baby as a living sacrifice on the altar of abortion – confirms the darkest rhetoric of the pro-life movement: That for some in the movement, abortion is sometimes regarded as an idol.

And that raises one other, more universally held question: What kind of parent asks his son or daughter to die for the “right” to abortion? Parents are supposed to be the one who sacrificially care for their children, who forsake their own comfort, who do whatever is necessary – even die – to keep their children safe, healthy, and well. Josephine's blithe, “Sorry, but you came at the wrong time” sounds as hollow as a gangland assassin's apology to the family caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. Abortion severs the love that God, or Mother Nature, or evolution, or whatever you choose to believe in placed within every pregnant woman to link the mother to her child.

The abortion lobby's rhetoric, which increasingly disregards the value of unborn life, is untethered by the bonds of human compassion, is fundamentally selfish and cold-blooded, and lacks a sense of humanity and brotherhood to the point of obliterating maternal love itself.

“Will a woman forget her child, so as not to have compassion upon the offspring of her womb?” God asks through the prophet Isaiah. “But if a woman should even forget these, yet I will not forget thee, saith the Lord.”

The pro-life movement exists precisely to set this upside-down order aright, to reinstate the natural love and compassion everyone should have for all of God's creation – most especially that between a mother and the innocent child she has helped create and fashion with her own DNA.

Cross-posted at TheRightsWriter.com.

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Cardinal Dolan greets worshipers and guests on the steps of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan after Easter mass on April 8, 2012 in New York City. Lev Radin / Shutterstock.com
Lisa Bourne

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Catholic leaders criticize Cardinal Dolan’s defense of gay group at St. Patrick’s Parade

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By Lisa Bourne
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New York Cardinal John O'Connor on the cover of the New York Post on January 11, 1993. http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan defended his decision to serve as grand marshal for the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Wednesday, in the wake of widespread criticism from Catholics after he praised the organizing committee for allowing a homosexual activist group to march.

“If the Parade Committee allowed a group to publicize its advocacy of any actions contrary to Church teaching, I’d object,” Dolan stated in his weekly column. On the contrary, he argued, “The committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church that are such an essential part of Irish culture.”

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, was not impressed with the cardinal’s argument. This is precisely about publicizing advocacy contrary to Catholic teaching,” he said.

“As a Catholic father I find there is rapidly contracting space where this shameful agenda is not stuck in the faces of my children,” Ruse told LifeSiteNews. “The Church should be protecting our children rather than abetting those who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of innocent souls."

Pat Archbold, a popular blogger at the National Catholic Register and who runs the Creative Minority Report blog, lambasted Dolan for suggesting the embrace and promotion of “gay identity” can be separated from the sin of homosexuality.

“This identity is not a morally-neutral God-given attribute such as male or female, black or white,” he said. “The identity is with the immoral choice to engage in immoral behavior.”

“The best that can be said in this situation is that these people choose to proudly identify themselves with an intrinsic disorder.  But in reality, it is worse than that,” he continued. “The people find their identity and pride in sin.  Either the Cardinal knows this or he doesn't, either way Cardinal Dolan reveals himself unequal to his responsibility as a successor of the Apostles.”

The parade committee changed its longstanding policy on September 3 after decades of pressure from homosexual groups. Upon being announced as the parade’s grand marshal later the same day, Cardinal Dolan said he had no trouble with the decision at all, calling it “wise.”

The organizers had never prohibited any marchers, but did not ban issue-focused banners and signs, whether promoting homosexuality or the pro-life cause.

Cardinal Dolan stated in his column Wednesday that he did not oppose the previous policy.

“This was simply a reasonable policy about banners and public identification, not about the sexual inclinations of participants,” he explained.

“I have been assured that the new group marching is not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching,” he said as well, “but simply identifying themselves as ‘Gay people of Irish ancestry.’”

The homosexual activist group that will march is called OUT@NBCUniversal, which describes itself as the employee resource group for LGBT & Straight Ally employees at the media giant.

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The network held the broadcast contract for parade coverage. Reports indicated the contract was about to expire, and that NBC joined in pressuring on parade officials.

Cardinal Dolan conceded in his column there were many thoughtful reasons for criticizing the parade policy change, and noted that he shared some of them.

“While a handful have been less than charitable in their reactions, I must admit that many of you have rather thoughtful reasons for criticizing the committee’s decision,” he said. “You observe that the former policy was fair; you worry that this is but another example of a capitulation to an ‘aggressive Gay agenda,’ which still will not appease their demands; and you wonder if this could make people think the Church no longer has a clear teaching on the nature of human sexuality.” 

However, he said, the most important question he had to ask himself was whether the new policy violated Catholic faith or morals.

In stressing that homosexual actions are sinful while identity is not, Cardinal Dolan said, “Catholic teaching is clear: ‘being Gay’ is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals.”

Making opinion paramount, the cardinal offered that the parade committee “tried to be admirably sensitive to Church teaching,” and even though the original policy was not at all unfair, the committee was “realistic in worrying that the public perception was the opposite, no matter how often they tried to explain its coherence and fairness.”

“They worried that the former policy was being interpreted as bias, exclusion, and discrimination against a group in our city,” Cardinal Dolan wrote. “Which, if true, would also be contrary to Church teaching.”

When the decision was announced and Cardinal Dolan named the parade’s grand marshal, Philip Lawler, director of Catholic Culture and editor for Catholic World News, called it a significant advance for homosexual activists, and a significant retreat for the Catholic Church.

Pointing out in his column that the media will be correct to concentrate on that narrative at next March’s event, Lawler identified what he said is almost certain to be the result of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“Next year there will be only one story-line of interest to the reporters who cover the annual parade in the world’s media capital: the triumph of the gay activists,” Lawler wrote.

“Photographers will be competing for the one ‘money’ shot: the picture of the contingent from OUT@NBCUniversal marching past the reviewing stand at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, under the benign smile of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.”

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