NORFOLK, VA, March 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Virginia’s bishops are lending their support to Catholic groups who have decided to withdraw from Norfolk’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade this weekend after the Knights of Columbus council who organize the event chose to name the pro-abortion and pro-same-sex “marriage” Gov. Terry McAuliffe as grand marshal.
Knights of Columbus Council 3548’s parish priest, Father Dan Beeman of Holy Trinity Parish in Norfolk, has already strongly criticized the choice and announced that he was severing the council’s ties with his parish. As many as a half dozen Catholic schools have also decided to pull out.
Now Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo and Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, who also serves as state chaplain for the Knights of Columbus, are adding their voices to the critics.
“We support the local parish, Catholic schools and entities that have decided that, in this case, adhering to their faith means withdrawing from the parade,” they wrote in a joint statement Wednesday. “It is an erroneous and serious mistake in judgment for any Catholic organization to grant awards, honors and platforms to any public person who clearly acts in defiance to Catholic teaching.”
“While one must always respect the Office of the Governor and the person holding that office, and dialogue should be fostered, one cannot deny that the Governor has made public statements in opposition to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church on issues pertaining to the dignity of human life and marriage,” they continue.
“The decision of the local council to invite the Governor to be the Grand Marshal does not reflect the stance of the Knights of Columbus international order, the Bishops of the Dioceses of Richmond or Arlington, or the Catholic Church,” they add. “As we go forward, we are confident that every council of Knights of Columbus within the Commonwealth of Virginia will carefully weigh future invitations and selections in light of the fullness of Church teaching.”
The Holy Trinity Knights have organized the St. Patrick’s Day parade for 48 years, and this year they went against the request of Father Beeman and the local bishop, Bishop DiLorenzo, to keep the parade non-political and refrain from honoring political figures, especially those who support things that violate Church teaching.
Father Beeman wrote his parishioners this past weekend to inform them of the Knights’ parade committee keeping the choice of McAuliffe from him and their subsequent decision to keep him as grand marshal even after the state council for the Knights had told him an alternative grand marshal would be chosen.
“Governor McAuliffe stands contrary to the Catholic Church in not one but many of the most essential teachings of the Church in the political arena,” Father Beeman wrote. “It is the clear teaching of the Bishops of the United States in Catholics in Political Life that, ‘the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.’”
McAuliffe has promised to block any legislative restrictions on abortion, and he has performed homosexual “weddings” since his 2014 election, the first Virginia governor to do so.
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“There is a difference between respecting the Office of Governor and allowing the Governor to march in the parade and honoring the Governor by naming him the Grand Marshall and official host of the parade,” Father Beeman continued. “The Knights have chosen to act on their own, against the clear advice and teaching of the Church.”
McAuliffe, a Catholic, issued a statement through his spokesman:
Governor McAuliffe is a lifelong Catholic, who takes his faith very seriously. He also believes in keeping government out of decisions that should be left to women and their doctors, or to consenting adults who love each other. He is committed to building a new Virginia economy that is open and welcoming to people of all races, genders, creeds and sexual orientation.
Parents at one of the schools and others involved with them supported the decision to withdraw from the parade.
“As Catholics, we have to stand up for the tenants of our beliefs,” parent Kay Killian said, according to WAVY.com. “Catholics don’t believe in abortion.”
The news station asked the head of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which sets up the schools marching in the parade, whether this was unfairly hurting the students.
“Penalizing the kids was not our intention,” Hibernians President Kevin Cassidy said. “It was the only way we felt we could make a statement because there was an affront to our principals. It really bothered many of us.”
Parent Lequita Ogbomoh was also among those who did not support the choice of McAuliffe as grand marshal. “I think it is a good decision,” she said. “For me, personally, you have to stand for something these days.”
Knights of Columbus Council 3458 did not respond to LifeSiteNews’ request for comment.