Cardinal Dolan, please step down as Grand Marshal: an open letter
Editor’s Note: A parishioner in the Archdiocese of New York wrote the following open letter to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan in response to the cardinal’s defense of his decision to serve as Grand Marshal in the 2015 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. For full context, see the cardinal’s column here.
Thank you for devoting your September 17 column to clarifying your response to the recent decision to allow [email protected] to march in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Much as it pains me to say it, I am even more concerned now than I was before.
In your explanation, you reiterate your insistence that you don’t control who is allowed to march in the parade, that this has always been the decision of the Parade Committee. No doubt, although that didn’t seem to prevent Cardinal O’Connor from stepping up and publicly opposing the identical request, in the not-too-distant past. Either way, it begs the bigger point: this is the kind of response we might expect from a politician, not a shepherd. It is hard to imagine William Wallace explaining to his countrymen that Edward Longshanks “did not ask my approval, nor did he need to” on whether to institute prima nocta. Sorry lads, out of my hands.
Had you stopped there, and said nothing more, at least those of us who want to be faithful and stand by our bishop could have, in charity, assumed there was more to the matter and trusted in your discretion. But you went two steps further. First, you insisted that the Parade Committee’s decision to include openly homosexual groups was not a cause for you to step down as Grand Marshal, and secondly, you commended the committee’s policy change saying, “I have no trouble with the decision at all...I think the decision is a wise one.”
Honestly, Your Eminence, when I read this I felt like I had been punched in the stomach by my own father. The emotional blow was greater than the physical could ever have been.
Regarding your statement that the decision was “wise,” you cite the committee’s worry about a seemingly invincible perception that the parade’s policy was biased and discriminatory, even though you believed the policy was neither. If this be so, surely the only response is to continue to speak the truth with clarity and charity—till kingdom come, if necessary. Acceding to what is false abets falsehood.
But let’s allow that somehow, some avoidable harm is done by the perception of some that the parade’s policy is unfair. I would argue that such a “scandal” is a piker compared to the one that you have now brought upon us. That is, the scandal of dereliction: the perception—however incorrect—that a prince of the Church is backing away from bedrock Catholic teaching, or is reluctant to uphold it. You said the most important question you asked yourself was whether the new policy “violate[s] Catholic faith or morals.” Indeed. Even assuming it does not, was equal consideration given to the potential for creating new scandal among the faithful, as was given to addressing the sensitivities of those who, for the most part, oppose or are indifferent to Church teaching?
Because here’s how the “messaging” is working out here in the vineyard, with help from the secular press: this is one more sign that the Church is gradually redefining its teaching on sexuality. It’s getting with the program. This false message will reach a crescendo on March 17, 2015, when you preside as Grand Marshal: the TV broadcast will use a split screen to show the smiling and waving Grand Marshal, leader of the American Church, on one side, and gay-identifying marchers under gay-identified banners, on the other. I can only guess what the New York Post will put on their cover the next morning. The point is, as unfounded as this message might be, it does and will press hard on the hearts of the faithful, sowing confusion and discouragement. I have yet to speak to a single Catholic who isn’t profoundly discomfited by your response. Not one. And wasn’t the decision to change the parade’s policy based upon addressing a stubborn, but false, perception?
As a vexing side note, perhaps the most ill-served of all by this new scandal are those who are contending bravely against the affliction of same-sex attraction, who may well see—or want to see—this as an invitation to give up the struggle to be chaste.
Which brings us to identity, and the most perplexing part of your explanation: the jaw dropping claim that “while actions are immoral, identity is not!” [Your exclamation point]. The best I can construe here is that you intended to say “predilection” or “proclivity,” not identity. We are all sinners called to repentance, with different predominant vices. But we know that any sinful tendency, whether by genetic predisposition or choice, can be overcome through cooperation with grace. To identify oneself with one’s sin is not to repent of it but to become it. To call yourself “gay” means you do it. To march under a banner with that word means you’re proud of it. This is a fact almost too elementary to labor. Surely Your Eminence is not the only one in New York who doesn't know that any group calling itself OUT is, like the magazine, an advocate.
By your reasoning, the Parade Committee must also include pick pockets, pedophiles and prevaricators of Irish ancestry—even if they have not come up with a nice euphemism for their favorite vice. That is, of course, as long as they are just identifying, not advocating. You wrote, “if the Parade Committee allowed itself to publicize its advocacy of any actions contrary to Church teachings, I would object.” Well, there are your grounds for objecting. If you doubt me, why don’t you meet with some members of [email protected] and ask them if they are proud of their lifestyle and would encourage anyone with same-sex attraction to embrace it. (And while you’re at it, you might ask how many of their members are of Irish ancestry.)
I happen to right now be reading Whittaker Chambers’ majestic apologia, Witness. In the opening chapter, written as a letter to his beloved children, he defines a witness as “a man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences.” Right now, Iraqi Christians are witnessing to their faith by suffering bloody martyrdom. Like all people of good will, I am horrified by the stories and images I see. But I am also edified by their courage. I entreat you as our shepherd, to be a witness for your flock. In these daunting days, we need a Braveheart.
Please prayerfully reconsider your statements, decry the committee’s decision, and step down as Grand Marshal.
Respectfully yours in Christ,
Douglas Dewey works in the health care field and formerly worked in the financial industry in Manhattan. He and his wife have ten children and attend Mass at Holy Innocents Parish in Pleasantville, New York.