The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts lashed out at Boston’s mayor on Thursday for what they described as pressuring organizers to allow gays to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic League, described the inclusion of gay and lesbian groups as “entirely inappropriate” for a Catholic celebration and said it would destroy the “traditional character” of the South Boston parade.
“Saint Patrick was a Catholic archbishop and is a Catholic saint,” Doyle said in a statement Thursday. “How do you honor a Catholic saint by providing a platform to those who express pride in rejecting Catholic morality? And who castigate that morality as bigotry, hatred and homophobia?”
The League is an independent Catholic organization and operates separately from the Archdiocese of Boston. A spokesman for the archdiocese could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
In its statement, the Action League called Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s intervention “an attempt to impose a radically discordant message, entirely inappropriate to the celebration of Boston’s principal patron saint.”
“The feast of Saint Patrick commemorates the bishop and confessor through whom an entire people, in one lifetime, were converted from paganism to the Catholic and Apostolic Faith,” the League said. “Mayor Walsh’s efforts, if successful, would destroy the traditional character of the parade, empty it of its original meaning, and reduce it to a secular community festival, devoid of any religious significance.”
The group’s statement came after Walsh said he would not participate in the March 16 parade if gays are excluded, and after Walsh said he was trying to broker a deal with the organizers, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, that would allow gay groups to march.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said Thursday that the Catholic Action League’s statement does not change his stance on the issue.
“As the mayor of Boston, Mayor Walsh believes he is the mayor of all citizens and that everyone should have an opportunity to march,” said spokeswoman Lisa Pollack.
When asked if the League’s sentiments reflect the views of most Catholics in Boston, Doyle responded: “There is a difference between Catholics who practice their faith and attend Mass regularly and those who self-identify as Catholic.”
Parade organizer Philip J. Wuschke Jr. could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Walsh’s refusal to march would follow a similar stance by former Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who had not participated since 1995.
“Marching as a state rep and celebrating my heritage is a little different,” Walsh said on Wednesday. “As mayor, I feel like I should use my influence. I feel the parade should be inclusive.”
In 1995, John J. “Wacko” Hurley, the previous organizer of the parade, won a landmark ruling at the US Supreme Court that essentially granted private organizations the right to exclude groups if they presented a message that was contrary to the one the private organization was trying to convey.