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Catholic activists organizing boycott of holiday dinner

Menino's stance mischaracterizes faith, they say

A Catholic network of antiabortion activists is trying to mount a boycott of an annual Christmas dinner that raises money for Catholic Charities, the social service arm of the Archdiocese of Boston.

The group, which has about 50 activists, began asking major donors last week to rescind their sponsorship of tables at the black-tie benefit banquet, planned for Dec. 9 at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

The event will honor Mayor Thomas M. Menino, whom the boycott organizers criticize for being a Catholic in public office who contravenes the Vatican's teachings on abortion and gay marriage.

''It's unacceptable for [Catholic Charities] to honor someone who stands in the public square and mischaracterizes our faith," said Carol McKinley, spokeswoman for Faithful Voice, an antiabortion group based in Boston. Some Faithful Voice members are among those trying to organize the boycott.

So far, only one donor has committed to the boycott, said McKinley, who declined to name the donor. She described him as a Boston businessman who gives more than $10,000 a year to Catholic Charities. The man had already reserved $500-per-person plates for himself and his wife, but has asked for his money back, McKinley said. He has also promised to withhold money from the charity in the future, she said, because Catholic Charities has handled adoptions by same-sex couples.

Archdiocesan spokesman Terrence C. Donilon referred requests for comment yesterday to Catholic Charities. A spokesman for Catholic Charities did not return calls. Menino, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.

McKinley said the activists plan to urge boycotts of the charity well beyond the benefit dinner, hoping to reduce donations by at least $100,000 in the next six months.

She said the activists have already asked about 10 donors to withdraw their tables, and plan tomorrow to call the Knights of Columbus, an international Catholic men's fraternal benefit society with 45,000 members in Massachusetts.

Richard Guerriero, state deputy of the Knights of Columbus, said he knows about the boycott efforts although his group has not been formally contacted.

''We just received the announcement of Mayor Menino being honored and I have not discussed it with my board yet," said Guerriero, who said the issues are worth considering. ''We traditionally do go to the Catholic Charities dinner but we have not made a decision right now."

Paul Grogan, president of The Boston Foundation, which was identified by Catholic Charities in its 2004 annual report as a major donor contributing more than $10,000, said the foundation plans to attend the dinner regardless of the boycott.

''Catholic Charities is a wonderful organization that serves the poor in our community," Grogan said. ''People trying to reduce funds for the poor as a way to protest the political position of the mayor is not something we have any sympathy with."

McKinley also plans to organize a demonstration outside the dinner if Menino attends. She expects between 500 and 1,000 protestors.

''If the mayor says here are the things you can think when you're Catholic, he's basically saying your moms and dads are wrong," McKinley said.

In addition to McKinley's efforts, the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts sent a letter to Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley on Friday, asking him not to attend the dinner because Menino is invited.

C.J. Doyle, the league's executive director, in a phone interview yesterday cited the archdiocese's policy ''prohibiting church agencies from either honoring or providing a public forum for political figures who dissent from Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life."

''Mayor Menino's presence at this dinner represents an inexplicable and egregious violation of their own policy," Doyle said.

Tracy Jan can be reached at

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