“We’re not going to compromise”: Blessed Kateri shrine turns down New York tourism grant


Officials from the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs have turned down a $750 tourism grant from Montgomery County to help pay for the canonization ceremony of Kateri Tekakwitha.

The county Board of Supervisors awarded the grant in February, one of several given to area agencies to promote tourism. County officials believe as many as 5,000 people will come to Auriesville for the ceremony conferring sainthood on Kateri, a member of the Mohawk tribe who was born in 1656 near present-day Auriesville. The ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 21 at the shrine.

The grant was part of $11,600 awarded to agencies throughout the county to promote tourism. As soon as the award to the shrine was announced, officials from the Washington D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State began contacting local officials and telling them the grant violated the First Amendment of the Constitution, which is widely interpreted to maintain the separation of church and state.

At a meeting of the county’s Economic Development and Planning Committee earlier this month, Amsterdam 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeff Stark offered a resolution changing the language of the original proposal, adding the words, “no public money in the form of the tourism grant [shall] be used for sectarian purposes” and “all grant money … shall be used for valid, secular purposes.” That resolution remains on the agenda for the full board of supervisors to consider at its meeting Tuesday.

Shrine spokeswoman Beth Lynch said Friday the grant was initially accepted, but the new conditions made it impossible to take the money.

“We did not initially turn down the grant, but we can’t sign the addendum,” shrine spokeswoman Beth Lynch said Friday. “We can’t sign anything with those conditions. We’re not a secular organization. We are who we are, and we’re not going to compromise, dilute or disintegrate that.”

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  1. midwestlady says:

    Excellent choice. I am going to have to put this place on my bucket list of places to visit. Sounds like a great choice!

  2. Eugene Pagano says:

    The addendum only required the same conditions that the Supreme Court requires for aid to religious schools, such as the busing and textbooks that the State of New York provides to parochial schools.

  3. Good for them! I’m sure with the patronage of good folks like “midwestlady” they will have no problem making up the crummy $750 that was dangled in front of them like bait.

    Don’t know how far Auriesville is from where I live, but I will make an effort to get there. Like “midwestlady,” visiting there is going on my “bucket list” as well :-)

    As for (the Rev.) Barry Lynn Esquire’s organization (that’s how he styles himself on his Wikipedia article heading, as an Esq/attorney, not as a reverend) — the inaptly-titled “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” — someone ought to look into their funding and who backs them. After all, there is nothing fair or un-partisan about them, and I’m sure an analysis of their financial backers will substantiate the reason why.

  4. It turns out that Auriesville (site of the shrine) is pretty easy to reach. It’s just off Interstate 90 (NY Thruway) and only 35-40 miles west of Albany on I-90.

    Here’s a link to the shrine’s website: http://www.martyrshrine.org/pages/home.html

  5. County officials believe as many as 5,000 people will come to Auriesville for the ceremony conferring sainthood on Kateri, a member of the Mohawk tribe who was born in 1656 near present-day Auriesville. The ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 21 at the shrine.

    I’m confused. I thought the Pope conferred sainthood and that the ceremony was done in Rome. Or is this a Vatican II thing? We Orthodox do it locally. But the Roman Church is much more centralized.

  6. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    I guess it’s time to kick the Old North Church out of Boston’s National Historic Park. The Church is a functioning Episcopal Church and is where the lanterns were hung to signal Paul Revere. It also has received hundreds of thousands of federal dollars for repair and upkeep. And they have not had to declare their church a secular enterprise to qualify for financial help.
    The Martyrs Shrine is also a combination of a functioning religious place and a historic location.
    The shrine is on the location where a number of the earliest Europeans in the area were massacred.
    As a matter of principle the shrine should fight to get the money rather than give in to the secular prejudices and bigoted political tactics of some.

  7. WOW. O___O You “Americans United for Separation of Church and State ” never fail to show the world what a stupid group you are. Seriously? Get a life, PLEASE! Again…. O___O WOW.

  8. pagansister says:

    They did what they considered correct under the circumstances.

  9. Having been to the shrine several times I don’t know if it needs that money (all places need money, I know) but the peace and the sense of awe this shrine inspired is beyond description, and are worthy of support from all Catholics. At one time my highly active 8 year old son found the time to sit and think about his First Communion and what it meant to him – he told me that the silence of the dale where Father Jogues was martyred was almost frightening and yet he said restful. It makes me shiver when I think of that – we try to go there at least once every couple of years. For those of you haven’t been there it is worth the trip and the visit.

  10. I think this is an initiative of Pope Benedict’s. It is a return to an older practice in the Western Church. If I understand correctly, Benedict thinks it is more appropriate to celebrate a beatification and canonization in the place where the saint’s cult is the strongest.

  11. Amsterdam 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeff Stark is a Democrat.

    “Also in attendance were Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick, and newly-elected fellow Democrats 2nd Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman and 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeffrey Stark, who is also the city’s Democratic Committee chairman. Mayor Ann Thane, also a Democrat, was not in attendance.”


  12. The canonization itself will take place at St. Peter’s on 21 October. The event at the shrine that same day will celebrate this blessed event. So in Auriesville they will be “celebrating” the fact that Blessed Kateri is being canonized, undoubtedly with Holy Mass, but the Pope will be “celebrating the Mass of canonization” in Rome.

    (Pope Benedict has returned to the practice of beatifications being celebrated locally, but canonizations are celebrated in Rome.)

  13. The state/county has no business whatsoever spending tax money on a canonization ceremony. It’ s a 100% pure sectarian activity, and it was unfair to ask the church to pretend otherwise. Nor does it speak well of the power of a saint or the dedication of the faithful if they need public money to pull off a celebration of one of their own. At least in the instance of the Old North Church, there was an ostensible non-religious purpose. The money was given by the Bush administration with the intent to spit in the eye of church/state separation, but at least on paper some important formalities were observed. One, the building does have true national historic significance. Two, the grant for building repairs was administered by a legally separate foundation, and the argument could be made that the whole deal was to restore a landmark, not support a congregation which just happened to be functioning there. This canonization grant was not defensible on any of these grounds. Now, I think it would be reasonable for the county or public funded tourism agency to include a listing and photos for the site on its tourism brochures/ads along with other stuff.

  14. midwestlady says:

    The government expected them to take the hit for $750????

    Now look: I’m aware that something wrong is wrong at any price. But this is not only wrong, but insulting at $750. That’s just ridiculous. I’m glad they are faithful. They deserve our visits and our thanks.

  15. midwestlady says:

    The canonization ceremony itself has been somewhat decentralized during the papacy of Benedict XVI. There are new procedures and some other documents at the Vatican’s website. I won’t link them here, but you can search them out under the Congregation for the Causes of Saints there. The result is that some ceremonies and recognitions happen more locally now, I believe.

  16. midwestlady says:

    From what I’m reading, declarations of blessedness and beatifications happen locally. John V. is right, I think, about canonizations still being in Rome. Sorry for the confusion. Anyway the Vatican website has more information under the group of documents for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

  17. midwestlady says:

    Yes, Catholic organizations should be very careful about asking for funds from public coffers. There are almost always strings attached. This is one of the big problems we’re having now, dealing with those “attached strings.”

  18. Irish Spectre says:

    …and, Ken, don’t forget number three, which is the Episcopal church’s effective advocacy, even amongst its own ordained ranks, of homosexual activity. That fact should merit it just oodles of additional government grant money, and for years to come; right??!!

  19. The article plainly states that the local government came to the Shrine with the money and no conditions. When the state put conditions on the donation, the Shrine simply said no thanks and heres your money back. So to accuse the Church of doing something wrong here is not accurate. I’m sure all of this publicity will actually create much more Han the measley $500 that the local government was donating.

  20. Suburbanbanshee says:

    There are a lot of historical sites in the US which are religious in nature, because religion is a big part of American history, especially in the areas of settlement and innovation.

    Any time a private group is maintaining a significant historical site and maybe needs help, it’s usually been the procedure of state, local, and federal governments to throw them some money, for the sake of historical pride. Nowadays, there are some who are determined to take no historical pride in anything that isn’t secular. They instead are engaged in the ancient pagan political and religious practice of damnatio memoriae, punishing the past by getting the names of disapproved things scratched out of history and monuments. I expect that somewhere, some atheist is brooding and fuming over every historical marker in the nation, every place with Shaker in the name, and every public school textbook mentioning the Pilgrims.

  21. Rather than offer the money to help pay for the canonization ceremony, the local government could extend a grant for the upkeep of the shrine as a legitimate tourist attraction, contributing to the economic and social progress of Auriesville. The shrine obviously has a positive impact on the larger community, both in preserving its history and in contributing to the local economy, because tourists will eat at restaurants, stay at hotels, visit other attractions, etc… This could be a win-win for the shrine and the city. Why not?

  22. I don’t think the government ought to be funding churches in any measure regardless of whether I happen to agree with their politics or theology. I think the grant to Old North was questionable, at best and probably illegitimate. That said, it does have some elements to it that at least make it defensible and arguably a support of a legitimate non-sectarian public interest (national history).

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