I guess that the crucial question — at this moment in time — is whether St. Patrick’s Day parades have anything to do with St. Patrick. In other words, are these events connected, in any meaningful way, with Catholic tradition, doctrine and history?
I know that, in the past, it has been easier to argue that these parades — especially in America’s major urban centers in the Northeast and upper Midwest — have been testimonies to Irish culture, pride and political clout. The archbishop may be there, but the essence of the event was found in the presence of local politicians who needed the votes of Irish laborers.
But what is the reality right now, at this moment in church-state history?
You can find some clues in the rather stock Reuters report about the pro-gay-rights pressures on Guinness — which were successful — to pull it’s sponsorship of the New York City parade.
On Friday, two other major beer companies, Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Co and Heineken dropped their sponsorship of parades in Boston and New York, respectively, over the issue.
Representatives for the New York board of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, which has run the parade for more than 150 years, could not be reached for comment on Sunday afternoon.
Earlier in the day Boston Mayor Marty Walsh skipped his city’s parade when he couldn’t negotiate a deal with organizers, the conservative Allied War Veteran’s Council, to allow members of MassEquality, one of Massachusetts’ largest gay activist groups, to join. …
Organizers of St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Boston, among the most liberal-leaning cities in the United States, have come under increasing criticism in recent years for banning openly gay marchers. Parade organizers argue that to do so would conflict with their Roman Catholic heritage. The Catholic church contends that homosexual activity is immoral.
Now in my humble opinion, I think it would help to know something about the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, since this organization is at the heart of this annual skirmish in the Culture Wars. I find it interesting that few of the mainstream stories that I saw this year about these events offered detailed information on this point. However, the group’s website, on the front page, notes:
We are the oldest and largest Irish Catholic organization in the United States. The AOH is a place to meet like minded Irish Americans who share the same values and beliefs. …
Through it’s charitable arm, Hibernian Charity, a 501c-3 not-for-profit, the AOH is able to raise money for a number of Irish and Catholic causes in the this country and in Ireland.
Whatever it’s symbolism found in this organization, in terms of culture and politics, there does seem to be a religion hook in there somewhere.
Thus, a key journalism question is this: Does this religious group still have a right to march in public streets while declining to openly undercut the doctrines of its church? In other words, does the “free exercise of religion” still include public displays of faith?
Has anyone seen that issue raised in St. Patrick’s coverage this year?
This issue is openly discussed at the Irish Queers website, a center for activism against the beliefs of the Hibernians: