Bloomberg: No Clergy, No FDNY -UPDATE

So, let me get this straight, just so we’re all on the same page, here.

When two hijacked, terrorist-piloted passenger jets were deliberately flown into the Twin Towers, in an act of war against our nation, the first recorded casualty was a Roman Catholic priest and NYFD chaplain — Fr. Mychal Judge — who had ridden to the burning towers, and blessed doomed firefighters, hearing last confessions on the way.

And while Judge’s body was being carried away from the catastrophe by the firefighters who loved him, and whom he loved, First Responders from all ranks, all units, all departments were heading toward that disaster area, not running away, intent on saving as many human lives as possible, even as they weighed the terrible odds. They went up the stairs, while office workers went down. Some of them were kissed by a blind man’s guide-dog, as they passed.

Of the First Responders, 343 members of the FDNY lost their lives.
The NYPD lost 23. The Port Authority Police lost 37. Of the 2998 killed at Ground Zero, 403 of them were First Responders, and one of them was a priest. That’s what, about 12% of the total?

In the days, weeks and months after 9/11, Rescue workers from all over the country showed up at Ground Zero to lend a hand, first at recovery, and then at debris removal. And, as Sr. Mary Ann Walsh details, here, lots of priests were there, too, from the first day, and for months afterward.

The city established a site for those looking for missing family members, a place with counselors and social workers. The line went on for blocks and priests walked alongside it and helped people accept the inevitable—a loss of someone only to be found again in heaven. A veteran psychiatrist told Cardinal Egan that he was amazed when he interviewed families and saw how deeply they had been touched by their sidewalk conversations with priests.

The church knows the importance of chaplains and designates priests to help emergency workers such as police, firefighters, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. These public servants need one of their own in crises and at 9/11 their own priests responded.

9/11′s own, however, also turned out to be not just official chaplains but also priests in other ministries, like Msgr. Anthony Sherman, a Brooklyn pastor who counseled strangers and led funeral Masses for the dead from his parish—some whose bodies were never found—and Jesuit Father James Martin, an editor at America magazine, who worked with rescuers in the aftermath, and so many other unnamed and unrecognized priests who offered the sacraments, encouragement and human consolation.

And the clergy were not represented only by Catholic priests; there were Rabbis and Protestant ministers; Orthodox priests and Muslim clergy. And nuns, too, and everyday people of great faith, or no faith at all, who understood that something greater than opinions or ideology or theology or social theory or doubt was before them.

But now — understanding all of that — we read that New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not inviting First Responders to observe the tenth anniversary of this day of death and sacrifice, at Ground Zero.

And we read, also that Mayor Bloomberg’s guest list is empty of any clergy, as well.

There will be no prayers at his little shindig. Heaven, forbid.

Apparently, there’s just not enough room for all the First Responders who want to be there, because there are so many important people who must be there! They cannot be denied their photo-op, and their speechifying, and their postures and poses, even though most of them were not even in office on that dreadful day.

No, Michael Bloomberg’s Super Colossal, Low-Salt 9/11 Memorial
and Networking Event is a big-ticket item for the the ones who can be tapped, later, for their money or their influence — the most important sorts of people.

And of course, some of the families of the dead will be allowed in. One does need them for the pictures, after all.

First Responders and Clergyfolk are not very important to the powerful and the enlightened. They only protect us, rescue us, resuscitate us, console us, pray with us, bless us and bury us. And when they die doing it, well, one does feel terrible about it for a whole news cycle or two. And then one takes a private jet somewhere, and tries to forget…

I don’t know why I should be surprised. Priests and First Responders are, like our troops, front-line folk. They’re like heroes in the cowboy flicks; they ride in, shoulder the burden, help put things to rights, and then — while the elite get on with assuming their power and asserting their primacy –they recede into the background. Only the very few stick around to say ‘thank you’ and wave them off. Sometimes children ask them to come back, or to stay.

Bloomberg’s priorities are all wrong. He’s thinking like a Baron — or no, he’s not really thinking at all; he’s being pragmatic: mustn’t let the help get get too much recognition, get too full of themselves — they might start getting uppity and making demands on milords purse and time. Mustn’t let the damn clergy murmur their vulgar prayers, or next we’ll have tent-revivalists cluttering up the fairgrounds and making such spectacles of themselves.

The big crowds for New Years Eve, or for the big parades, are alright, he thinks, but this is not for the riff-raff. Let’s just keep the invite list confined to those who know how to dress and how to behave, and which fork to use, and when.

You know…all those consequential (and so very, very smart) people who — ten years into this — have not managed to fill the still-exposed, gaping holes in the downtown ground.

Perhaps that’s because of the increasingly exposed, gaping holes in their own heads and hearts — from which pours out so much that is mediocre, bleak and unhelpful.

Giuliani, for all his faults, wouldn’t be doing this.

And if an 84 year-old pope can manage to function in crowds of a couple-million, it seems to me the mayor of what used to be the greatest city in the world should be able to figure out how to bring in some First Responders, and give a few minutes over to prayer.

But then, the Bishop of Rome is anything but mediocre, bleak or unhelpful. And I understand there is a salt shaker on his table, for those who like it.

UPDATE: Max Lindenman, while waxing eloquently in favor of clergy and responders in attendance, offers a possible excuse for Bloomberg’s decision:

“. . .nothing would demonstrate the strength that comes from American diversity — the whole E Pluribus Unum thing — better than a row of priests and scholars representing different faiths and denominations, praying in unison. New York has plenty of talent in that department. Since I haven’t lived there in many years, Archbishop Dolan’s name is the first that comes to mind, but I have a hunch a fairly competent rabbi can be laid hold of without anyone’s having to roam too far afield. Throw in an orthodox metropolitan or archimandrite, or whatever they call those guys, a Sikh guru, a brahman, a lama, and we’d have our own little Assisi summit.

But here’s the problem: we’d have to invite an imam, too.

As I wrote at his site, I don’t really agree. I think the vast majority of New Yorkers, and of Americans would be fine with seeing a Muslim clergyman at the memorial, along with representatives from all religions. After all, there were Muslims killed at GZ, also. I suspect this has much less to do with worries over an Imam, and Bloomberg simply being so insulated in his own secularist sphere that he really doesn’t see the value to or the point of, prayers. And too, I suspect the man — like so many currently in positions of power and consequence — is simply clueless.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Heartlander

    Beautiful piece, Elizabeth — but I am crying tears of helpless rage.

    After all these years, several of the stories you tell here are ones I had not heard before; I’m grateful for your sharing those.

    Bloomberg is despicable. Unfortunately, he is hurting many people along the way. “Unhelpful”? No, positively destructive.

  • Janet


    (That’s Italian for you go girl!!)

  • Regina

    Perhaps a grassroots peoples’ memorial will emerge and Bloomberg and his important people can enjoy their camera time while “real” people give honor where it’s due.

  • Regina

    Once again, dear Anchoress, you hit it out of the park.

    This story is just heartbreaking. Another instance of the hoi polloi being kept separate from our “betters.”

  • Peony Moss

    Bravissima indeed! I hope the token families tell the Mayor to go jump in the lake.

  • Elaine

    President Bush and Obama should tell Bloomberg to get the First Responders invited and pronto and get some religious to say an opening and closing prayer.

    Some big shots have to speak up and even give up their seats to our heroes – the First Responders!

  • Emkay

    Uhm, ofm, not a Capuchin. (They get a mite tecchy ’bout that stuff.)

    [Really? All this time I thought he was a Cap. Thanks! -admin]

  • lisa ingram

    You go girl, tell it like it is. All these political people want is votes, picture ops, and spin their bull crap. I am not a religous person, but I think that the Catholic faith has the right to be their, along with all the other religions that blessed our brave men and women who went in to save lives and lost theirs in return. I hope the people of New York vote Bloomberg out of office. I also don’t think any church or religion should be built around ground zero. That is hollow ground. For the people how lost their loved ones and for those who lost their life should not have to have this kind of fighting going on. Obama should make it CLEAR to Bloomburg that our 1st responders will and shall be their.

  • Tammy

    Very well-said!!! I wonder if there’s a way to convince the idiot of a mayor to change his heart, as he has no mind, so no hope of change there.

  • Kris, in New England

    The memorial isn’t about the hoi polloi. It’s about honoring the victims; it is about their families and friends. This whole thing has been stinking up the place for 10 years. It is simply grotesque that in-fighting, politics and jockeying for positions has delayed this memorial this long.

    For Heather Lee Smith, Flight 11 – daughter of dear friends.

  • Linda

    What in the world are they going to do if not pray?????? That is the only thing TO do!!! (Huge sigh)

  • Amy

    I just felt that I was reading about characters in Ayn Rands, “Atlas Shrugged.” Creepy….

    Another pawn in the great scheme of things; he has his marching orders.

    Thanks for a sad but informative commentary.

  • J. Krall

    Thanks you, Elizabeth. As someone who was in the North Tower on 9/11, I know where I’ll be during this years memorial service….. In church praying for the friends I lost…. and for Bloomberg.

  • Chris-2-4


    And yet, we can hope that among the privileged invitees and speakers, SOMEONE will manage to smuggle in an appropriate prayer. The clergy should be invited, but in their absence, anyone else can still lead in prayer.

  • Doc

    Bloomberg is a rich liberal. This should surprise no one. Some of his handlers will likely notice that the “optics” are looking prettty bad here and he’ll modify this, but his instincts are revealing, no?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    A wonderful article, Anchoress—and, an infuriating one!

    A grass roots memorial for 9/11 would be good.

  • Christine the Soccer Mom

    I’m curious how long it’s been decided that there would be no clergy, especially Catholic clergy in NYC (which boasts just how many Catholics!?). I wonder if that was decided after the vote to redefine marriage.

    I know, that’s cynical, and I didn’t used to think this way. But the vicious spite those people use against the Church and anyone else who stands in the way of their glorious reshaping of society has made me *start* thinking that way a bit.

  • Cathy J

    I liked someone’s suggestion at CMR–Archbishop Dolan should have a memorial service at St. Patrick’s for the First Responsders, and everyone.

  • DWiss

    Mark Steyn mentions in his new book that the handling of Ground Zero in the last 10 years has become a point on national shame. Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to exclude the NYFD and clergy is a perfect example of why this is true. Isn’t there one person who advises the mayor who might have said that this is a REALLY bad idea? Guess not. My opinion: it’s disgusting.

  • Dave

    Hmmm; a public event that is not public? I submit a “what if?”
    question…What if off-duty FDNY and NYPD show up, in uniform?Or, further suppose that priests, members of religious orders and the faithful also show up? Let us even invite the religiously inclined of all faiths. What if the ironworkers, laborers, and those who provided volunteer services for weeks and months to the site workers came without the “proper” invitation? All of those would be hard to ignore. Even though I am a former firefighter, I am part of larger community of persons sustained by ritual, tradition and faith. I can not imagine that persons of power, wealth and inflated egos could wish to exclude those who gave so much for all of us…….

  • Windy, in Mississippi

    To Kris, in New England:

    I’m sure you didn’t mean to use “hoi polloi” in reference to the first responders and heroic clergy on 9/11. “Hoi polloi” is a derogatory term (from the Greek) meaning “the people,” or “the masses.” You probably meant “self-important, self-appointed intellectual elites” or something like that.

    And, yes, the whole thing with Bloomberg is grotesque.

  • KenM

    Without the ‘rescuers’ and without God , 9/11 is reduced to being a ‘bad memory’. Americans need to rally at each of the three 9/11 sites wearing the RED White and Blue and carrying crosses, stars of David, or other religious symbols. I suppose Bloomberg would take offense also to any mention of “We got the BASTARD Bin Laden.” We must never forget that we are truly in a war, not a war pitting one nation against another, but of one ideology (radical Islam) against ALL others. If it has really become a necessity to be so PC to exclude our beliefs, and our celebration of Heroes, then our enemies have been handed a victory. The 10th anniversary of the unprovoked attack on innocents should be a time to standup, shoutout, and praise God Almighty that He should allow us the FREEDOM to do so !

  • Jennifer Bobic

    I think some of the local churches should just have their own alternative memorial services and invite first responders and victims’ families. This reminds me of recent decisions by Veterans’ cemeteries to ban prayers during burial of veterans. Disgraceful.

  • Mark L

    Well. You can tell it has been ten years, can’t you.

    Reminds me of an old piece of doggerel about sailors and soldiers (who are much like first responders):

    The sailor/soldier and God alike are adored
    When danger’s at hand, and not before.
    Once danger has passed both alike are requited:
    God is forgotten and the sailor/soldier is slighted.

    (use either sailor or soldier, but not both, depending upon whether you and your family wore blue or khaki.)

  • Lee

    I say that the people who MATTER should organize a memorial of their own. Just show up. Be there. Americans have the freedom of assembly. Assemble at Ground Zero: NYC first responders, first responders from elsewhere who came to help, people who were there and remember, people who lost a loved one, people who have not forgotten what happened. And clergy: ministers, priest, rabbis, etc.

    Start the REAL memorial commemoration: not this idiot thing organized by people who work for the idiot Bloomberg. And make the REAL memorial the one that MATTERS. A grass roots effort to commemorate an important moment in our country’s recent history.

    Screw Bloomberg.

  • fiestamom

    One of the 9/11 documentaries ( I believe it’s the one that runs periodically on National Geo channel), has a moving scene of clergy rushing TOWARDS the disaster. The rest of humanity is running away, and I know I saw Jewish rabbis and Catholic priests in the footage. (And that’s just what they caught on tape).

    Even though 3000 souls were lost, how many souls were saved because of how heroically the clergy acted? And the FDNY? I can’t even get my mind around it.

    I really wonder if Christine the Soccer mom is onto something. The first thing I thought of was that Nanny Bloomberg was still pouting over the Ground Zero Mosque repudiation.

  • Marilyn H

    I say, let’s stay away from the mayor’s ceremony and let the politicians gloat over themselves. There will be a Fr. Mychal Judge memorial Mass the week before on September 4th at St. Francis Church on 31st St. This was Fr. Judge’s home base. After the Mass, the attendees will process down to Ground Zero along with members of the FDNY, NYPD, Port Authority, etc. Along the way the procession stops at firehouses, police precincts and memorials to the Port Authority. At each stop, Scripture is read and a prayer is said. You can tell that the prayer means a lot to the survivors and the responders. Let the politicians have their mutual admiration society. It’s too bad they have to sully that hallowed ground with their self-serving behavior, but we can just ignore them.

  • Lisa

    This breaks my heart. If there is a glimmer of a thought that the tragedy of 9/11 brought us all together as a country, in a spiritual way, Mayor Bloomberg is trying to put out that light.

    Instead of reminding us of the healing, unifying feelings that we all felt then, grief, faith, respect and honor for the many that gave the ultimate, he is choosing to make this about money. What a ….pharisee.

    I wonder what it will take to wake up the moneychangers in Gotham? Unbelievable, and in God’s hands.

  • Jen

    Bravo, Elizabeth. Bloomberg should be ashamed of himself, but of course he isn’t. How low we’ve sunk in 10 years. In the days after 9/11, no one would have dreamed this publicity-seeking, politically-motivated, cowardly stunt would be possible. Shame on all involved.

    Thanks be to God that He remembers every sacrifice made on that terrible day, every soul saved, every act of selfless charity and He will reward generously.

  • Allison

    And that casualty count doesn’t even include all those who have been injured, permanently incapacitated, or who have come down with deadly cancers and lung diseases as a result of 9/11. Thanks for the piece.

  • cathyfromNY

    I think this is a very uncharitable post. As Catholics we should keep our praying in church and not force our religion on others. We helped put Obama and Bloomberg in office for this reason, let’s show our tolerance and not give in to radical republican ideas.

    [What an assumption. Sorry, but I'm not a republican. How exactly does asking for religious representation from a variety of faiths get construed as "forcing our religion on others." I have no idea why you might have voted for Bloomberg or Obama, but I doubt very much that many who did were thinking it was all about "not forcing religion" on people. I would HOPE they were elected in order to encourage respect toward all, including, you know...first responders and people of faith. Btw, that's some great tolerance you've got there.-admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    No, Allison, it doesn’t.

    I confess, I disagree with Max Lindenman’s article.

    I seriously doubt Mayor Bloomberg would care much about anyone protesting an imam at any religious gathering. His attitude indicates he simply doesn’t care about any dissent, and is out of touch.

    And his determined support for a mosque to be built at Ground Zero (a mosque that looks like a pile of crashing Stars of David, yet!) is the reason he’s been criticized, not the supposedly evil machinations of this, or that, particular blogger.

    Also, Lindenman’s theory only explains why he wouldn’t invite any clergy members; it still doesn’t explain why the FDNY, or the first responders, should be left out.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    31 CathyFromNY

    “Radical Republican ideas?” Oh, no, not those!

    Pass me the selling salts, ere I faint!


  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Actually, Marilyn H., I like your idea.

    Stay away from this ceremony—and, maybe, from all the “official” 9/11 ceremonies, which, given the times, will probably be filled with what Mark Twain would have called, “Soul butter and hogwash!” and create our own grass roots memorials, and events—and pray.

    (I think attending church services, if possible, is a good idea.)

  • TxTess

    I still remember where I was when the planes hit. Saw equipment similar to what I worked with hanging out of the Pentagon.

    As awful as that day was the first responders and clergy showed the world the best of us. Our first responders and clergy continue to show the best of us everyday in their response to many different emergencies. They are a blessing we can not forget. Leaving them out of the memorial service is wrong. Without them how many more names would be on that list? At that time of day with people coming into work? Mayor Bloomberg is an arrogant person and disrespectful of the dead as well as the survivors.

  • tempus fugit

    How dare the real heroes of 9-11 try to get between a bunch of attention-whore politicians and their beloved TV cameras.

    Maybe this event can be hosted by Billy Crystal and Joan Rivers can ask all the VIPs who they’re wearing. The first responders are welcome to stand behind the velvet ropes and adulate their social superiors. 9-11: the Oscars of national tragedy.

  • Mary

    When we remember 9/11, we are not remembering the loss of property. We are remembering the people we lost and the people who risked their lives to help other people. We are remembering and honoring our humanity
    Without people those buildings were nothing but empty shells.
    Mayor Bloomberg seems to have forgotten that.

  • cathyfromNY

    ” Sorry, but I’m not a republican. ”

    I know Elizabeth, you most likely voted for Obama like I and most other catholics did. If we want Democrats in office then let’s not smear them and give amunition to republicans.

    [I'm not a Democrat, either, and I don't especially want Democrats -- or any ideologues -- in office. You make a lot of assumptions. And no, I did not vote for Obama; some Catholics did, that's true, but I don't know if "most" did. I have no allegiance to any political party, and I wouldn't dream of just falling in line with politicians or policies with which I disagreed, simply to "not give ammunition" to others. I thank you for your advice, but I think I'll continue to speak as I find.-admin]

  • TxTess

    How can you have a memorial service without clergy? Without prayer? and exclude 2 key groups of people involved with the events being remembered? This goes beyond being republican or democrat! It goes to respect for the beliefs of all who died, survived and serve the people of New York in their response to the 9/11 attacks.
    It is just PC baloney! This is a very well written post and doesn’t smear anyone. Bloomberg and Co. don’t need help to smear themselves. They do well enough on their own.

  • Virago

    Maybe the clergy and the first responders can organize their own event. That event might garner more attention than Bloomberg.

    And when is that man leaving office?? Surely his term must be up soon!!!

    He is a poster child for intrusive American Politics.

  • jill e

    Laura Longing’s memorial page:

    Read down and see the poem Laura sent to her sister-in-law just before she was killed – it’s about PRAYER! What would Laura want???

    Laura worked for my company, Marsh & McLennan, and was only recently back from maternity leave. Her son turned 10 in May.

  • Pollyandrew

    Folks seem to be good at those flash mobs these days.

    How about if the people that should be at Ground Zero organize a flash prayer service (which includes all religions) on a nearby block (to be named later). Then, “though no one’s fault,” the prayer event “unexpectedly” becomes so popular that it overwhelms the nearby Smuggery.

  • Mark P. Shea

    Superb, Lizzie. Just superb.

    I hope normal healthy citizens of that beautiful ballsy town just ignore this stupid Sanitized for Their Protection event and meet over at St. Patrick for a real Memorial Service that allows people to do what normal people do: honor heroes, grieve, and hand their dead over to the care of God. Let it feature clergy from every major tradition represented by the population of New York (yes, including Muslims, dozens of whom were killed in the Towers). May the day soon come where our ruling classes stop trying to make a desert and call it peace.

  • Mudhooks

    I am an Atheist but even I see the need — the necessity– of having clergy at the ceremony. They comforted those in need during and after the horrific events — some gave their lives in doing so.

    They SHOULD be there. Including the Imam.

  • Virago

    I am a Cradle Catholic and I didn’t vote for Obama but I have Catholic friends and family who did and at the time they were able to verbalize their reasons for doing so cogently.

    Not so much anymore.

    Not a Democrat, Not a Republican; just an informed Independent thinker.

  • Greta

    would love to hear that discussion…

    “I didn’t vote for Obama but I have Catholic friends and family who did and at the time they were able to verbalize their reasons for doing so cogently.”

    The most pro abortion presidential candidate in history..

    The guy who went to a “church” for over 20 years with Rev Wright of G Damn America…

    The guy who support gay marriage in his heart with winks and nods to his gay lifestyle supporters…

    I have yet to hear a Catholic who lives their Catholic faith and accepts all Her settled teaching give a cogently good reason for voting for Obama. If they did not like McCain, it does not mean you have to vote for Obama. You can simply not vote for either candidate. Dole was so bad in 96 that I did not vote for either candidate as i could not support pro abortion clinton. After all, the Church teaches that we have to have proportionate reasons that equal the slaughter of 54 million babies to vote for a pro abortion candidate. Our pastor before the election asked in a sermon if anyone could name anything that was proportionate and got no response. I guess if one were running against Hitler who favored death camps, it might be close although they were only able to kill about one eighth as many humans as the abortion mills. Some say war, but war is something that Catholics can differ on based on their understanding of just cause. Abortion and gay marriage is not in that catagory in Catholic teacing.

  • Greta

    sorry Anchoress for getting a little off topic, but some comments were hard to take.

    On Bloomberg, I see nothing in his history that would suprise me about this decision. Once you are pro death, it is not far to travel to start wanting to keep religion out of everything else. Kind of makes you squirm when you are that far separated…

  • Manny

    When I saw this piece of news this morning I nearly exploded in outrage. This is the final straw on Bloomberg for me. He had a good first term, an average second term, and a disgraceful third term, a third term he should never have gotten and by which he twisted the term limits law to get. I’m sick of his windmill proposals, his strangling of cigarette smokers, his support of gay marriage, his refusal to support celebrating Mother Theresa’a birthday on the Empire State building, his support of ground zero mosque, his refusal to help the Greek Orthodox church that was destroyed on 9/11, and his support of planned parenthood. He can take his billions that he used to get elected and shove it.

    As to this issue, no one and I mean no one would have minded if an Iman was allowed to say a prayer. To remove religion out of the ten year anniversery of Sept 11 is a COMPLETE DISGRACE!!!!! I am still outraged.

  • Manny

    I like Pollyandrew’s idea in #42. Or someone should coordinate a march. Give me some lead time and I’ll take the day off from work. This requires a response.

    You know, Archbishop Dolan’s response was pitifully poor in the gay marriage debate. He could make that up by speaking out forcefully on this.

  • Mikel

    Bloomberg’s horribly ignorant — and so wrong! I like the many suggestions of others to create a Citizens’ Ceremony of Dedication and Remembrance nearby and overshadow anything that that pompous a*s and his minions have planned! God Bless all First Responders, and the families and friends of all those lost and/or affected by that horrible day. NEVER FORGET 9/11/2001!!