Scranton: Bp. Martino digs in about pro-abortion Catholic politicians

The of Scranton, PA.   The Bishop of Scranton, His Excellency  Joseph F. Martino, whom we have written of before, has really anted up.

My emphases and comments.

Bishop warns Irish planners in Scranton


Published: Thursday, February 19, 2009 8:43 AM EST

In a letter to the heads of three local Irish-American organizations, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton has threatened to close St. Peter’s Cathedral during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations if the groups feature elected officials who support abortion rights at their annual events.

The letter, which was signed by Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty, reports that Bishop Joseph F. Martino is “determined to prevent scandal,” [understanding what scandal is is the key to grasping why bishops have to take this issue so seriously] which would be caused if the organizations “in any way” should “honor pro-abortion officials” by giving them parade or dais positions or opportunities to speak and “the Catholic Church is seen to be involved in this honoring.”

In direct terms, the letter reiterates the bishop’s publicly stated position that elected officials who vote to support abortion rights will be denied Holy Communion if they attempt to receive the sacrament in the diocese, including at St. Patrick’s Day Masses. The closing of St. Peter’s Cathedral is offered as an additional measure to prevent the honoring of such officials.

Auxiliary Bishop Dougherty wrote that the bishop hopes the groups’ “judicious choices” about which elected officials to honor will make any actions by the bishop unnecessary, but that the letter was sent “to avoid any surprise should (Bishop Martino) be required to take action in this most serious matter.”

The morning Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral has been a traditional element of the parade day celebration for decades. An additional Mass on the feast day also is offered at the cathedral and is particularly important for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, one of the groups the auxiliary bishop addressed.

Leaders of that group, as well as the other two Irish-American groups, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Association of Lackawanna County and the Society of Irish Women, reacted to the letter with surprise, disappointment and some confusion[Right…. because the Church’s stand on abortion hasn’t been talked about in the press.  Or are they surprised to find a bishop with a backbone?]
Evie Rafalko McNulty, a founder of the Society of Irish Women, explained that her group is not even Catholic.

“We’re not a Christian organization. We’re not ‘saint’ anything. We’re just a group of Irish women,” she said. Her group pays $500 to help defray the cost of the Mass given at St. Peter’s Cathedral on parade day, because it was asked to help contribute.

“If he doesn’t have the Mass, then we save $500,” she said.  [There’s a great attitude!]

John Keeler, president of the Friendly Sons, said the members of his group, a 103-year-old Irish Catholic organization, were chagrined by the letter but believe they already are in compliance with it[They should be joyful about the letter!]

“The suggestion that we would at any time do anything to create a scandal to the Catholic church is somewhat disappointing, considering that most, if not all, of our members are daily communicants in the Catholic faith who live their faith and support their church to the fullest extent possible,” he said.

In particular, the group’s disappointment stems from the section of the letter that says the bishop may close the cathedral, he said, because “many of our Irish ancestors played a major role in the physical construction of churches, including the cathedral.”

Mr. Keeler, who is also a past president of the parade association, said the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick are always “very much aware” of Catholic positions on political issues, like abortion, when they choose a speaker and do not plan to feature anyone this year who would be contrary to the bishop’s position. The group’s principal speaker this year will be Mark Durkan, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland. [?]

The Society of Irish Women has not yet confirmed a speaker for its annual dinner, but Mrs. McNulty said the group has not invited anyone who has a legislative voting record on any abortion issue.

Mike Harrity, the president of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Association, did not return calls for comment.

The annual St. Patrick’s Parade through downtown Scranton is one of the largest in the country, and the dinners hosted by the Friendly Sons and the Society of Irish Women often have featured prominent national and international figures. Last year, President Barack Obama, then a senator, spoke at the Irish Women’s dinner; Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern spoke at the Friendly Sons’ dinner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then a senator, marched in the parade.

Although bishops of the diocese have historically attended the Friendly Sons’ dinner, Bishop Martino has never participated.

Contact the writer:

I wonder if Vice President Biden was ever invited.


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  1. paul says:

    This is one holy bishop- reminds me of the early church fathers who all had a backbone- like St. Athanasius. Hopefully other bishops will take notice and follow suit in their dioceses.

  2. opey124 says:

    Our prayers are with the Bishop. Thank you Bishop Martino.

  3. ED says:

    Good for Bishop Martino, Im totally disgusted by these people who bring these heretics to the parade. Remember its Saint Patrick’s Day which honors St. Patrick bringing CATHOLICISM TO IRELAND!!!

  4. therese says:

    SDLP’s official policy on abortion (from its website – 1984) is to oppose it “totally”, so Mr Durkan should pass muster.

  5. Diane says:

    Bishop Martino is filled with holy boldness. He knows that by not working to prevent or call out scandal, he participates in it, if only by omission of duty.

    My strongest sense is that the Holy Spirit will work through the stronger bishops whose actions will embolden others. I think we seen an example of this with that flood of reactions that came in to the Pelosi and Biden pre-election scandals on national television. One or two started, then the others steam-rolled. They are learning from each other, which is why we need to pray for them, more than anything.

    Just the other day, there was a real ruckus in Scranton because of a strong protest Bp Martino made about Keith Boykin’s invitation to Misericordia university. Boykin has been advancing gay marriage and the university would not back down after Martino’s protests.

    I covered it here, and here (this last one has video footage from a local news station covering the situation)

  6. JoyfulMom7 says:

    Praying for Bishop Martino . . . he is strong in the Lord and doing mighty work for the Kingdom!

  7. James says:

    The Social Democratic and Labour party is a predominately Catholic party and mainly represents the Catholic Middle class in Northern Ireland. It was for many years lead by an ex-seminarian- John Hume. The party is soundly pro life.

  8. Kudos to Bishop Martino on this!

    The more I read about him, the more I like him. It seems to me that he has his heart in the right place and he is doing everything that he cantfor the Church in these present times.

    Thank God for holy bishops!

  9. irishgirl says:

    Yay for Bishop Martino-a shepherd who has spine!

  10. Christian says:

    The scuttlebut from the Society of Irish Women is that thy had been planning to invite Biden. Watch this Diocese for more fireworks.

  11. ssoldie says:

    Hey! all you Irish, to honor St. Pat on his day( during Lent)..pray the Breastplate of St. Patrick,then put in the DVD and watch the “Passion”, do it all with your family, what a way to honor Saint Patrick… old, irish, traditional.

  12. MargaretMN says:

    Ah, finally an interpretation of preventing “scandal” that doesn’t include putting up and shutting up about transgressions/transgressors. The problem is that they’ve done this for so long (and I am talking about the bishops generally, not Bp. Martino) that the stakes are pretty high for these so-called pro-choice Catholics. It means giving up positions of power and losing face. By avoiding conflict in the past The bishops just ensured a showdown now, decades later.

  13. Daniel A. says:

    I can see why the Sons of St. Patrick might be “chagrined” by the letter. If they are indeed a faithfully Catholic organization, made up mostly of daily communicants, they might be rather disturbed to be lumped in with the other groups planning the parade, or treated as if one could group all “Irish-American Catholics” together in one heterodox bunch.

    That said, I think the bishop’s position on the honoring of pro-choice politicians is excellent.

  14. Neumann Jackson says:

    Padre, I think the bold tag in this post was left open. Everything below it on WDTPRS is now bolded.

  15. Maureen says:

    If everybody is getting the same letter, nobody should feel discriminated against. If you don’t have a guilty conscience, you shouldn’t feel insulted.

    If they didn’t know everybody got the same letter, though, I can see where they might be upset.

  16. O'Neill says:

    The group’s principal speaker this year will be Mark Durkan, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland

    Mark Durkan is solidly pro-life and his currently involved in a campaign to stop the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

  17. tradsem says:

    Great point about scandal, Father.

    I think scandal is less about being upset that a Catholic has done something contrary to Church teaching and more about the faithful being led astray when Church leaders say nothing about sin in the world. In other words, when a bishop does not correct a pro-choice politician for supporting abortion, scandal is caused because the faithful begin to believe that the sin of abortion “isn’t worth” correcting–that it’s no big deal. Sin “as no big deal” is equivalent with “the loss of the sense of Sin.” Bishops failing to guard their flocks against the evil which seeks to creep into human minds and hearts is the scandal.

  18. TomG says:

    James and O’Neill:

    For 40 years I’ve voted nothing but conservative (having to settle for Republican most of the time), but a “Social Democratic and Labour” party like that in this country would change me in a heartbeat! And I’ll bet there are a lot of Americans who feel the same way.

  19. I covered it this morning here, and since I am in the middle of all of it all, it has a bit more of local flavor to it and I am able to comment on some the folks involved. I have calls in to several folks, and there will be more info soon.

  20. A wise priest once told me: “Saint Patrick was not Irish, he was Catholic. On his feast day, we do not celebrate being Irish, we celebrate being Catholic.”

  21. irishgirl says:

    David-a wise priest, indeed!

    My late father’s brithday was the Feast of St. Patrick-he was 100% Irish-American!

    I can’t stand it when St. Patrick’s feastday is used as an excuse to go out and ‘get plastered’….

  22. JohnE says:

    “…most, if not all, of our members are daily communicants in the Catholic faith who live their faith and support their church to the fullest extent possible.”

    And our humility totally demolishes all y’all’s too.

  23. Kim Poletto says:

    Is Bishop Martino the first in the U.S., other than Archbishop Burke, who has publically stated that pro-abort politican’s would be denied communion in their Arch/diocese?

  24. Fenton says:

    If it is scandalous for local politicians to march in a Catholic parade, was it also scandalous for a one-politician parade at the Vatican this week?

    just asking…

  25. EDG says:

    Fenton, Nancy P. was not a parade. She got no photo-ops and was obviously spoken to and informed for the last time of what she had to do to be saved.

    Kings and queens of old were almost always warned (and sometimes excommunicated) by the Pope himself before the hammer dropped. We don’t have royalty, but we do have a group of autocratic officials who think they are superior not only to most Americans, but to the Pope. She had to hear from his own lips that she was not; she was just one more sheep, and the shepherd was telling her to get back into line.

    She won’t, of course, so we’ll have to see what happens then. But she didn’t get her parade, and it’s unfair of you to say that she did.

  26. Ed says:


    The difference between the politicians parading you mention is that the single politician parading around the Vatican got a personal and public smack down by the Vicar of Christ. Most, though by no means all, of our Bishops of Irish ancestry don’t have the backbone to do anything about the politicians parading through their catherals.

  27. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    Steve K,

    Koble was beatified by Paul VI as a confessor. He had to have the miracle required of confessors but not martyrs. John Paul II made up a new category of martyr for him “Martyr of Charity,” because there was no hatred of the faith involved in his death. I have no idea what that is, or what the theological implications are. My point is that the Church said he lived a life of heroic virtue, when they beatified him as a confessor in 1971.

  28. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    Pleas delete my post above, posted in wrong thread. Sorry.

  29. I have always said that the root of this evil is not Barack Obama who, after all is not a Catholic and his work with anti-poverty groups could well lead him to err on this matter.

    BUT If Catholics, especially female Catholics were all to become pro-life instead of pro-choice (as, sadly, so many of them are) the position of the Democratic Party on this issue would change dramatically.

  30. supertradmom says:

    Bravo, Bishop Martino. Wish we had 50 more like you!

  31. Thomas says:

    I remember when My Bishop, Kevin Rhoades of Harrisburg a few years back said we would not wave the Meatless friday for St Patricks day, and people went fantical like the secular trappings of having corned beef were more important then the lenten friday. Being Catholic is above any Political party or Nationality. And I am not understand why this Womens Irish group is complaining when they aren’t catholic to begin with? Why celebrate St Patricks day then to begin with, Patrick Was a Catholic loyal to the Vicar of Christ.

  32. joe says:

    you people are really insane.

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