Thursday, February 19, 2009

Martino On the March. Again.

As a follow-up to yesterday's big story on the church-state front, the last election cycle's most outspoken prelate on the preeminence of the life issues for Catholic voters is keeping his "line in the sand" strategy alive and well for next month's St Patrick's Day celebrations in his Irish-heavy see city:
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,” 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....

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.
Bottom line: no Biden.

In recent weeks, Martino's likewise made headlines for publicly correcting one of his own parishioners -- Democratic US Senator Bob Casey -- for a January vote against an amendment that would've reinstated the "Mexico City" policy overturned by President Obama in his first hours in office, and for expressing his "absolute disapproval" over a local Catholic university's honoring of Keith Boykin, an openly-gay author, Clinton administration staffer and Harvard Law classmate of the President.

In a statement issued Monday -- a day before Boykin's appearance at Misericordia University -- Martino termed the invitee's views "disturbingly opposed" to the church's moral teaching and "so antithetical to Catholic teaching," rapping the Sisters of Mercy-run college for, he said, "seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity."

Late last month, the Scranton diocese announced that, due to falling numbers of priests and fewer resources to go around, almost half its 209 parishes will be closed or consolidated.

PHOTO: Scranton Times-Tribune