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N.Y. Catholic Cardinal to lead St. Patrick’s Day parade with 1st gay group

In this March 17, 2014 file photo, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, right, greets National Guardsmen at the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York.
In this March 17, 2014 file photo, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, right, greets National Guardsmen at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York. Mark Lennihan, AP

Dolan’s position on the parade is the latest of his gentler comments on gays and lesbians.

Last year, Dolan was asked on ABC’s “This Week” about gay and lesbian Catholics who felt rejected by the church. “Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, ‘I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness,'” Dolan said.

When Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced he was gay earlier this year, Dolan said, “Good for him.”

“I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya,” Dolan said in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”The same Bible that tells us that — teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and — and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, ‘Bravo.'”

At the St. Patrick’s Day Parade last March, Dolan said he supports individual gays and lesbians participating in the parade and hoped it could be a day of unity and joy. “I know that there are thousands and thousands of gay people marching in this parade,” he said. “I know it. And I’m glad they are.”

The parade has no direct ties to the church, but celebrates a Catholic saint and has always been a key event for the city’s Irish Catholics.

Philip Lawler, the Boston-based editor of the theologically conservative Catholic World News, said Dolan should step down as grand marshal.

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“My phone has been ringing off the hook with people who are upset,” Lawler said. “Cardinal Dolan said, ‘I’m sure there have been lots of homosexuals marching in the parade before,’ but homosexuals identifying themselves seems a contradiction in honoring a Catholic saint.”

Lawler said the New York parade is more of a civic event that has already lost much of its ties to religion. “Why don’t we just admit it has no religious significance?” Lawler said.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group, said he thinks Dolan feels freer to take positions like his stand on the parade now that he is no longer the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I think he’s able to be more of a pastor to the people of New York than he had been when he was on the national stage, bishops primarily are pastors and teachers and I think he’s fulfilling that role,” DeBernardo said. “I think Pope Francis has been teaching the bishops what being a pastor means.”

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