March 12, 2015 at 10:48 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Catholic groups withdraw from Va. St. Patrick’s Day parade

Terry McAuliffe, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Several Roman Catholic groups have withdrawn from a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Norfolk, Va., after organizers chose Gov. Terry McAuliffe as its grand marshal. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A number of Roman Catholic institutions have backed out of Norfolk’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade because organizers have chosen Gov. Terry McAuliffe as its grand marshal.

Rev. Dan Beeman of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Norfolk in a letter to his parishioners cited McAuliffe’s support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and abortion as the reasons why his parish will not take part in the annual event that will take place on Saturday. The priest also specifically criticized Knights of Columbus Council #3548, which has organized the parade since 1967, for honoring a “political candidate, office holder or former office holder above the city level.”

“Governor McAuliffe stands contrary to the Catholic Church in not one, but many of the most essential teachings of the church in the political arena,” writes Beeman in his letter.

Beeman notes that McAuliffe performed a “gay ‘marriage’” last October shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in the commonwealth.

“Marriage and life are two of the foundational efforts of the Knights of Columbus as a national organization, so it is dumbfounding how the knights could then decide to honor the governor,” said Beeman.

WAVY, a local television station, reported the Ancient Order of Hibernians and six Hampton Roads Catholic schools will also not participate in the parade that will take place on Saturday.

Richmond Bishop Francis DiLorenzo and Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde, who is the chaplain of the Virginia State Council of the Knights of Columbus, on Wednesday issued a statement in which they criticized the parade organizers for selecting McAuliffe as their grand marshal.

“While one must always respect the office of the governor and the person holding that office, and dialogue should be fostered, one cannot deny that the governor has made public statements in opposition to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church on issues pertaining to the dignity of human life and marriage,” they said.

Brian Coy, a spokesperson for McAuliffe, said the governor is “looking forward to marching this weekend.”

“The governor is a lifelong Catholic who takes his faith very seriously. He also believes in keeping government out of decisions that should be left to women and their doctors, or to consenting adults who love each other,” said Coy. “He is committed to building a new Virginia economy that is open and welcoming to people of all races, genders, creeds and sexual orientations.”

Nicole Carry, who is the former president of Hampton Roads Business Outreach, which is an affiliate of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, told the Washington Blade on Thursday that she is “really surprised” by the controversy surrounding parade organizers’ decision to name McAuliffe as grand marshal.

The Virginia-Pilot reported parade organizers rescinded an invitation for Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam to serve as grand marshal of last year’s event because of objections over his support of same-sex marriage and abortion.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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