Category: Archive

Marching orders

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

As storm clouds continue to rumble over the upcoming Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day parade, City Councilman Jerome X. "Jay" O’Donovan told the Echo this week that he was ready and determined to step out as the parade’s grand marshal on March 4.

O’Donovan, a decorated Vietnam veteran, has been urged to relinquish the grand marshal’s position by some Staten Islanders on the grounds that he takes pro-choice stance on the abortion issue.

"I’m ready to march. This is not a forum for debate on this issue. I’m not for abortion, just for the law and that simply means choice," O’Donovan told the Echo.

He pointed to an opinion poll conducted by the Staten Island Advance newspaper that indicated that a significant majority of islanders believe that the parade is about Irish culture and history and that the abortion debate wasn’t part of it.

Leading the protests against the selection of O’Donovan by parade organizers, made up of members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, has been Msgr. Peter Finn, who along with Msgr. James Dorney is co-vicar for the island’s large Catholic population.

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Finn, who was unavailable for comment as the Echo went to press Tuesday, previously stated that he, along with Dorney, would be holding a Mass for the unborn and for peace in Ireland instead of attending the parade on Forest Avenue.

Dorney was a candidate for grand marshal this year, but the parade organizing committee, made up of 55 Richmond County Hibernians, selected O’Donovan, a Democrat who is expected to mount a bid for the borough presidency presently held by Republican Guy Molinari.

Molinari has indicated that he will attend the Mass rather than the parade, though he has stated that his decision is personal and that he will not be urging anyone else to follow his lead. That said, a number of groups, including the Knights of Columbus, have indicated that they intend boycotting the parade because of O’Donovan’s pro-choice views.

Finn, meanwhile, was quoted in Catholic New York, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York, as saying that he believed that anyone who called himself Catholic "should be unconditionally pro-life."

O’Donovan said that he did not wear his pro-choice views on his sleeve.

At issue, too, is a view, forcefully espoused by Finn, that the parade is as much a celebration of the Catholic faith as it is a celebration of Irish culture and heritage.

Bill Reilly, president of the Richmond County Board of the AOH and a strong backer of O’Donovan’s grand marshalship, said he viewed the traditional pre-parade Mass as the celebration of faith and the parade as an event for all Staten Islanders no matter what their beliefs.

Finn, meanwhile, met with Archbishop Edward Egan last week during a scheduled pastoral visit by the soon-to-be cardinal to Staten Island.

Egan was asked for his views on the parade dispute by reporters after the meeting but refused to be drawn on the issue. "He’s a great guy, isn’t he?" the archbishop said in reference to Finn. But he would not elaborate on that remark.

Supporters of O’Donovan, meanwhile, have been citing the archbishop’s recent comments about new U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Egan urged lawmakers not to judge Ashcroft on just one issue, the issue in question being Ashcroft’s staunch pro-life position.

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