Friday, February 22, 2008

St. Pat's Spat Pits Church vs. Cities

(Hat tip:

A couple of years ago, when St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday of Lent, there was much consternation regarding whether folks could eat their corned beef and cabbage. Many U.S. bishops, like Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair, made some accomodation for St. Patrick's revelry by moving the abstinence obligation to another day. And a few other bishops actually dispensed with the Friday Lenten obligation altogether.

This year, however, St. Patrick's Day falls during Holy Week for the first time in nearly 70 years. Therefore, St. Patrick's Day will not be observed liturgically in most of the U.S.. (The Feast of St. Joseph, commemorated on 19 March, also falls during Holy Week this year and has been moved to Saturday, 15 March, which, liturgically at least, leaves the Feast of St. Patrick out in the cold.)

This unique situation is leading to some conflicts between the Church and some cities and Irish heritage groups who want to move forward with St. Patrick's Day parades and other festivities smack dab in the middle of Holy Week:
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - That famous saint named Patrick will have his green-drenched party this year, but it's unclear when the guests are supposed to arrive.

For the first time since 1940, St. Patrick's Day will fall during Holy Week, the sacred seven days preceding Easter.

Because of the overlap, liturgical rules dictate that no Mass in honor of the saint can be celebrated on Monday, March 17, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But a few Roman Catholic leaders are asking for even more moderation in their dioceses: They want parades and other festivities kept out of Holy Week as well.

But in Columbus, the Shamrock Club is going ahead with its March 17 parade, drawing protests from the local bishop. A handful of Irish-American politicians have lined up behind church leaders, breaking with tradition by refusing to march in the parade.

In a letter last fall, the Catholic Diocese of Columbus told the Shamrock Club, the group that organizes the parade, that Bishop Frederick Campbell wanted "all observances honoring St. Patrick'' - religious or otherwise - removed from Holy Week.

"It's not a sin to celebrate your Irish culture,'' countered Mark Dempsey, the club's president.

"Actually, you're born Irish first,'' he said, "and then you're baptized Catholic.''
[ED.: Well, just so long as you got you're priorities straight there, Mr. Dempsey.]

Not all Columbus Irish groups agree. Members of the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a national Irish Catholic organization, will skip the parade and will instead join the March 15 parade in Dublin, a Columbus suburb.

But a calendar conflict is a rare event: Holy Week won't clash with St. Patrick's Day again until 2160. This year's peculiar schedule also sees the feast day of St. Joseph - honored by Catholics as the husband of the Virgin Mary - celebrated March 15, four days early.

The St. Patrick's Day clash has a touch of the Christmas commercialism debate, about a holiday whose religious roots are tangled up in decidedly secular traditions.
[ED.: Gee, I wonder who may have blogged on that aspect of St. Patrick's Day on an annual basis.] In most St. Patrick's traditions, parades are intertwined with Mass.

"It's kind of a test of clerical power, in a way,'' said Mike Cronin, co-author of "The Wearing of the Green: History of St. Patrick's Day.'' "I think there's a real issue then around organizing committees saying, 'Do we need the church, or do we not?' ''

The U.S. remains one of the few countries in the world to retain any religious traces of St. Patrick's Day, Cronin said. In Ireland, where the government sponsors the Dublin parade, the holiday has morphed into an arts festival that draws millions of people, he said.

The conflict is uncomfortable for some Irish-American Catholics. Franklin County Treasurer Ed Leonard bowed out of the Columbus parade but hopes a resolution might be reached.

"We wouldn't be celebrating St. Patrick's Day,'' he said, "were it not for the religious component of it.''

(emphasis and editorial commentary added)

Christine the Soccer Mom puts it all into perspective here.

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At 2/22/2008 11:42 AM, Blogger RobK said...

The Irish bishops, with permission from the Holy See moved the date to March 15th (Saturday) which seems reasonable to me.

Not sure why anyone want it on Sunday - especially Palm Sunday. But I have to believe those merely looking for an excuse to "celebrate" would prefer Saturday. That is unless they are looking for a disagreement with the Church.

At 2/22/2008 11:52 AM, Blogger Christine the Soccer Mom said...

Funny, I'd read about this the other day, and when I saw it on Fox this morning, I'd had enough. I blogged about it today, too. (Just gave you a hat-tip, Jay.)

Saint Patrick would be horrified that people want to put some silly parade ahead of the real meaning of Holy Week. My ideas on what I think bishops ought to do is at my own post, though, so I'll spare the uninterested from it here.


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