A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Empire State Building, continued

cq_05-09It is almost amusing to read that Catholic League prez Bill Donohue doesn't care that the speaker of New York's City Council, Christine Quinn, is a lesbian who vigorously supports same-sex marriage. He announced on the steps of City Hall that she is "a very good Catholic," The Daily News's Frank Lombardi reports. So what if the city government's most powerful Democratic elected official boycotts the St. Patrick's Day Parade because the organizers won't permit a gay and lesbian group to march under its own banner? So what if she is allied with the city's major abortion-rights organizations?All that Quinn had to do to get Donohue's approval was to support his crusade for the owner of the Empire State Building to light up the spire in honor of Mother Teresa when her centenary arrives on Aug. 26. But it didn't work. The AP reported that the owner refused and finally explained his reasoning after weeks of silence:

"The Empire State Building celebrates many cultures and causes in the world community with iconic lightings, and has a tradition of lightings for the religious holidays of Easter, Eid al Fitr (marking the end of Ramadan), Hanukkah, and Christmas," owner Anthony E. Malkin said in a statement Wednesday.

But the real estate mogul said the privately owned building "has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations."

Donohue retorts that the Empire State Building has honored Cardinal John O'Connor and Pope John Paul II. (And it also lights up to honor the parade that Council Speaker Quinn boycotts.)Call the decision not to honor Mother Teresa inconsistent and foolish. But does it make the skyscraper's owner a "bigot," as Donohue charges?The controversy might be a little funny if it weren't for the threatening tone of the Catholic League's statement, which concludes that Malkin's decision "is something he will regret for the rest of his life."Mother Teresa, pray for us.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

Paul, you must have missed this edition of The World Warmed Over, but maybe your ears were ringing during the narrowcast.

I don't get this--there are a lot of Catholic holy people, and lots of other holy people too. How's the developer to decide? What if there is a conflict? The end result of this may well be that the ESB doesn't honor anybody.

I think we did this story already...

I just assumed the ESB had a policy of not cooperating with Bill Donohue's attention-seeking stunts. A very sound policy, in my opinion! Christine Quinn ought to consider it in the future.Have any of the papers picking up this "controversy" thought to ask the local Missionaries of Charity what they think about the importance of honoring Donohue's whims?

Mollie,No doubt the Missionaries of Charity do not speak their mind because they are afraid of being blasted as anti-Catholic by Mr. Donohue.

In the spirit of Blessed Mother Teresa, here's what Bill told CNN:

The Catholic League says over 40,000 people have signed a petition in favor of the lights. "I think that too many Catholics have fallen asleep at the wheel," Donohue told CNN. "It's time for people, the rank and file to say enough is enough. I hope it's going to be nonviolent, I wouldn't encourage violence but I know there's a lot of anger."

I could hear her saying the same thing...

I keep saying that Donohue is a buffoon and I aso think we'd be better off giving him as little attention as possible!

Maybe people should set aside their visceral hatred of Donahue and consider the facts.This justification of "how are the developer's to decide" is the typical cop out. They had not trouble deciding to honor the People's Republic of China, the most brutal and deadly regime in human history, on its 60th anniversary. And conflicts? Come on, this is for the 100th anniversary of her birth. I am sure that sort of event will conflict all the time.This is not a neutral decision it was an ideological one, soBigot (noun) a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intoleranceYeah, he might be right this time.

Thanks, David. The quote you cite brings out an aspect to this that is really troubling - the vague sense of possible violence. The Empire State Building has been targeted in the past for religiously based violence; the plot was foiled by law enforcement. In the 1990s, a deranged Palestinian man who was angry at Israel went on a shooting spree on the building's observation deck. He chose the Empire State Building as a convenient symbol for what he hated. Saying that "I hope it's going to be nonviolent ... but I know there's a lot of anger" - that doesn't exactly make Catholics a model for how to express religious grievances.

"as little attention as possible"Yes, but this is all over TV and in the newspapers.

Mr. Moses - like Grant, I happened to be bored and was flipping channels and saw the interview with Big Bill and Arroyo and his sidekick, Sirico.Both Sirico and Arroyo tripped over themselves lambasting all liberal catholic publications (for some reason, you were attached to Commonweal which we all know is subversive since we do not pay total allegiance to every word the bishops or Rome say - guess we are dissenters).

PaulVery nice use of elipses - "I wouldnt encourage violence" - yeah that's just way too many words leave from the original quote.Come on, do we really think the Catholic League is encouraging violence? People here are always accusing Donohue of looking for grievances. It seems to me that many progressives want to manufacture a rightwing violence bogeyman.

I'm waiting for at least one of the 300 bishops to get the belly guts to say something really brave and radical!!!! ='Mr Donahue and his group does not speak for the Catholic Church in the USA'. [maybe he really does?? ] Have the bishops ever heard the NYC mantra 'if you're not a stand-up guy you get no respect"???Donohue will always get a bishop pass and a TV limo. ,Has anyone ever met or heard about a member of the Catholic League? knowing it was started in an little office in the NY chancery I suspect there is still secret diocesan funding of the Leagues' 22 million dollar budget. Brave Bishops will still excommunicate, bann from speaking, get off my property, condemn any honors for anyone they don't like. [e.g.VOTF, Obama,et al ] I suggest along with Henry the 8TH, Donohue should be given the Defender of the Faith papal designtion.

Maybe a nicer way to honor Mother Teresa would be to turn all of the lights off the night of her birthday; use the money saved to help feed the hungry.

Good night, Irene! That's the best suggestion I've yet heard.

What is especially troubling is that Donohue is beginning to talk like our President and his advisers.

"do we really think the Catholic League is encouraging violence?"Absolutely not.

It is just remarkable that Christine Quinn, self admitted lesbian, is praised by Donohue as a "very good Catholic." But notice that she has not signed on as a sponsor of the bill to light up the ESB for MT nor has she said if she will support it. SoQuinn at this point supports the lighting as a person not as a Councilman. Now that is a very good Catholic. She wants to have her cake and eat it. As Donohue clearly does. So look for Donohue to participate in the lesbian/gay parade with Charlie Chaput.

Paul Moses; I say the only thing Obama and Donohue have in common is that they both were born on US islands. [thats if you believe Obama's claim. )-: ].

I'm willing to bet a lot of money that Donahue and most of the petitioners are great defenders of nigh-absolute property rights. Ironic, no? Or maybe all the exceptions to their publicly professed ideologies add up to a desire for a throne-and-altar military empire.

BrianWhat if they are?I don't think there is any move to make legislation to force the owner to do anything, there is public pressure.Progressives never seem to grasp the fundamental difference between public action by private parties and state action against private parties. Just like all the dopes saying the ouster of Helen Thomas has some kind of free speech implications. She's perfectly free to say all the bigotted things she wants, but people don't have to pay her to do it. This owner is free to show his anti-Catholic/Christian bias if he wants, and people are free to complain, boycott, and contact their representatives and ask them to speak out on it.

If this isn't a sideshow in the culture wars, then I don't know what is. I guess we might find some comic relief in it, but it is almost too bizarre even for that.

With all due respect to Irene, given the fact that lights were used to honor the People's Republic of China on its 60th anniversary, the local Missionaries of Charity would not want to participate, even if there was only one blue-white light shining in the dark.

It just amazes me what you people get excited about south of the 49th

"Im willing to bet a lot of money that Donahue and most of the petitioners are great defenders of nigh-absolute property rights.Ironic, no? Or maybe all the exceptions to their publicly professed ideologies add up to a desire for a throne-and-altar military empire."When did Mr. Donahue "publicly profess" "nigh-absolute property rights"? And more interestingly when did he publically rebuke nigh-absolute free speech rights which someone who typically would hold a position on property rights you refer to would hold? Was in it writing or video? I tried some search engines and could not find the comments you are referring to.

This owner is free to show his anti-Catholic/Christian bias if he wants, and people are free to complain, boycott, and contact their representatives and ask them to speak out on it.Sean,So the owner of the Empire State Building is guilty of "anti-Catholic/Christian" bias because he won't honor Mother Teresa with the building lights? Is this crusade to bully the owner of the Empire State Building in any way, even remotely, in keeping with what Mother Teresa stood for? I can't think of a less important way to honor her life and her memory. I can only imagine she would be embarrassed and appalled. I don't see anything identifiably Catholic or Christian in what Bill Donohue is up to here, with statements like this on his web site:

In other words, Malkin is obviously lying about his so-called policy, and for some reason harbors an animus against Mother Teresa. He owes it to everyone to come clean and tell the truth about what makes him really tick. Like a coward, he refuses to debate me on TV. Meantime, we are going ahead with our demonstration on August 26, and will not yield unless he comes to his senses.

Is this what the defense of Catholic "religious and civil rights" is about?

Ed G: The CL was actually started in Milwaukee in 1973 by a Jesuit (Virgil Blum) from Marquette. I think he died in 1989 and the mantle was passed to The Mouth That Roars.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment