NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - Four years after allowing gay groups to march under their own banner in Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day Parade, the archdiocese of New York continues to cozy up to parade leaders to prop up its declining school system.
In January, Cdl. Timothy Dolan hosted a cocktail reception at his residence to celebrate the 2018 parade.
During the party, the St. Patrick's Day Parade Foundation, a key fundraiser for the march, announced the establishment of a new scholarship program in the prelate's name. The Cdl. Dolan Scholarship program will funnel $10,000 into archdiocesan coffers to help cover students' tuition.
In an interview with the Irish Voice, foundation Vice Chairman Sean Lane said, "We are deeply honored to establish our scholarship program in the name of Cdl. Dolan who has always been such a strong and important supporter of the parade. Catholic education is such an important thing to recognize, and we are more than happy to do so."
"[T]the time is perfect to announce the scholarships in the cardinal's name," Lane added, noting this year's parade is dedicated to Catholic education.
Foundation Chairman Hilary Beirne agreed. "Catholic education has been a mainstay of the Irish-American community and supporting this education is a critical component of the mission of the St. Patrick's Day Foundation," he said. "We want to thank Cdl. Dolan for his support in this mission."
Beirne also thanked Dr. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese of New York since September 2008, for his participation. Tasked with "preserving and improving Catholic education in the archdiocese," McNiff has been praised for "creative innovations" during his tenure. He will serve as an aide at large to the grand marshal for the 2018 parade.
"New York is the heart of Catholic education in the United States, and we want to make sure we support what they established all those years ago," Beirne added.
Dolan applauded the new scholarship initiative in his address during the cocktail reception, conceding the collapse in vocations has decimated the archdiocesan school system.
"We have gratitude for the sisters and brothers and priests. But they are just not there anymore to run our schools, so it means that they are more expensive," he lamented.
"The best way you can help is by getting kids into our schools. That's why scholarships help."
The admission of gay marchers is directly connected to the crisis in Catholic education in New York. The archdiocesan school system has suffered tremendously in the last decade; half the schools in the archdiocese have closed since Dolan became archbishop in 2009.
As Church Militant reported in 2014, Dolan responded by making a deal he hoped would help stave off further collapse. Under increasing pressure to open the parade to gay groups, the archdiocese gave its nod as part of a behind-the-scenes quid pro quo. In exchange for Dolan's acquiescence over the parade issue, Democrats in the state capital, Albany, promised to open Catholic schools to the voucher system.
Dolan agreed. After the parade committee announced the inclusion of gay groups in 2014, he seemed to welcome the move. "I think the decision they've made is a wise one," he said. "I have no trouble with the decision at all."
In short order, the cardinal was named grand marshal of the 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade. By choosing to officiate the very year gays were first allowed to join the parade, Dolan added to the scandal.
But the Democrats failed to keep their part of the bargain, and for the fourth year in a row, gay groups will march in the parade under their own banner.
Even as the archdiocese strengthens its connections to the march, accounts suggest the parade's Catholic identity is in full retreat.
Accusations of secular manipulation have dogged parade administrators, with suggestions the leadership is "trying to shed every vestige of Catholicism that it can."
Reportedly, top leaders have floated proposals to revise the governing bylaws to remove the requirement that members of the committee be Catholic and to remove the section which states, "The parade will be held in honor of St Patrick, the patron saint of the archdiocese of New York and the patron saint of Ireland.”
In a March 14, Spero News article, Catholic League President William Donohue observed another sign of de-Catholicization: "The  grand marshal is Loretta Brennan Glucksman, a woman with strong Irish credentials but no Catholic ones. Indeed, she is an ex-Catholic."
He pointed to a recent admission by Glucksman. "I don't pray, I don't go to church and I don't do any of those rituals that once were such a core part of my life," she said.
"So fed up with the Catholic Church is she that she took off her miraculous medal in the 1980s," Donohue added.
Donohue also noted that while gay groups are welcome to march in the parade, "No pro-life group has ever been allowed, though several applications have been made."