“Holiday Tree” or “Christmas Tree”

Some of you may have heard about the flap over the nomenclature for the Massachusetts State House “Holiday Tree” earlier this week.  The good news is that they not only renamed the “Holiday Tree” a “Christmas Tree,” but in addition, our archdiocesan spokesman, Terry Donilon, finally had something constructive to say about a place for Christianity in the public square.

This marks the first time in recent history that BCI has observed Mr. Donilon quoted in the press as saying something supportive–and accurate–about the place for Christianity in public life. Last month, when a former Mass Catholic Conference official made a theological error in a Pilot column, Terry threw him under the bus with a public threat, telling the Boston Globe, “It was a problem, and we would have dealt with it if Dan had resisted” writing an apology.  Yet when the Pilot published a Catholic News Service article on the front page a few months ago which highlighted the “Catholic faith” of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis while failing to mention she is pro-abortion, coincidentally, Terry said not a peep about the need for an apology by the CNS writer/editor, Mark Zimmerman, for the infraction (see our post on that issue). We could go on and on with many other examples but will hold off for today.

So in view of the past experiences, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Terry had something to contribute to the question of what the State House tree should be called.  Here are excerpts from the Boston Herald article, including the quote from the archdiocese:

‘Christmas tree’ grows on Beacon Hill
Gov sidesteps PC flap

Gov. Deval Patrick surrendered to the Christmas spirit yesterday, pronouncing the majestic evergreen outside the State House a “Christmas tree” — eager to distance himself from the politically correct invitations his office sent out earlier this month for a “Holiday Tree Lighting.”

“It’s a Christmas tree,” Patrick declared yesterday from his festive Corner Office, adorned with poinsettias, ivy and a wreath. “I’ve always called it a Christmas tree. That’s what it is.”

The governor was getting political coal in his stocking, taking sharp criticism over invitations his office sent out that promoted a “Chanukah Menorah Lighting” on Dec. 20, but referred to last night’s event as a “Holiday Tree Lighting,” bizarrely slighting just one half of the season’s Judeo-Christian religious traditions.

The PC gaffe was repeated in Patrick’s public schedule yesterday as well as on an administration blog, neither of which contained the word “Christmas.” When asked about the “Holiday Tree” references, Patrick replied: “Talk to the people that sent the invitations out.” Patrick ignored a Herald reporter’s observation that the invitations came from his office.

The Bay State’s evergreen was dedicated to former House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr., kicking off the coming year of centennial events in his memory. Asked how his father would have referred to the tree, son Thomas O’Neill III invoked the name of the Herald columnist and radio talk show host who has been railing against the State House “holiday tree” for the past few days.

“I think he probably would have called it ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Michael Graham’ — is that the kid’s name?” said O’Neill. “I think it’s silly. Who cares? It’s a Christmas tree. That’s my tradition and our culture. And I’m going to celebrate Hanukkah with my Jewish friends and light one of their candles when I have an opportunity.”

But others took issue with language that stripped away any reference to “Christmas” in the event’s advance publicity.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston said: “For Christians around the world, it is a Christmas Tree.”

Civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate said politicians using the term “holiday tree” are misinterpreting constitutional law on the separation of church and state.

“The fact is that the political leaders who don’t call a Christmas tree what it really is are engaging in ridiculous behavior and are fueling a false notion that there is a ‘war on Christmas’ afoot,” Silverglate said.

BCI is pleased to see that Terry defended the re-categorization of the “Holiday Tree” as a “Christmas Tree.”  It is a small move, but it is better than having said or done nothing. Hopefully, in the future this archdiocese might take even bolder moves to advance the views of the Catholic Church in society and Terry will hopefully find some cogent way of acknowledging and supporting Catholics who stand up for the Church and her teachings, instead of criticizing those people publicly, which seems to be more of the norm.  But for today, we will take what we got.  Thanks, Terry, for telling the media it is OK to call it a “Christmas Tree.”  Merry Christmas to you.

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11 Responses to “Holiday Tree” or “Christmas Tree”

  1. Mark Frances says:

    This issue with Hilda Solis being praised by Terry Donilon and the Boston Pilot is just not a good one. The good news on the Christmas tree is a Pyrric victory.

    • Just to clarify, Hilda Solis was not “praised” by Terry Donilon or the Boston Pilot. The Pilot published a syndicated CNS article on their front page that praised Hilda Solis. Objectively, that is what occurred. People complained about the publication of this article, and there was no comment or response by Terry Donilon or The Pilot. The point by BCI is that Terry Donilon publicly threw an orthodox Catholic under the bus for a small theological error in an opinion column in The Pilot, but when there was a glaring problem with praise for a pro-abortion politician published as front page news in the same paper, he said nothing. BCI apologizes for any confusion on that point.

      • BobofNewtn says:

        Good post BCI. Let’s not forget that Mr. Donilon comes from a stellar line of spokespersons who have represented the RCAB. Who can forget Chrissy Coyne who was cardinal Law’s apologist during the priest-child sex era!

      • Bob, it would be appropriately respectful to refer to the former spokesman as Fr. Chris Coyne. Prior to him, it was Donna Morrissey. Both of them were capable communicators who served in a time of grave crisis–and, coincidentally, were paid (combined salaries) a lot less than Terry Donilon is paid today. Whatever gripes you or others may have with the former archbishop’s tenure should not be justification for failing to refer to clergy by their proper name. (FYI, Terrence Donilon goes by “Terry”)

      • Liam says:

        Anyway, it’s Bishop Coyne now….

  2. Goldie says:

    I’ll bet the soldiers coming home for………..”Christmas” appreciate it, too!!

    Also, all of the mostly christian/catholic soldiers who have fallen since the start of the war 9 years ago are with us in spirit
    this “CHRISTMAS”, as are their grieving families.

  3. The Christmas Tree first came to America via Boston’s now defunct Holy Trinity German Church in the 1850’s, if I’m not mistaken.

  4. Michael says:

    Two points:
    1. BCI said: “The Pilot published a syndicated CNS article on their front page that praised Hilda Solis” … so what you mean is the Pilot praised Hilda Solis on its front page … or did that article just appear by accident? I don’t understand how BCI can honestly parse out this insignificant distinction with integrity (i.e., without destroying your own credibility)?

    2. Donilon’s decision to complain about a Holiday tree vs. a Christmas tree (as he did), is insignificant compared to his decision to ignore the Catholic Newspaper’s front page praise of a pro-abortion politician (as he did).

    These two issues are night and day in terms of relevance and importance. I don’t think Terry Donilon deserves any praise for his act of “courage.” I don’t understand how BCI can, with integrity, provide accolades to Mr. Donilon based on this distinction (again without destroying your own credibility)?

    • Michael,
      Thank you for your comments. BCI thinks you may have misinterpreted our post and we suggest you reread it. BCI has no reason to “praise” Terry Donilon and did not see this post as praising him. Nor did BCI mention an act of “courage” on his part or the word “courage” anywhere in our post. BCI does not know where you get that from. We merely said the following:

      “Terry Donilon, finally had something constructive to say about a place for Christianity in the public square.”

      “This marks the first time in recent history that BCI has observed Mr. Donilon quoted in the press as saying something supportive–and accurate–about the place for Christianity in public life.”

      “BCI is pleased to see that Terry defended the re-categorization of the “Holiday Tree” as a “Christmas Tree.” It is a small move, but it is better than having said or done nothing. Hopefully, in the future this archdiocese might take even bolder moves to advance the views of the Catholic Church in society and Terry will hopefully find some cogent way of acknowledging and supporting Catholics who stand up for the Church and her teachings, instead of criticizing those people publicly, which seems to be more of the norm.”

      We have seen years of problematic public statements by this archdiocese or a failure to speak out when it was needed. Relative to how badly communications are normally handled and bungled–which BCI calls out when it happens–this situation was actually OK. BCI said this was a small move, but it was nice for a change to finally see a statement that was constructive, supportive, and accurate. BCI does not see where we damage our credibility by this post, but you are certainly entitled to your own opinion.

  5. Carolyn says:

    Kind of buried in the article BCI quotes above is the comment from Harvey Silverglate, “Civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate said politicians using the term “holiday tree” are misinterpreting constitutional law on the separation of church and state.”

    While it’s nice that a quote associated with the Archdiocesan spokesman lined up with the truth of the matter regarding Christmas trees, there’s much to be explored in the fundamental truth expressed by Mr. Silverglate, who could not be characterized as a spokesman for anything but constitutional clarity. It is precisely because we separate religion and government that we can freely call the decoration a Christmas tree.

    JP2 admired the separation of church and state here in the U.S., and B16 has expressed the same point of view. Both indicated that in our separateness, religion in the U.S. grows unchecked by what the government thinks. Deval Patrick and I don’t always agree, but his rebuff to Lincoln Chafee’s insistence on “holiday tree” scored a rare thumbs up for me.

  6. Lazarus' Table says:

    I,, too, must applaud this bold Apology which, no doubt, is motivated by our commitment to a New Evangelism.

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