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.