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Bill Donohue and his Bullying Tactics Headed for a Fall

August 19, 2010

Catholic organizations have written to the management company of the Empire State Building supporting its decision not to accede to the latest self-promotion campaign of Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League. Donohue wants the Empire State Building lit up in blue and white for Mother Teresa on August 26, the 100th anniversary of her birth. The Empire State Building’s management declined, and Donohue began a campaign of bullying and misinformation, saying Catholics were insulted by the decision. Catholics from across the country disagree with him, and assured the building’s management that Bill Donohue and the Catholic League don’t speak for the majority of Catholics.

In a letter to the Empire State Building’s management, progressive Catholic organizations clearly stated that “despite what Mr. Donohue says, his views do not represent those of the majority of Catholics nor are his beliefs indicative of Catholic teaching.” It continued, “Mr. Donohue dishonestly claims to represent Catholics, asserting that he is a defender of the church whenever and wherever he perceives a slight. In fact, all that usually happens is that Mr. Donohue uses the opportunity to get his name in the news.”

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said, “There is no controversy here. Bill Donohue is simply manufacturing a cause for complaint. We recognize the building management’s discretion in this decision, and hope that they will stand firm. While Donohue carries on with his attempts to bully people when he doesn’t get his way, we look forward to the building’s management providing him a 102-story message that he can’t simply demand and receive anything he wants.”

Despite his claims to want to honor her, Bill Donohue has been ignoring Mother Teresa’s legacy at every turn. Mother Teresa specifically opposed the use of her name for fundraising efforts or as part of any celebration. Mr. Donohue has used it for both. When she won the Nobel Prize, she only agreed to accept the award in person if the customary dinner were cancelled and the money given to charity. It was the only time that a celebratory dinner was not held. Not only is Donohue calling for a significant celebratory acknowledgement of Mother Teresa, he is also using this campaign to raise funds for his organization. Bill Donohue is a disgrace.

In a recent missive attacking the owner of the Empire State Building, Bill Donohue claimed that the Catholic League is a “lunch-bucket gang, the kind of guys and gals who like dirty-water hot dogs off the streets of New York, drink beer and go to Mass.” This is a questionable description of both the organization, which has an endowment of more than $20 million, and Mr. Donohue, who draws a salary of more than $400,000.

The letter concludes, “As progressive Catholic organizations, we say, ‘enough.’ As those who know her work have attested, Mother Teresa rarely celebrated her birthday herself, and would, we are sure, be appalled to hear that this anniversary of her birth had been used to create such a storm. There are many ways to mark the life of Mother Teresa, and true to form Mr. Donohue has chosen the wrong one. We urge you to stand firm and withstand whatever vitriol that comes your way from the Catholic League.”

Signatory organizations include:

Call To Action
Catholics for Choice
Chicago Women-Church
Dignity/New York
FOSIL (Faithful of Southern Illinois)
National Coalition of American Nuns
New Ways Ministry
Roman Catholic Womenpriests—USA
Take Back Our Church
Women-Church Baltimore
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
Women’s Ordination Conference

(List in formation)

For comment, please contact:

Mr. David J. Nolan
Communications Director
Catholics for Choice
(202) 986-6093

Mr. Frank DeBernardo
Executive Director Coordinator
New Ways Ministry
(301) 277-5674

Sr. Jeannine Gramick SL


National Coalition of American Nuns

(301) 864-3604

View a report on the activities of the Catholic League.

View a copy of its latest IRS 990 form.

A poll from the New York Daily News shows support for Malkin’s decision.