Why Is a Catholic Group Protesting on Mother Teresa's Birthday?

Turns out the Empire State Building isn't lighting up in blue and white

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Today, Thursday, is the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth. The Empire State Building will not, in spite of a request, be lit in blue and white for her honor. As a result, Bill Donohue's conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is organizing a protest. They think there's no good reason not to decorate for Mother Teresa, given past Empire State Building decorations for such occasions as the anniversary of the People's Republic of China, St. Patrick's Day, and more. But building owner Anthony Malkin isn't budging. Now all variety of other folks are weighing in.

  • Poor Form, Malkin  The New York Daily News editorial board has decided where it stands: "Mother Teresa was the soul of charity," it writes. "The spirit of her day demands restraint in the use of adjectival phrases such as 'arrogantly idiotic,' so let it be said only that Malkin walks pitiably as an outcast in need of therapy."
  • Pros and Cons  Politics Daily's David Gibson notes the arbitrariness of the decision: "in April 2009 the tower was lighted in blue and pink to honor the centenary of the U.S. mission of the Salesian order of Catholic nuns. Go figure." But that said, he calls it "telling" that "only one priest is set to speak at the Catholic League's rally." He points to other Catholic groups' objections to the demonstration (summarized below) and reports that "Donohue, who is nothing if not endearingly frank, admits they make a good argument."
  • Donohue and the Catholic League Do Not Speak for Us  In a letter to Empire State Building owner Anthony Malkin, Catholic organizations such as the National Coalition of American Nuns, Catholics for Choice, and others, "applaud [him] for standing up to the bullying tactics of Bill Donohue and the Catholic League." They call the Catholic League the "attack dog for the radical right," and argue that while "there are many ways to mark the life of Mother Teresa ... true to form Mr. Donohue has chosen the wrong one."
  • Mother Teresa Wouldn't Have Wanted This, continues a press release from Catholics for Choice, following up on the letter:
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.
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