AOH: Keep Your Bigotry Out of My Uterus & Off Fifth Ave

I am writing in response to the January 3rd article by April Drew detailing the "new agenda" for the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

I am disgusted by the paternalistic language used by Jack Meehan to describe "those women" and their "problem pregnancies" and/or "difficult choices." It almost seems like he's judging women, as if women get pregnant all by themselves. As an Irish American woman that grew up in a Catholic family, I am fully capable of making my own
decisions, and do not need an all-men's fraternal organization telling me what to do with my life or my body.

I'd also like to point out that in September 2007, the Irish Times published an article stating that 54% of women in Ireland are in favor of legalizing abortion. In America, why does the AOH keep trying to preserve a vision of a holy Catholic Ireland that doesn't exist any more?

I also wanted to speak to the not-so-discreet reference to the AOH's standoff with the Irish Queers (presently) and the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (in the '90s) over marching in the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade ("those who would rob St. Patrick's Day of its true meaning"). I find it insulting that Meehan and John Dunleavy, who in the past compared Irish LGBT people to Nazis and the KKK, try to paint Irish LGBT people as anti-Irish like the Know-Nothings etc. WE ARE IRISH! Just because we refuse to live our lives in the closet does not make us un-Irish. Irishness should not hinge upon being a picture perfect, holier-than-thou Catholic.

The AOH is an organization that cloaks its bigotry in religion, and this renewed focus on abortion demonstrates that once again.

Tierney Gleason
Co-Organizer, Irish Queers
Brooklyn, NY

Here's the article:

AOH to Focus on Abortion
January 3, 2008

By April Drew

ANCIENT Order of Hibernian (AOH) President Jack Meehan has set in motion a new agenda for the Irish American Catholic organization to promote and defend the life of the unborn child.

In a letter written to over 300 divisions of the AOH and its members on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs or December 28, Meehan reminded members of the crux of the AOH’s duties.

“The core missions of the Hibernians remain — a free and united Ireland and support for the teachings of the Catholic Church,” he said.

Now that Northern Ireland will be celebrating 10 years of peace, Meehan said the AOH’s focus would change onto an area of greater needs — to protect the life of the unborn child.

Michael Cummings, archivist of the AOH, told the Irish Voice on Wednesday that the new efforts to protect the life of the unborn would be primarily focused on education.

“What we want to do is to demonstrate that we can provide support and resources for those women who are faced with problem pregnancies or with difficult choices, and hopefully defend the right of the unborn by giving the practical assistance that those women need,” he elaborated.

Speaking about taking a step back from Northern Ireland issues, Cummings said, “We have a lot of confidence in the leadership in Ireland, that they are on the right path. We are examining each of the areas we have been involved in to date and see where we might redirect some energies, efforts and resources.”

Meehan’s letter had the same sentiment. “ We must re-energize ourselves to fight the scourge of abortion in the same steadfast manner that we have used to fight the many injustices wreaked upon Catholic/Nationalists in the North of Ireland,” he wrote.

According to Meehan, a native of Brighton, Massachusetts, the AOH, which is in its 173rd year, has tolerated and suffered through years of oppression and hardship.

“In the past we endured the tyranny of robber barons in the coalfields of Pennsylvania, stood fast against the bigotry and violence of the Know-Nothing’s in New York City, Charlestown and Philadelphia, challenged those who would rob St. Patrick’s Day of its true meaning, and defied all those who called us terrorists for advocating equality and justice for Catholics in the North of Ireland,” he wrote.

To this end, Meehan writes that it’s time to stand up again, but this time focus on the “sacredness of all creation.” This, he suggests to AOH members should “guide our direction in the future.”

Meehan explains in depth areas he would like his members to consider expanding in order to be pro active in pursuing their new agenda. He urges the support, both practical and material, to expectant mothers in pregnancy crisis centers, and he suggests assisting efforts of religious leaders and organizations to “inform and activate their flock.”

He also wants to purchase educational material about the subject for schools. Meehan hopes to add to the AOH’s existing Hibernian Charity program donations to the Sisters of Life, a religious order founded by our Brother Hibernian and JFK Memorial Medal recipient, the late John Cardinal O’Connor.

Concluding his letter quoting Pope John Paul II Meehan wrote, “Abortion, as Vatican II affirmed, is one of the abominable crimes. To attack unborn life is to attack the whole moral order.

“The defense of unborn life is part of the defense of human rights and human dignity. Please consider these words of the Pope in your response to the program initiatives I have suggested.”