Catholic Bishops Assail Alexandria Woman’s Appointment

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Virginia’s two Catholic bishops issued a statement Tuesday calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to rescind the appointment of Gail Gordon Donegan of Alexandria to the Virginia Council on Women because of anti-Catholic jokes she posted on Twitter, one of which reportedly said that Catholics have “dirt on their forehead,” an apparent reference to Ash Wednesday rituals. The postings have since been made private.

“We expect anyone appointed to a council, board or commission for the commonwealth to be respectful of all faith groups and civil in his or her public comments. Her statements are offensive to Catholics and our faith,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said in the statement.

Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond joined in the statement, which said Gordon Donegan “has demonstrated a pattern of ridiculing Catholic beliefs and employing stereotypes designed to malign people of faith. Had these comments been directed toward any other group of persons, they would have disqualified her from this role.”

Husband isn’t offended

The Catholic News Agency said Gordon Donegan justified her tweets by saying that her father was “severely beaten” in Catholic foster homes as a child, and that she was an atheist. She also claimed that her husband, who she said is an ex-Catholic is not offended by her tweets.

The Catholic League called Gordon Donegan “a vicious anti-Catholic bigot” and quoted some of her alleged tweets:

  • “Abortion is morally indefensible to Catholic priests bcuz it results in fewer children to rape.”
  • Christmas is “the one time of year the Catholic Church is allowed to focus on a little boy.”
  • “Go tell a Catholic they have dirt on their forehead.”
  • “Saw a bumper sticker: ‘You can’t be both Catholic & Pro-Choice.’ Add: You can be a pedophile though!”

A spokeswoman for Northam said the governor did not condone the postings but defended Gordon Donegan as a longtime women’s advocate.

A Richmond Times-Dispatch report said that a review of Donegan’s Twitter history showed derogatory attacks on others and anti-Catholic jokes and jokes about priests and pedophilia between 2009 and 2018.


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.