Virginia’s two Catholic bishops issued a statement Tuesday calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to rescind the appointment of a Democratic activist to the Virginia Council on Women because of anti-Catholic jokes she posted publicly on Twitter.
They asked Catholics in Virginia to call or email the governor’s office to express concern.
“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 appointee Gail Gordon Donegan of Alexandria “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.”
A spokeswoman for Northam did not respond to an email and voicemail Tuesday.
Northam’s office announced Aug. 16 that he was appointing Donegan to the women’s council; her announcement was part of a weekly mix of appointments to state boards and commissions.
A Richmond Times-Dispatch 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.
Last week, a spokeswoman for Northam defended the appointment, saying that while the governor did not condone Donegan’s language, she had spent years advocating for women’s issues in Virginia.
Donegan tweeted under the handle “Satirical Alexandria — Rated Fx by the NRA.” The account is now private.
The website of the Diocese of Arlington says it has nearly 70 parishes with 464,861 registered Catholics in Northern Virginia. The Diocese of Richmond website says it has 139 parishes across Virginia with a Catholic population of more than 240,000.