For over a year now, the nation’s bishops have been protesting the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate and warning that Catholic charitable organizations will be the most harmed and may even be shut down.
Thus, many Catholics are now scratching their heads over Cardinal Dolan’s paradoxical invitation to President Obama to the fundraiser of all fundraisers for Catholic charities: the Al Smith Dinner.
The Dinner is an annual event named for a popular New York governor who was also the first Catholic presidential candidate (1928). It is held each year in October at the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria and the Archbishop of New York is the honorary host.
Since 1960, the Dinner has also been a presidential campaign stop and the candidates are normally invited. However, there have been occasions when candidates were not invited and in some cases disinvited themselves.
In 1996, Cardinal O’Connor refused to invite President Clinton due to Clinton’s veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. Cardinal Egan, in 2004, declined to invite John Kerry because Kerry was flagrantly pro-abortion. And in 1984, sensing a showdown with the pugnaciously pro-life O’Connor, then-presidential candidate Walter Mondale had the good sense to disinvite himself. But on abortion, Clinton, Kerry, and Mondale are pikers compared to Obama. Thus, the head-scratching.
To understand the dustup over the Dinner, we must think past the current debate over “the mandate” and recall the 2007 promise Obama made to Planned Parenthood to pass the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) as “the first thing I’d do as President.”
The FOCA would wipe away every restriction on abortion including the ban on partial-birth abortion and the Born Alive Act. And the only reason he hasn’t passed the legislation, legislation he co-authored, is because it has yet to land on his desk.
Let’s review. A partial-birth abortion is a procedure wherein a child is yanked out of her mother’s womb by the feet and then stabbed in the back of the head to make a hole for a vacuum tube which is then inserted to suck her brains out. The Born-Alive Act requires normal medical care for a child who survives a failed abortion.
The visuals of stabbing a baby in the back of the head, and a still-alive, writhing, gasping baby being thrown into a bio-hazard bag, were enough to make Congress pass both bills by huge majorities. But Barack Obama has promised to undo them.
Cardinal Dolan, in defense of his invitation to Obama to a night of comedy, caviar, and cocktails, has referred to our differences with Obama on these horrors simply as a “disagreement”. Of course, many are astounded and incensed.
What’s more, the Cardinal is asking us to “be nice” after more than a year of saber-rattling statements, sternly-worded petitions, and rallies for religious freedom in defiance of Barack Obama’s attack on the Church, in which so many ordinary Catholics had given of their “time, talent, and treasure”, simply because they believed that they finally had a Churchillian leader willing to stare down the abortion Lutwaffe.
Dolan further justified his invitation to Obama by claiming papal precedent. He reminds us in a blog post that the Pope often meets with world leaders with whom he disagrees, including President Obama.
As already noted, to call Obama’s radical commitment to a dead baby (if that’s what the mother wants) even if the baby manages to slip through alive, merely a “disagreement”, is simply a gross, very un-Cardinal-like, underestimation of the massive proportions of the conflict. But there are other differences.
The Pope is also a head-of-state, and usually meets world leaders in that capacity. Second, the Pope normally doesn’t invite secular leaders to the Vatican, they request an audience (as did Obama). Third, the audience is normally a private meeting and not a night of cocktails and yukking it up. And fourth, the Pope is cautious about scandal and carefully denies photo-ops as he did with Nancy Pelosi.
Dolan then goes on to compare his invitation to Obama with Christ’s dining with sinners. Putting aside his PR faux pas of publicly calling Obama a “sinner”, the comparison is seriously wanting. To compare the prestigious New York Dinner, its “glitz list” of luminaries, its menu of Waldorf delicacies, and its general revelry, with Christ dining with sinners, is, well, simply not a WWJD moment.
The President is expected to be warm, charming, funny, and noticeably deferential to the Cardinal. It will be a happy event, especially for Obama, since the polls show him leading among Catholics voters 51 to 42. As one columnist noted, Obama has figured out that “he can have his [Catholic] cake and eat it too -- and at the Al Smith dinner to boot.”