Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan will give the benediction at the Republican National Convention on the night Mitt Romney accepts the presidential nomination. The cardinal’s spokesman said the appearance was not an endorsement.
Dolan is the New York archbishop and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Romney announced Dolan’s appearance in an interview with Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over Live” on EWTN Catholic network.
The archdiocese is one of more than 40 Catholic groups suing President Barack Obama over his mandate that employers provide health insurance that includes free birth control as a preventive service. The rule exempts houses of worship but includes faith-affiliated employers such as hospitals, charities and colleges.
Obama promised to change the requirement so that insurance companies and not faith-affiliated employers would pay for the coverage. But details have not been worked out and many religious leaders have said the compromise appears to be unworkable.
Romney has been pressing the issue in an ad and on the campaign trail. He told EWTN that any legislation he proposed would be evaluated according to “its impact on religious freedom.”
Romney, who would be the first Mormon nominee on a major party ticket, said his service as a lay pastor with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Boston area helped him “understand the very real concerns and pains people have, the struggles that they have,” according to interview excerpts EWTN released.
Dolan’s spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said the cardinal told both the Republican and Democratic parties that he would accept any invitation to offer a prayer at their conventions.
“It’s not an endorsement,” Zwilling said of the RNC benediction. “It’s as a priest going to pray.”
UPDATE: A few people have wondered if the Cardinal — or any Catholic prelate — might say a few words at the Democratic National Convention. A reader reminded me of something I posted a few years back on my Beliefnet site: Cardinal Roger Mahony’s remarks at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. It was a very different time, and a very different political climate. A snip:
Let us Pray:
God of life and love,
God of compassion and mercy,
God of reconciliation and forgiveness,
God of justice and peace.
As you gathered your people into the land that was promised to them, you called them to heed your voice and follow your commandments. These commandments are at once simple and profound: To love God above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We have been called to “choose life” and to “serve the least of these.”
Tonight we are gathered here profoundly aware of our need for God’s wisdom and grace to embody these commandments in our laws and policies so that “justice will flow like a mighty river and uprightness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5.24). Strengthen our will to build a nation that measures progress by how the weak and vulnerable are faring.
In the span of just three weeks, our nation’s major political parties will have gathered at their conventions to select their candidates for the upcoming presidential campaign. We pray tonight that your Spirit will inspire all candidates, regardless of party, to embody in their words, actions, and policies values that protect all human life, establish peace, promote justice, and uphold the common good. For it is in you, O God, that we trust.
In You, O God, we trust…that you will keep us ever committed to protect the life and well-being of all people but especially unborn children, the sick and the elderly, those on skid row and those on death row.
In You, O God, we trust…that you will instill in us the resolve to not rest until every family has enough food to eat, the clothing to keep them warm, adequate shelter to protect them from the elements, and a decent education for their children.
In You, O God, we trust…that you will give us the resolve to create those conditions in society where working people earn wages that can sustain themselves and their family members in dignity, and that they have access to adequate healthcare, childcare, and education.
In You, O God, we trust…that you will plant deep in our hearts the truth that our neighbor is anyone near or far who needs our assistance and support regardless of whether they suffer from AIDS or debt in Africa, religious persecution in China or Sudan, or from hunger and poverty in developing countries.
In You, O God, we trust…that we will recognize that dignity and worth of each person comes from you and is not determined by race or ethnicity, by age or gender, by economic or immigration status, by faith or creed.
Tonight, O God, we pray for “a new kind of politics, focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls, more on the needs of the poor and vulnerable than the contributions of the rich and powerful, more on the pursuit of the common good than the demands of special interests.”
We pray, O God,
That you will give us the courage, the wisdom, and the insight,
To build a nation founded on “life, liberty and the pursuit of justice” for all God’s children.
We make our prayer in your name.