Pray for Us, the Cardinal Blogs

Cardinal Dolan writes a forthright account of his thoughts and deliberations and prayers concerning the Al Smith dinner invitation to President Obama (which I wrote about on National Review Online last week here):

an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom. In fact, one could make the case that anyone attending the dinner, even the two candidates, would, by the vibrant solidarity of the evening, be reminded that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion, assemble on behalf of poor women and their babies, born and unborn, in a spirit of civility and respect.

Some have told me the invitation is a scandal. That charge weighs on me, as it would on any person of faith, but especially a pastor, who longs to give good example, never bad. So, I apologize if I have given such scandal. I suppose it’s a case of prudential judgment: would I give more scandal by inviting the two candidates, or by not inviting them?

No matter what you might think of this particular decision, might I ask your prayers for me and my brother bishops and priests who are faced with making these decisions, so that we will be wise and faithful shepherds as God calls us to be?

In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.

You can read his entire blog post here.

I think this exercise is a reminder that there is nothing we do that does not reflect upon who we say we are as Christians. People interpret our actions through wounds, through scandalized, disappointed lenses.

Compassion, I think, includes giving people the freedom to discern their way. The cardinal here shows a window into his discernment, a modeling of how to approach the struggle that is prudential discernment in our lives. It’s the Christian life in fuller view. Our lives must be lives of discernment in Christ.

I think this endearing photo is, too.

Helen Gurley Brown’s most conspicuous contributions to our cultural life were not quite the healthiest, and yet here you see the aforementioned cardinal greeting her as a sister, which she was, Cosmo or not. Which is the point in this dinner matter, it seems to me. The cardinal is clear. Other brother bishops are clear. They have been defending the freedom of all Americans against current White House policy. And this late October dinner affords an opportunity to highlight some of the charities who are threatened by the Department of Human Services abortion-inducing drug, sterilization, contraception mandate under the president’s health-care law.

We’re all sinners. We don’t have perfect records. But surely we all can be merciful with each other as we try to make our way. This strikes me as why we’re Christian and what is Christian. There is a time for admonishment. But always charity, too.

A dance with an elderly widow does not an endorsement make, nor does a laugh with a man whose policies promise to perpetuate a culture of death. Not when you are teaching chastity and life. Not when you are communicating with clarity and love. Not when the prayer is to model Christ in all things. Not when the very heartbeat of your life, as the bishop of Buffalo put it Friday, is the Eucharist.

Whether to invite the candidates or not is a prudential call, as the cardinal blogs, and God be with this pastor (and all of us!) as he seeks to always communicate with clarity and love, as Christ would, as Christ calls him to, as Christ calls us all to.

Ten Catholic Things that Caught My Eye Today (Last Friday in Feb. 2015)
Ten Catholic Things that Caught My Eye Today (Drexel-Inspired You Be that Missionary Edition, March 3, 2015)
Ten Catholic Things that Caught My Eye Today (First Monday, March 2015)
Ten Catholic Things that Caught My Eye Today (March 4, 2015)
  • jocon307

    Obama should not have been invited and it should have been made very clear why he was not being invited. He is the enemy and he is attempting, via force of law, to destroy the Catholic Church.

    My guess is that if Obama were all white, as opposed to 1/2 white he wouldn’t have been invited to this year’s dinner. Dolan, maybe understandably, doesn’t want to be called a Raaaaaaaacist.

    So be it. As another person said, I hope the bishops are ready to go to jail to protest Obama & Sebelius’s unconstitutional mandate. I’ll be willing to go, that I know.

    Sebelius, btw, is a Catholic, she should be excommunicated. If the bishop’s had started excommunicating phony, scandalous “catholics” like Sebelius, Pelosi and probably almost all the Kennedys years ago, we’d be a lot better off today.

    • bob

      Oh brother, spare me the histrionics? Trying to destroy the Catholic Church? You have the same problem North Koreans do. You think you’re important enough to warrant this attention. WRONG. No one cares that the RCC exists. Sorry, you’re just not that important. Can’t help it that Catholic leaders want to impose Shari’a in this country. This is a free country, something neither the Bishops, nor K-Lo understands.

  • Joe

    By inviting Obama, the man who threatens freedom of religion in this country, our country, he gives him a certain amount of credibility in the eyes of some. Bad decision, bad for all of us Christians, Catholic or Protestant, because ultimately, if Obama prevails, and it looks as though he will, our freedom to worship is going to be impacted. There are no good reasons for this decisions, only bad excuses.

  • bob

    The Cardinal is defending Catholic teaching? Makes me glad I’m not a Catholic!

    What I see is (agreeing with Richard Posner and Andrew Sullivan), an obsession with sexual issues. The Catholic Church is the ‘all sex, all the time’ church. Contraception, gay marriage, etc. If it’s not sex, it’s not important.

    I see a church relegating to its ‘leaders’ sole moral authority that can not be questioned. I see it setting standards that are irrational and against the development of the human person (masturbation is REALLY a mortal sin?). I see the leadership committing the most horrific and heinous acts against the most innocent, then stonewalling legitimate authority seeking to investigate.

    I see a leadership that has abandoned defense of the poor and the sick (26,000 people die each year due to lack of healthcare). I see a leadership which has said NOTHING about the greed of the wealthy that destroyed our economy and cast millions out of work. I see Catholic fanatics like K-Lo obsessing about imagined threats to religious freedom, while approving of the violation of the religious freedom of workers who do not share that view.

    This is not an anti-Catholic screed. Read those paragraphs above and tell me where the Bishops have shown true moral leadership regarding the issues of our times. Where have they NOT failed? Yet K-Lo and others defend their failures as examples that we should all follow. Tragic. Sad and very tragic indeed.

    • Chris B

      If this isn’t an “anti-Catholic” screed, I’d hate to see a real one. Crawl back under your bridge.

      • bob

        Anti Catholic would have been “Catholics are nazis” or “Catholics have guns in their churches”. I suggest you read up on the history of the RCC in the US. There WAS anti-Catholic bigotry in the US. But I noticed you did not REFUTE what I said; you merely objected to it. That’s not an argument.

  • http://google truetolife

    I would believe Cardinal Dolan’s remarks to be genuine except for one thing. The first time I attempted to meet him at a pro life banquet….he unmistakably turned his back on me at least 4 times! I realized he was networking with prominent people in attendance. So that is my question. Is it only okay to be compassionate and endearing to prominent sinners? A poor, lowly sinner (such as myself) isn’t really worth a photo op, is it?

  • Constanza

    Why is the defense of marriage not mentioned here?

  • Colleen

    Thank you Kathryn for always speaking up for the truth. I am glad our church has you in it. I know John Paul II did some writing on human sexuality that others have put into a book “Theology of the Body” . Among other topics he talks about masturbation and why it is a deadly sin. God Bless you Bob.

    • bob

      Yes, Colleen, I’ve read the Catechism and “Humanae Vitae”. Both are possessed of a simple, narrow minded, rather 1 dimensional view of sex. You can tell they were written by celibates who have no material responsibilities for others in the world. If Catholics believe masturbation is a mortal sin, while ignoring the greed that cost millions their jobs, then they deserve the leadership they have, which is to say, no leadership at all.

      • Eric Simontis

        bob–if you’ve read (really read) Humanae Vitae, you would realize that everything predicted in there would become true. Divorce rates would go up and women would be objectified and victimized because they would simply become tools for sex. Yes, you are right that they were written by celibates (an acknowledgement akin to stating that water is indeed wet), but the idea that they have no material repsonsibilities for others in the world is flat out wrong and misguided. These men who run our church educate, feed and care for more people in the world than any other institution. And, if you had read the bible, you would see that greed is discussed over and over again. I’m not sure why you are so angry and with whom, but I will pray for you.

        • bob

          Nonsense. The key point in HV was that men would objectify women if contraception were permitted. NEWSFLASH! Men didn’t need contraception to do that. Given the fact women couldn’t even vote until 1920, their sex was already objectified.

          And no, the Bishops do not have material responsibility. Sorry. The people who give money do, to some extent BUT this is NOT like trying to feed a family. No comparison at all. It’s easy to make rules for others when your living isn’t on the line.

          Yes, I’ve read the bible. That’s PRECISELY my point. The Bishops scream about ONE part of the bible…sex…but IGNORE the Beatitudes. I’m angry because the lack of leadership among, inter alia, the Bishops is allowing the powerful to run amok. If you’re not angry, you’re comatose!

  • MTM

    The Cardinal has grace of state, but that is no guarantee of a prudential call.

    A question worth consideration: what has the Cardinal been doing–specifically–to prepare his political prudence in these dangerous and statesmanly times? I fear the answer is not enough.

    For what it is worth, I think Obama should have been offered a conditional invitation: “Call off the dogs at HHS and the fox can attend the dinner to support hares.”

  • Chris B

    I understand what His Eminence is saying, and I agree with him in principle. But the truth is that this President, given his way, is advocating policies that would make Catholic Charities cease to exsist. At the very least cease to be “Catholic”in any meaningful way. It’s as much a “war on civil society “as it is a “war on religion”. Everything inside the state, nothing outside the state.

    • bob

      So when Bob Jones University said blacks and whites couldn’t date, that shouldn’t have been enough to deny them federal funds? The mere fact a policy is religiously based does NOT mean it’s deserving of govt support. Again, I ask the question no one who supports Dolan has been able to answer:

      If a Muslim employer treated his Christian employees as dhimmis because of HIS religious beliefs, would you support that?

  • Janet Barbieri

    “A dance with an elderly widow does not an endorsement make, nor does a laugh with a man whose policies promise to perpetuate a culture of death.”

    Wrong. And Unnerving. I mean, really??!! A laugh doesn’t NOT equal and endorsement either. Nice wavering convictions there.

    Do we wish to destroy the culture of death or not? Wo we wish to win the HHS mandate battle or not? Or, do we wish to, with a wink here and a nod there, give the impression that the culture of death ain’t so bad after all b/c, gee and shucks, we wouldn’t want to be seen as not friendly. The opposite of Love is not Hate, it’s indifference, and by showing this lack of conviction, we’re giving people a pass to be indifferent. Oh, and Love doesn’t always mean being Nice either, it means telling the truth at all times, whether it’s comfortable or not.

    Are we the Church of Nice, or the Church Militant? I’m in the latter. Cardinal Dolan’s politicking is disgusting extraordinarily disappointing. I’d like some leadership and some conviction, not schmoozing, please.

  • Mary

    I appreciate the Cardinal’s publicly addressing this and his good intentions, but the fact remains, this issue is causing scandal, and worse, will sow confusion among the faithful and Americans as a whole. The Cardinal’s theory may be sound, but in practice this dinner will simply make it look as if the HHS mandate issue is not really all that important. The only thing we’ll see in the mainstream media from this dinner is pictures of the president celebrating with church leaders and maybe a few articles on how the Cardinal/church leaders invited Obama despite the HHS mandate. To the thousands upon thousands of Catholics who don’t fully understand the religious freedom issue and don’t understand that it should be one of the key things guiding them in the voting booth, this will look like the HHS mandate issue has been smoothed over or is not really that important. As I said, the Cardinal’s theory may be sound and certainly disagreement does not preclude sharing a joke, but this invitation will do nothing but harm to the religious liberty cause.

    I wasn’t so much scandalized as tremendously discouraged when I read of the invitation. Here we are, fighting hard, the bishops have been making much greater efforts than ever before, and then we throw away so much of that by providing a photo op that makes it look like the bishops and Obama do not have any serious disagreements. It was one thing to invite the president when he merely disagreed with Church teaching; now they’re inviting a president who doesn’t even want to let Catholics live by Church teaching. He is actively working to prevent Catholic Charities and other Catholic organizations from living out their faith. It’s either give up your faith, or shut your doors. Inviting the man who is threatening the very existence of your organization to have a lighthearted evening of fun with you? Inviting your oppressor to dinner as if his actions are trivial?

    It would be one thing if the Cardinal were to use this as an opportunity to publicly and respectfully exhort the president to live up to America’s ideals of religious liberty, but of course that is not going to happen, because this is not the venue for that. I am all for respectful dialogue and engaging the president and his administration, but this is not an event at which that will happen. It is an event where the president’s participation will give the strong impression that his disagreements with the bishops do not run very deep. Well-educated, well-informed Catholics can appreciate the subtleties and theory behind the Cardinal’s reasoning, but that theory and those subtleties will not come across in the mainstream press or to the millions of not-very-well-informed Catholics in too many pews. It doesn’t matter very much if the Cardinal’s theory is sound here, if his actions give a different impression, as they will. Appearances matter. And there is no way to make this invitation for an evening of lighthearted fun give off any other impression than that the disagreement between the bishops and Obama is not very serious and doesn’t run very deep.

    Just as it seemed the bishops were finally going to make it clear just how fundamental this issue is, their words are undercut by this invitation. I do not for a moment question the Cardinal’s sincerity, but this is a tremendous and discouraging misjudgment. Its appearance will contradict everything the bishops have said about the importance of this issue. This won’t prevent engaged and well-informed Catholics from continuing to fight for their religious liberty, but it will confuse and water down the bishops’ message for the thousands upon thousands of other Catholics who don’t fully understand the threat to our liberty and the absolute necessity of standing up for it at the ballot box and in public life.

    • jocon307

      You comment is very good, Mary. Much better than mine. You’ve laid it out perfectly.

  • William Anthony

    Cannot justify betrayal of the faithful – Screwtape is alive and well.

  • Tom Pringle

    Back when President Obama was invited to speak at the commencement ceremony at Notre Dame, then-Archbishop Dolan was one a of a handful of US bishops to speak out against the visit and the speech. He argued that it gave the President a Catholic platform from which to speak and that would send mixed messages to American Catholics because of the President’s views on abortion. My question to the Cardinal is, what has changed since that time? Why is it acceptable and appropriate for the President to speak at this Catholic event when it was NOT acceptable OR appropriate for him to speak at Notre Dame? I wrote a full-length post on the topic over on my blog; here’s a link: