Cardinal Dolan responds to Al Smith Dinner Attacks…

… I’ve long grown weary of the divisive labels used by Catholics; liberal, conservative, tradition, neo-con, rad trad, evil trad, Catholics For Choice v. Pro-Life Catholics, novus ordo v. tridentine, Communion in the hand v. on the tongue and kneeling… we get it. There is nothing Catholics won’t fight about. That’s why I did not comment on the Al Smith Dinner invitation Cardinal Dolan extended to Obama except only to note at how quickly so many turned on Dolan. For those who’ve been following, and quickly condemning Cardinal Dolan, I offer you his response. From his own blog he writes;

“The Al Smith Dinner has never been without controversy, since, as Carl Anderson reminded us, politics can inspire disdain and negativity as well as patriotism and civility.

This year is surely no exception: I am receiving stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama (and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Governor Romney).

The objections are somewhat heightened this year, since the Catholic community in the United States has rightly expressed vigorous criticism of the President’s support of the abortion license, and his approval of mandates which radically intruded upon Freedom of Religion. We bishops, including yours truly, have been unrelenting in our opposition to these issues, and will continue to be.

So, my correspondents ask, how can you justify inviting the President? Let me try to explain.

For one, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church. It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.

Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

Three, the teaching of the Church, so radiant in the Second Vatican Council, is that the posture of the Church towards culture, society, and government is that of engagement and dialogue. In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one. Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States. And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences. What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?

Finally, 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.”

He concludes and writes on his facebook page, “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?”

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • Lynne

    I still disagree with his decision. I’ve signed 3 petitions. I will call his office and email him but the scandal will still take place. Very disappointed in him.

    • Nightlaser

      I also disagree with the Misguided Cardinal… We as Christians Disagree with Satan too but we don’t invite him to dinner

      • PoorBegger

        Wow! That’s a remark. “1 (as great in wisdom that I am) disagree with the misguided Cardinal (successor of the Apostles).

      • Katrina Fernandez

        Wow, arrogance, humility and obedience to the hierarchy are no longer traits of Catholicism now? Missed that memo. I guess Cardinal Dolan is now a member of the Not Catholic Enough Club.

      • Joshua Danis

        You have got to be kidding me! Did you really draw that comparison? Do you not possess the slightest sense of the inviolable dignity of the human person? That comment is too absurd to even justify anger.

      • lakingscrzy

        Hi, I’d like you to meet my friend, Jesus. He was quite famous for eating with sinners, and many people at the time decried him for it, what were they called again?

    • saddened by their actions

      I cannot believe I posted the below statement (now edited),
      but I am just that mad and sick of the female faithful being silenced (or told
      to “chill” by men). I wrote it on another blog last week (and I have
      only commented online a dozen or so times in my life) in response to Archbishop
      Lori’s explanation of why it was ‘okay’ to have the dinner:

      Et tu, Brute?

      Lori, you of all people? Dolan inviting Obama is just another display of his
      flippant attitude towards faithful females–he is a borderline misogynist! He
      is certainly no scholar, a poor speaker, and when in his presence, there is
      nothing genuine about him. (Unlike you!)

      Lori, please see this brilliant discussion by Gloria Purvis on the mandate and
      how demeaning it is to women
      ( and please
      start to see how the young, faithful women feel. They are out there, tens of
      thousands of them, but they are SILENCED by the ugly pervasive shadow of BITTER


      “It is a
      matter of real fear and concern.. The institutional c[h]urch has a year — but
      not the laity.”

      Freda – thank you for stating this. C. Dolan
      has NO IDEA (whether he intentionally ignores faithful women’s concerns or is
      just so out of touch with reality here on the ground for faithful women) how the young, gifted, educated women are
      faced with leaving professions in health care after years invested in their
      education and residency now knowing it is not long before they are forced out
      by old white women and old white men bent on making them perform abortions (not
      to mention provide abortifacients) and now
      their OWN CHURCH hierarchy is expediting the process? SHAME on you C. Dolan!
      CANCEL THE DINNER, please!


      “Actions speak
      louder than words. The message that this invitation will send to Catholics
      ignorant of Obama’s policies— is a message of approval”

      -I submit to you that THIS IS C.
      Dolan’s sole intention! If R&R win, his limelight FADES A BIT, doesn’t it?
      Think about it.

      The only other
      explanation that flies is they have something on him, and if this is so, please
      C. Dolan, just set us free and leave, and go preach in a country like Syria
      where your presence can’t hurt and marginalize young women any more than they
      are already being hurt there.

      I pray that
      through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe that the true, good shepherds
      are strengthened, and that She assist in exposing those that are not.
      Archbishop Lori, I know you are one of the good ones. While I apologize for the
      intensity and crudeness of the above statements, I urge you to please, please,
      consider them, and reconsider your supporting this repugnant affront to women
      and the faithful laity. Please. You have already lost the lefty women but now
      you want to drive a wedge between the young women faithful and the USCCB?
      Really? Over a stupid dinner?

  • David

    Good for the Cardinal: civility is so rare these days, especially in politics. It cheers me to see the effort made to be kind – even with our enemies.

    • Stephen

      “Civility in politics”?
      I didn’t know the Cardinal was a politician. If that’s the case, it sure does explain why our nation has become a spiritual wasteland.

    • Matt

      When our most basic right to religious freedom is threatened, I would say that civility has already gone out the window.

  • Kelly Thatcher

    Gee. From the comments on this blog I’m amazed folks aren’t retroactively petitioning Jesus from uninviting Matthew to dinner.

    • Stephen

      Gee. From your comment one would think the world was ready for the Second Coming instead of being amidst spiritual, moral, cultural, and economic collapse.

    • Matt

      St. Matthew was prepared to repent and change when he and Jesus ate together. I have seen no such indication from President Obama.

      • zerb

        I suspect you would have said the same of St. Matthew back in the day.

  • Stephen

    Cardinal Dolan’s response emphasizing “dialogue” is weak and senseless–I see no precedent set in the Bible of holy saints schmoozing with powerful enemies of the Church bent on its destruction (i.e. Judas dialogued with the Pharisees but that didn’t turn out so well for him). But I do recognize that all of the lukewarm catholics obsessed with fitting right in with mainstream American culture think his words are right on point–”go along to get along.” You seem to forget James 4:4: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

    • zerb

      Jesus dined with the tax collectors and prostitutes. The Pharisees hated him for that. They too said it was a scandal. Looks like there are a lot of Pharisees walking around today.

      • Joanne S.

        Maybe if John the Baptist asked if he could attend Herod’s birthday party he might not have lost his head.

  • Wilberforce

    1. Are enemies of the Church regularly invited to fundraisers in order to converse?
    2. Obama is not just a politician with “different political loyalties” he is a proponent of intrinsic evil. I could see inviting an abortion neutral democrat to a fundraiser, even if his platform is antithetical to the magisterium, but Obama is an aggressive, public, unrepentant advocate of child murder, the destruction of the family, and the persecution of the church. Meet with him, break bread with him in private, but please don’t do it at a fundraising dinner! That stinks to high heaven of weakness and of selling out the faith.
    3. The Pope invited the President to a private audience is very
    different from the Pope having invited Obama (aka, after birth abortion
    proponent) to a Vatican fundraiser. What message would you send if you
    refused to invite a rabid persecutorial pro-abortion President to a
    fundraiser? Well, it would be a very clear message, the Catholic church
    of NY would rather skip the opportunity to have the biggest speaker in
    the world, in order to make it clear that it is not OK to trample on
    religious freedom and advocate the murder of children. That’s a pretty darn good message in my book.
    4. An invitation to the Al Smith dinner does indicate a slackening of our vigorous promotion of Catholic values. More than that, it indicates that if you are powerful enough, you can do absolutely anything you want to the Catholic church and still have “vibrant solidarity” with her.

    I will pray for Cardinal Dolan, but this all makes me sick at heart.

  • MaryRoseM

    I am in total agreement with you, Kat. I was absolutely horrified at the vilification of Cardinal Dolan. This is the same man who was applauded for speaking out against the HHS Mandate.who now became the recipient of angry comments and petitions.I am tired of self-appointed “prophets” who feel it is their duty to take things into their own hands and who seem to forget the virtue of Christian charity. These are well-intentioned people to be sure; but ego must be replaced by humility in all things.

  • Brandon

    Cardinal Dolan has long, long since proven has character to me. If he says this is a smart move, I believe him. He’s the type of man who make me question–and even change–my own positions. Though I don’t need an explanation from him, I find the one he gave to be excellent. It’s the type of thing that makes me wish, fancifully, that he becomes the first American pope.

  • Ron

    Who can tell? Perhaps this will soften the president’s heart. I don’t think we should ever miss an opportunity to show love to those who oppose us. Chesterton said the goal in our dealings with those who oppose us is not their destruction but their conversion.

    • Joanne S.

      Let Dolan show love AFTER the election. The media will control how this is portrayed to the public, and edited sound bites and photo ops showing how chummy the Catholic Church is with its persecutor will signal Catholics on the fence that it is OK to vote for this guy. You don’t hand Obama an opportunity like this mere weeks before the most important election in our lifetime. Better to disinvite both candidates than allow Obama to use this.

  • sad

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is responsible for the demise of American Catholics for decades. Bishop Dolan’s decision to create the perfect photo-op for the biggest anti-Catholic leader of our Nation is nothing less than a continuance of irresposible behaviors by our USCCB. I am very disappointed in Bishop Dolan’s decision. I’m sure Nancy Pelosi is on a high right now.

  • Edge

    I love all of the examples of Jesus dining with sinners, but I seem to recall him having some advice about something regarding pearls and swine… hmmm…

    Jesus gave HIS authority in faith and morals to the apostles – and Acts and the letters seem to cover this (sort of set the ground rules if you will) on interacting with someone you have issues with. Following their directions, it went something like if you have an issue with someone, follow the advice and if it works you have gained a brother. First, you meet with them in private, if no such luck in working it out, bring him to the church, still no luck – leave him alone.

    As Cardinal Dolan said, he and his fellow successors to the apostles have a really tough job to do – and require our prayers, but maybe he and his fellow cardinals and bishops need to stop trying to get worldly approval and seek only God’s approval – you cannot serve two masters.

    As the soon to be canonized Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, (paraphrased) who will correct the bishops and cardinals? It is you, the layperson and body of Christ who need to correct the bishops and leaders of the Church. Many great Saints have gone before us and showed us how (and just how much disdain we will get as a reward for doing so as well.) St. Catherine, St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross, and many more come to mind…

    • Anabel

      I am not American but I don’t agree with what Cardinal Dolan is doing either. He needs much prayer as do all those in authority in the Church. When Jesus sat with sinners, they were not leaders of powerful nations. Obama is a man who stands as leader. He is also one who advocates the killing of the child in the womb. That means his sin is not just personal but has caused the death and destruction of so many. Yes, of course God is always merciful. While those at this dinner will be wining, dining and joking, many, many lives will be destroyed because of the policies of Obama. It is a sad day indeed.

  • joxxer

    I have not altered my opinion after reading Dolan’s weak argument defending his position. He is insistent on breaking bread with Obama who has been nothing but hateful and derisive toward the Church and its clergy. If he refuses to see the mistake in that, then he is content in his blindness. Does Dolan think he is going to charm Obama? Get him to change? I assume this cardinal wishes to be well liked and patted on the head. So is “popularity” with an enemy of the Church his aim? All I can see is that this sends a NEGATIVE Message–and Cardinal D insists on his poor judgment. God help us and spare us from those in our midst that work against us.

  • Birgit Atherton Jones

    I’m still disappointed as well. Yes, Jesus dined with sinners, but he did this with the understanding that he would be able to teach them and not condone the errors of their ways. The Smith dinner, by contrast, is about a photo opp and having a lighthearted, laughing good time. I fail to see the comparison. The fact that two previous bishops declined to invite either Kerry or Clinton speaks to a precedent that is much less scandalous. In any case, this will be used as an absolution and endorsement by those who are looking for an excuse to vote democrat.

  • asydwy

    The Cardinal’s main point for extending the invitation seems to be because it has
    always been thus! Well, that does not mean it can never be changed. Now seems
    as great a time to stop what is typically seen as an endorsement of the Democratic Party by most people. Given the current circumstances, since the invitations are
    out, the show must go on. But under no circumstances should there be any media
    invited or allowed. Strictly private affair! If President Obama is seen with the affable Cardinal smiling (does he ever not?) it will be perceived that all is cool with the Prez and the Church! And thousands of Catholics will be duped once more to vote for
    the most Pro-abort, anti- religion President ever. Is it worth the risk to have that
    happen? And who wants to see our Cardinal standing outside the Chancery
    telling the press he has once again been betrayed?

  • asydwy

    I meant to also add, does anyone see the irony here of inviting the most Pro-Abort President to a fund-raiser for women and their babies? Wow! It boggles the mind!
    What were (those issuing the invites) thinking? Really?

  • John King

    Prudential judgements should be exactly that, prudent. This term cannot be used to justify any action that is not intrinsically evil. The point is that many Catholics do not think it was prudent, but scandalous. Just as going alone to dinner with another man’s spouse, by itself is not intrinsically evil, it is not prudent, but scandalous. Having an official meeting with her at work on the other hand is appropriate. Cardinal Dolan did not choose the right forum for dialog and it is downright scandalous.
    Fraternizing with the enemy at a dinner party is scandalous especially when you were the one who personally invited him. I believe the problem is that many Catholics don’t think President Obama is a enemy of the Church as evidenced by their voting in 2008. So what was the Fortnight of Freedom all about anyway? I believe many Catholics don’t try to practice their faith 100% and when the Bishops do things like this it somehow justifies their own personal lack of the virtue of prudence. Come on, Jesus dining with sinners cannot be compared to Jesus leaving the Disciples to attend a gala with King Herod.

  • Elizabeth Warynick

    1. I just had a GREAT IDEA!!! If Cardinal Dolan wants to show Mr. Obama about the REAL CATHOLIC FAITH…..I have a GREAT IDEA! Cardinal Dolan and Mr. Obama can be the ones SERVING the guests at this GALA Dinner!!! That’s RIGHT! Show Mr. Obama the lesson of Jesus to be the GREATEST in the Kingdom of Heaven you must be THE SERVANT OF ALL!!! Just break the news to Mr. Obama that he is still invited but that the Catholic Church is going to give him an opportunity to get to be REALLY GREAT like the Catholics do it! NO Speeches, No Dinning on sumptuous food or drinking gin toddies…..just GET THE APRON ON and hey! If you want to be REALLY FAIR…invite Mr. ROMNEY to ALSO do this!!!
    Then you invite NOT THE RICH….but you be sure to make a certain number of seats available for the POOR on the Streets of NY! Be sure to invite those that you find on the streets that are there who were once home owners and productive citizens but due to the mishandling of the country’s wealth have lost their jobs and their homes!
    I think it’s BRILLIANT….I think it will WORK…….AND….THE PRESS WILL BE ALL OVER IT!!!

  • Michael J Batton

    you people realize there are catholics that are democrats and that most catholics use birth control?

    • Katrina Fernandez


  • Laura M

    While the idea doesn’t exactly make me happy, Cardinal Donal has proven his commitment to the Church again and again. I don’t see why people in the comments are being so hateful and condescending, you can disagree with him, there’s no need for the vitrol. I think his reasons are true and holly, is Obama I’m worried about.

  • propacis

    I do not prefer that Cardinal Dolan include Barack Obama as a guest at the Al Smith Dinner. However I see the wisdom in the Cardinal’s course. Love him or loathe him Barack Obama is President of the United States. He also happens to be a President who acts with abject disregard for the US Constitution, parties constantly, plays a lot of golf and travels very often on the taxpayer’s dime to campaign. There will be few opportunities for the Cardinal to engage the President on matters critical to the free expression of the Catholic Faith over the short term. God willing there will be no long term need to be in dialog with Mr. Obama. I trust Cardinal Dolan to make the most of this window of opportunity to enroll the President in Religious Freedom and convert the President’s hardened heart.

    My fervent hope is that this will not be allowed to become a media opportunity for the President to show a spineless Catholic Hierarchy bending to his domineering will.

    May our Lord Jesus Christ be with you Cardinal Dolan and all our Bishops in this engagement of those apparently committed to end our 1st Amendment Rights.

  • Mike

    I have tried to give Cardinal Dolan benefit of doubt on this invite and to some degree I understand his explanation for his action. However, after the VP debate this week and hearing Joe Biden’s false, inaccurate and misleading statements about the HHS mandate and its attack on Catholic employers I cant help but think this invitation makes even less sense. I mean Biden represents Obama and one has to assume his statement is an accurate reflection of the Administration views? Unless Cardinal Dolan makes serious remarks that publically refute Biden since he prefaced his statement with the obligatory, “I am a Catholic……” , then I think this entire dinner is scandalous to our Church. Despite my feelings, i still LOVE and support and pray for my Bishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.