When does a dinner invitation become a scandal? — UPDATED

When does a dinner invitation become a scandal? — UPDATED August 7, 2012

When it involves the fabled Al Smith Dinner in New York, all you have to do is invite President Obama:

By tradition, the storied Al Smith Dinner has provided a few hours of comic relief from the angry volleys of the campaign trail — a white-tie charity banquet held in the weeks before Election Day, hosted by the archbishop of New York and featuring speeches by the two presidential candidates on the condition that they lob nothing more than good-natured jibes.

But the Catholic hierarchy’s fierce feud with President Obama, abetted by the increasingly sharp tone of the 2012 elections, is threatening to invade this demilitarized zone and give New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan a case of pre-dinner agita.

Dolan has reportedly extended an offer to Obama (as well as his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney) to attend this year’s dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, scheduled for Oct. 18, and reports say the president has accepted. That has mobilized abortion opponents, who view Obama as the worst thing since Roe v. Wade and an enemy of religious liberty because of his administration’s controversial birth control mandate.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, a leading abortion opponent based in Staten Island, said Monday (Aug. 6) that “the polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to scandal.”

“There comes a time when enough is enough and we can no longer afford to give people a reason to doubt our position as a Church,” Pavone wrote in an email. “So no, I don’t think the invitation is appropriate at this time.”

“Better to cancel the event than have it become another cause for scandal in the Catholic Church,” Randy Engel, head of the U.S. Coalition for Life, told LifeNews.com, an anti-abortion website.

The New York Archdiocese has not formally announced that Obama and Romney have been invited, or have accepted. But Meghan McGuinness Myers, executive director of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, which organizes the annual fundraiser on behalf of various children’s charities, told LifeSiteNews that Obama had been invited and had accepted.

Read more. 

UPDATE:  The Associated Press indicates Obama has accepted the invite:

New York Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan is suing the Obama administration, but he’s inviting President Barack Obama to dinner anyway.

Dolan has asked both Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to attend the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation charity dinner on Oct. 18, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York said Tuesday.

Romney has accepted. The Obama campaign hasn’t said publicly whether the president will attend, but Dolan’s spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said Obama has accepted, too.

Despite his differences with Obama, Dolan held to the tradition of inviting the president because “this is not a partisan event,” Zwilling said. “It is an evening to put politics aside and come together in a spirit of civility.”

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