Cardinal Dolan and the Republican National Convention

Cardinal Dolan and the Republican National Convention August 23, 2012

Should Cardinal Dolan deliver the benediction at the Republican National Convention?  According to the AP, Romney announced his appearance last night on EWTN.  Dolan is scheduled to give the benediction on the last night of the convention, when Romney accepts his nomination for president.    His spokesman, according to the AP, is denying that this should be viewed as an endorsement of Romney:  “It’s not an endorsement. It’s as a priest going to pray.”

Conservatives have been quick to defend the Cardinal, pointing out that Cardinal Mahoney offered a prayer at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.  (Cf. the blog at America.  Note that the pictures included are not from the convention but the inauguration of the Mayor of LA in 2005.)  I would note two differences:  first, Mahoney delivered the invocation at the opening of the convention—temporally separate from Gore’s acceptance speech on the last day.  Second, the Democratic convention was in Los Angeles, where Mahoney is bishop.  (As an aside, Mahoney used the opportunity to gently rebuke the Democrats on life issues.)

In analyzing this, it is worth remembering that this invitation was a political decision by the Republicans.  For that matter, the decision of the Democrats to invite Mahoney in 2000 was also a political decision:  everything associated with a national political convention is political.   Moreover, the decision was not simply to get a Catholic bishop, but to get Cardinal Dolan.  As the NY Times reports:

Before accepting the invitation, Cardinal Dolan told the convention organizers that it was standard church practice for the local bishop of the area to give the blessing. But, Mr. Zwilling said, “they said we would really like you to do it,” so he checked with Robert Nugent Lynch, the bishop of St. Petersburg, Fla., and he had no objection.

(Hat tip to the Commonweal blog for this quote.)  Similarly, one can presume that the decision for Dolan to give the benediction instead of the invocation was based on political calculation.

Therefore, the question becomes:  was it prudent for Cardinal Dolan to accept an invitation contrary to “standard church practice”, and should he accept an invitation to pray that places him in close proximity to the culmination of the convention when Romney accepts the nomination?    As president of the USCCB and bishop of the largest diocese in the US, Dolan is (in some informal sense) the primate of the Church in the United States.  His appearance (irrespective of what he says) will be seen as an endorsement of Romney, Dolan’s denials notwithstanding.   Will his image be exploited by the Republicans in campaign ads, as they did with the image of JP II?

I think it is a mistake.   This decision will only drag the Church further into a partisan divide and fuel the perception (true or not) that the Catholic Church wants to replace the Episcopalians as the Republican party on its knees.   While there are some things that Dolan could say in his benediction that could ameliorate the situation (such as attacking Republican economic policies as the USCCB recently did) my hunch is that he will not go in that direction.  Moreover, there are things he could say which would only make it worse.  For example,  if he dwells in his prayer on religious freedom, it will almost certainly be interpreted as an attack on the Obama administration.

It is probably too late for him to decline the invitation:  it would probably take a call from Benedict XVI to change his mind.  Let’s hope that he keeps his prayer as non-partisan as possible and avoids anything (in word, deed or photo op) that can be construed as an endorsement of Romney.

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  • Kurt

    There is simply no group more in need of prayer than the Republican Party. I pray for them daily.

    My only hope is that the expenses to the Catholic Church can be minimized by the Cardinal flying coach and staying at a nearby rectory rather than at one of the overpriced convention hotels. The Republican Party does pick up the cost of a car and driver for the Cardinal while he is in Tampa, so the lay faithful are spared that cost.

    • Jimmy Mac

      The current rumor (unsubstantiated at this date, but from a source high up in the Knights of Columbus) is that The Tim will actually be there as head of a team of exorcists from Opus Dei, SSPX and the Orneryariate.

      They were invited to do so by Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and the Grand Dragon of the local Ku Klux Klan, who also has 16 Florida Chick Fil A franchises.

  • Thales

    It’s important to note Cardinal Dolan has also offered to say the benediction at the Democratic Convention. And he just invited Pres. Obama to the Al Smith dinner, to the loud objection from many conservatives (and for some of the same reasons that you allude to here, though obviously, on the opposite side of the political spectrum). I think it’s silly and baseless to object to Cdl. Dolan inviting Pres. Obama to the dinner. More dialogue, interaction, and communication between our religious and political leaders is needed, not less. For the same reason, this benediction at the GOP convention doesn’t bother me.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      I agree completely about the dinner, though I note that the dinner is the Cardinal’s home turf, as it were, and with Romney and Obama invited it is clearly a non-partisan affair. As for the offer to say the benediction at the DNC, I must say that that was a very shrewd offer on the Cardinal’s part (“be as guileless as doves and as cunning as serpents” as Jesus put it). But, all in all, I remain uncomfortable with Dolan accepting such an overtly political invitation.

      • Thales


        Would you be uncomfortable with the Cardinal being invited and saying the benediction at the DNC?

        It sounds like you’re suggesting that it’s always a bad idea to have religious leaders giving benedictions at political events, regardless of the politics. I tend to think exactly the opposite. In our society, there is a growing (and extremely misguided) notion that religion shouldn’t participate in the public square. To counter that misguided notion, I think more dialogue and interaction is needed, not less.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Yes, I would, though perhaps less so since there are obvious disagreements between Dolan and the Democrats: it would be viewed as a unifying gesture rather than a divisive one. I would be happier if the invitation went to the local bishop: bishops ordinarily get very unhappy when another bishop enters his diocese. Lynch, for obvious reasons, will not express his displeasure. But one only need look at the response to Bishop Gumbleton when he went to Kansas (or was it Missouri) to testify in favor of a bill that the local bishops would not support to see what I mean. I would also be happier if the invitation were for the invocation (at the start of the convention) rather than the end, as was the case for Mahoney in LA.

        • Thales

          Lynch, for obvious reasons, will not express his displeasure.

          It’s not a matter of Lynch simply not expressing his displeasure while Dolan does what he wants. From the articles I read, I got the impression that proper protocol was followed: Lynch gave his permission to Dolan to enter since it is Lynch’s jurisdiction.

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            Same reasoning applies: even if he does object, there are strong reasons for him to sit on it and give permission. To paraphrase Orwell: “All bishops are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

        • Thales

          Yes, I would, though perhaps less so since there are obvious disagreements between Dolan and the Democrats: it would be viewed as a unifying gesture rather than a divisive one.

          Heh. You say “it would be viewed as a unifying gesture rather than a divisive one” — doesn’t that just mean “there would be a photo-op positive for the Democrats instead of a photo-op negative for the Democrats”? Isn’t your concept of “unifying” related in some way to the concept of “endorsing” and that people might construe an endorsement? So an occasion that puts Dolan in a positive light vis-a-vis the Democrats, bothers you less than an occasion that puts Dolan in a negative light vis-a-vis the Democrats?

          Sorry, just needling you a little bit considering the fact that your political bias is showing with that comment. I still get your main point that you’d be against Dolan giving the benediction at the DNC.

      • Thales


        Here’s my point from another perspective.

        Your post kind of sounds like this (consider the last line of your post):
        “Cdl. Dolan might be caught stating a pleasantry in Romney’s favor or might be captured in a positive photo-op with Romney. These could be construed as an endorsement of Romney. Therefore, Cdl. Dolan shouldn’t take this chance and he should avoid interacting with Romney.”

        I see little difference between that and this:
        “At the Al Smith dinner, Cdl. Dolan might be caught stating a pleasantry in Obama’s favor or might be captured in a positive photo-op with Obama. These could be construed as an endorsement of Obama (or “give scandal”). Therefore, Cdl. Dolan shouldn’t take this chance and he should avoid interacting with Obama.”

        You can see the inevitable conclusion of these positions: no religious leader should ever interact publicly with a political leader — after all, if someone takes a photo of them shaking hands and smiling at one another, that could be construed as an endorsement!

        It seems to me that if we want to avoid (1) the further marginalization of religion from the public square AND (2) people possibly thinking that a religious leader is making endorsements (or giving scandal) by publicly interacting with a politician, we should have more interactions, not less. If Cdl. Dolan is regularly appearing in photos shaking hands with both Obama and Romney, if he is regularly meeting with both at conferences and dinners, if he is regularly giving benedictions at public events for both, then there becomes less reason to think that he is improperly making a political endorsement.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Thales, as I indicated elsewhere, I believe the RNC and the Al Smith Dinner are not comparable and so the analogy you are drawing does not work. I am in favor of interaction, but bishops, like Caesar’s wife, must be beyond reproach.

        • Thales

          I understand that you think a political convention is different from the Al Smith dinner because you think the latter is “clearly a non-partisan affair.” But a lot of people don’t see that distinction. I think that for a lot of people, any interaction with a politician *always* has the potential to be “a partisan affair”, because, after all, a photo of the two people shaking hands might be taken, which might then be used in campaign ads, which might be construed as an endorsement, etc.

        • Thales

          I should add that I agree with you that religious leaders should act with an abundance of caution when dealing with political leaders, should avoid making outright endorsements for political purposes, should be beyond reproach in political matters, etc., because their primary vocation is serving the spiritual needs of all people. So the question of whether a religious leader should do a benediction at Event X is a prudential one, involving many factors — and might be appropriate in one set of circumstances and not in another set.

        • Kurt

          It is usually the conservatives who tell us the USCCB Prez should not be acting like a national Primate. The Smith Dinner is in the Archdiocese of New York. The Conventions are not this year. I don’t find it this much of comment on politics but on ecclesiology. Of course, regardless of their principles, conservatives were glad to glorify Spellman for offering the Church’s support of the Viet Nam war, so I guess nothing has changed.

  • Sorry, but from the perspective of most of the Catholic world–more concerned about socio-economic justice and the prevention of miilions dying of starvation than about “family values” and the “right to life”–the American Catholic Church IS already “the Republican Party on its knees.” Let the Cardinal go to the convention; it only ensures that the American Catholic Church will have even less of a say at the next papal conclave, and I’m all for that!

  • To the perpetually offended: Grow up, already. Really.

    • Ha!
      To be fair, that was a different writer, but I think the Gandersauce division has a point. Showing up at the convention to give a prayer is no more an endorsement than saying a benediction at the opening of Congress is an endorsement of every pol’s intentions.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Let me try this again: the RNC (like the DNC) is partisan by its very nature. The invitation was extended for partisan reasons, as was the invitation by the Dems in 2000 to Mahoney. Fair enough. The bishops have to make a prudential judgment as to whether they are entangling themselves too closely in the partisan acts taking place that their actions are construed as an endorsement of them. Mahoney went on the first day (when only a few political junkies even bother to watch) because he was the local ordinary and delivered an invocation. Getting close to an edge, but in my judgment still on the right side. The Republicans refuse to invite the local ordinary, and instead invite the most prominent bishop in the US, one who is engaged in an extended fight with the Obama administration. They invite him to appear on the final night of the convention, when public interest is at its peak, to deliver a benediction in close proximity to the acceptance speech by the Republican candidate. In my mind, this is on the other side of the line.

        Feel free to disagree with me, but at least acknowledge some of the nuance in the question at hand.

        • It’s all about power (in this case, Republican power). The invitation to Dolan was, of course, politically motivated. The Cardinal is being used.

    • Hee hee.

  • Comes awfully close to an endorsement of Romney, but his eminence is within his rights to give a benediction there if he wishes. It’ll basically get spun as an approval of Ryan’s claims to be in line with CST, just as they spun his letter to Ryan on the budget. It would be great if his eminence could say a prayer at both conventions, as a true show of non-partisanship, as he has done with the Al Smith dinner. I can only imagine the fits that the far-right (American Papist, Fr. Z, LifeSiteNews, etc.) would be thrown into if he made an appearance among the “party of death” that’s waging a “war on religion.”

    • brettsalkeld

      This would indeed be the ideal, and Dolan told the Democrats he’d say yes. I’m guessing they won’t dream of asking him though. It’s in the Democrats interest to make it look like Dolan endorses Romney. Rally the troops against those religious bastards that want to take away your freedom to choose etc. etc.

      • “It’s in the Democrats interest to make it look like Dolan endorses Romney.” And, it’s in the Republican interest as well. It seems to me there is an inherent danger in being a cleric who is popular and/or in the media.

        • brettsalkeld


      • Kurt

        There is no act of rallying on the part of Democratic Party. But yes, as a general observation it is true that even without any affirmative act of rallying the troops, appearances of political endorsements by prelates work against the endorsed candidate.

        Anyway, given the Act of God named Isaac, it is questionable the Cardinal will even get there. Hopefully for the sake of the Archdiocese’s already troubled finances, his plane ticket is refundable.

  • I think Thomas Merton has something to say about this “Since evil is the defect of the good, The lack of a good that ought to be there and nothing positive in itself, it follows that the greatest evil is found where the highest good has been corrupted.” To many in the Church feel the Church has already been corrupted by partisan politics if not the clergy sexual abuse scandal..

    I am always for prayer as long it is about God’s agenda and not Caesar’s . Our Church is already polarized my only question is will this help or hinder that polarization, and therefore our unity.

  • Rat-biter

    The Cardinal *is* a bishop. Blessing is an episcopal function.

    “…first, Mahoney delivered the invocation at the opening of the convention—temporally separate from Gore’s acceptance speech on the last day.”

    ## But how is that significant, whether morally, as Republican statregy, or in any other way ?

    “While there are some things that Dolan could say in his benediction that could ameliorate the situation (such as attacking Republican economic policies as the USCCB recently did)…”

    ## And the Democrats would not make an issue out of that, if he did ? Republicans have souls too, some of them are Catholics, and that is surely reason enough for a Catholic bishop to function as Catholic bishop *if* one is going to come at all. Otherwise, why bother having a Catholic bishop at any function – especially in circumstances that allow interpretation as episcopal support for a given party ? Maybe the tradition of having a bishop along is the problem.

    FWIW, the Church is morally compromised – if it is compromised by having bishops give blessings at Republican events – by the fact of the being Catholic Republicans. It is the fault of the Catholic laity that the GOP is unCatholic – if Catholic Republicans had been more Catholic, rather than allowing their religion to be submerged by their politics, this dilemma would never have arisen. Same goes for all Catholics in any party in any country: if the countries we live in are in a mess because of unChristian policies, we have to shoulder the blame.

    How is the Cardinal’s going to a GOP meeting morally objectionable, but Obama’s going to Note Dame University not objectionable ? If Obama’s behaviour can be defended – why is the Cardinal’s indefencible ? IMO, it would much better to quit having bishops along at political events – if there must be a man of the cloth present at some point, can’t a deacon or priest give a blessing ? Why is a blessing needed anyway ? It might be entirely inappropriate. To bless unChristian politics, is close to abuse of a sacred power – regardless of what party may have one’s support.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      See my comments above: I think I addressed all of your points except perhaps the Obama speech at Notre Dame, which is a different kettle of fish. (Obama was being honored as president, not being endorsed as a presidential candidate.)

      • Rat-biter

        I made sure to read your article before posting – the post was an answer to (IIRC) every point other that about getting the bishop with ordinary jurisdiction, rather than the Cardinal. I thought that point, though it had some weight, was less weighty than the others.

        “(Obama was being honored as president, not being endorsed as a presidential candidate.)”

        ## Although that is so, that event was, in its own way, as genuinely a political matter was this convention. It would clearly be inaccurate to say the two events are identical in kind; what I said will hold good, if they overlap to a sufficient extent for the comparison to hold good.

        If it is argued that the honour done to Obama could be defended because that is how other PsOTUS have been treated – ISTM the same reasoning holds for inviting Card. Dolan to the GOP convention. If other Catholic bishops, even Cardinals, have attended & blessed it, why can’t he ? One of these men is a Protestant Christian elected to be POTUS; the other is a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. Both men are much-criticised, on ethical grounds; invitations for them to be present at certain venues have been criticised, and defended; & in both instances, one of the defences has been that the event would not be politicised.

        ISTM these two incidents are sufficiently alike to be usefully compared. If anything, there seems to be less reason to object to the Cardinal’s invitations, than to Obama’s. For the Cardinal is performing a function, that of blessing, which belongs to him in the capacity in which he is attending the event. To be honoured by a University, one need not be a POTUS, let alone an incumbent POTUS. So it would be very natural, if regrettable, for his going to NDU to be used for political advantage, no matter by whom. There is less intrinsic connection between being POTUS & going to NDU as invited, than being a Cardinal & going to a GOP convention to perform a function which, they being bishops, Cardinals often perform. *Ergo*, if Obama’s invitation & going can be defended – the Cardinal’s is even more defencible.

        Not being from the US, maybe I have no business commenting on matters of domestic concern.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          “Not being from the US, maybe I have no business commenting on matters of domestic concern.”

          This doesn’t stop anyone else, and an outsider perspective is usually welcome.

          With regards to your comment: I guess I disagree. A commencement ceremony can be politicized; a convention is by its very nature a partisan political event and so must be approached much more cautiously by the prelate involved.

    • Sorry, sir, but there’s a time and a place. In the politicized religious culture, it would be best for NO Christian ecclesiastic to go ANYWHERE near a poltical event during an election season–especially such a vile election season as this one in America obviously is.

  • Rat-biter

    Note Dame = Notre Dame

  • Rat-biter

    by the fact of the being = by the fact of there being.

    An “edit” function would really help…

  • Mark VA

    David Cruz-Uribe, SFO:

    To me, the explanation of the distinction between VN’s approval of the Notre Dame situation, but its disapproval of the GOP situation, is so tenuous, so vacuous, so thin, so incredibly “nuanced”, it twisted the whole thought process into a pretzel.

    To rephrase that: this whole exercise in attempting to explain that a liberal bias doesn’t really exist here, amounts to nothing more than multiplying or dividing that bias by one, ad infinitum.

    By the way, you also wrote :

    “…there are obvious disagreements between Dolan and the Democrats.”

    Here, you are wittingly or unwittingly personalizing, and thus trivializing, a problem of a higher order. Replace “Dolan” with “certain teachings of the Catholic Church” to get it right.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Please do not confuse me with other authors on VN. We all have our own takes on things: sometimes close, sometimes different. Most of us are liberal/progressive in our outlook. No surprise there. If you want to make the case that the two are the same, take your best shot.

    • There was a fairly wide breadth of response at that time, not that you are particularly interested.

      • Mark VA

        Thank you David and M.Z., you both have made a good point – there is a slight shade of variation among VN authors on this subject – overall still listing to the left in my eyes. I stand (somewhat) corrected.

        Also, I think it’s a step in the right direction to frankly acknowledge VN’s leftist bias (“Most of us are liberal/progressive in our outlook. No surprise there”). It clears the air of pretence.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          I don’t think most of us have pretended otherwise. What we have objected to is the idea that we are in any way less faithful because of this.

  • trellis smith
    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Very embarrassing for all Catholics, left or right. I hope you are not comparing Dolan and the RNC to this: Godwin’s law and all that.

      • Kurt


        Speaking for the Catholic Left, I don’t find it embarrassing as our record against the Right Wing in the 1930s is rather admirable and even showed considerable foresight of tragic events yet to come (and sadly, too few listened to us). Leaders of the Catholic Left in Germany like Jakob Kaiser and Blessed Nickolas Gross never blessed the Nazi flag. And Von Pappen was certainly no man of the Left.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          True, but we must own the bad as well as the good.

        • Kurt


          I understand I have a baptismal bond with all other Catholics, but no, I’m not accepting ownership for the misdeeds of the Catholic Right. Certainly there have been misdeeds by the Catholic Left and by the great majority of Catholics who would not describe themselves in either of those terms.

          But as much as some by say we are “an exhausted project”, the Catholic Left showed great bravery, courage, foresight, wisdom and faithfulness in our response to the Right-Wing in the 1930s, even to the point of death. And for this, some of our brother and sister Catholics declared us unworthy of the name Christian and to be collaborators with the evil Bolsheviks and Semite International. Maybe on other matters, but on this we of teh Catholic Left have nothing to apologize for or be embarrassed about.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Kurt: I agree, and indeed the Catholic Left has much to be praised for. I missed its heyday and beyond a few members of the Catholic Worker don’t have much contact with it, but I deeply admire it.

          My only point is that, precisely because of the bond of baptism, we must acknowledge that there is a Catholic right, and there are sinners and mediocrities in the Church along with saints. To reject them is to fall into the the thinking that we belong to some God chosen “remnant” when in fact we are all in this together. I would rather praise the good (even if they were dismissed as “premature anti-fascists”) but I must accept the bad, even as I accept the good and bad in myself.

        • Kurt


          Okay, you’ve warmed my heart that you recognize the phrases of the Right like “premature anti-fascist.” which certainly belongs up there with Cardinal Primate Isidro Goma’s attacks on “the Semite International.”

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            Well, my education has been eclectic, and if you don’t look closely you can make the same mistake as an old colleague (a Greek socialist) made when he asked me: “what are you, an Old Leftist?”

    • Jordan

      re: trellis smith [August 23, 2012 9:09 pm]: I needn’t say the obvious: the Church historically has been especially attracted to political conservativism and in extremis rightist fascism. Rightist political traditions ostensibly respect religiously-based moral and ethical structures in law. Cdl. Dolan is not a fascist certainly, but one must consider that not a few Catholics have set conservative political expectations for him.

      I am convinced that in a nominally secular democratic republic, it’s better to bend state secularity and let clerics have some controlled and public political say. Otherwise, resentments among a number of clergy and christifideles will merely at some point erupt and threaten the fundamentals of a secular republic. If Cdl. Dolan wishes to place an archepiscopal imprimatur on Romney and Ryan, let him do so even if I personally disagree strongly with that decision. There’s still the option for individual Catholics to disagree with Dolan in the privacy of a voting booth.

      • Trellis Smith

        My fear is that the unnatural alliance between the Catholic right, the Southern Baptist right and the Mormon Church may already constitute a threat to the fundamentals of the secular republic.The USCCB has shown of late a remarkable disregard for the pluralistic nature o the republic in its hyperbolic attacks against civil same sex marriages and in its rebuke of the HHS mandate, a willful misreading of the first amendment.

  • Since I have already been quoted above, I’ll go ahead and offer my remarks. There is nothing wrong with Dolan exercising his ministerial function. Anyone interpreting it as an endorsement, be that positively or negatively, is I believe predisposed toward that interpretation. Ministers should not merely have a private function, but they should have a public function as well.

    Involvement in politics does not make one a partisan. As Benedict has noted, the church is called to engage in politics. It is not however to be a partisan. As much as the church serves the people individually, the church serves the people corporately. That is true no matter how vile the government the church must serve under.

    The only exceptional thing here is inviting a bishop from outside the diocese, and even that isn’t the first exception if memory serves. I believe the Democrats had someone other than Chaput offer the benediction when they had their convention in Denver.

    If I may be so brash as to speak on behalf of poor people for a moment, please allow me to offer them the same advice that I offered pro-lifers: our interests have universal appeal and our interests will never be served by enforcing artificial divisions. While it is certainly true that at any time we may enjoy greater favor from one side or the other, our interests are not transitory. Our friends today may be our enemies tomorrow, and our enemies today may be our friends tomorrow. That doesn’t mean we can’t honestly advocate our interests, but that does mean excommunications will generally tend to harm our interests in the long term. While I remain opposed to abortion, my contact wish pro-lifers has led me disavow association with them for a while now. The poor have enough enemies without trying to create new ones.

    In the end, the Republican Party wants a Catholic prelate to pray that God’s grace be upon them. Sure, I suppose a reasonable argument could be made that what the Republican Party represents is so repellent that the only reasonable position is for a prelate to wipe the dust from his sandals. I might even be deeply sympathetic to that view.* But in the end, the Republican Party is deeply represented in our pews and perhaps that is the place we should get sanctimonious rather than secular events. Lord wouldn’t it be nice if our prelates got a little sanctimonious about the people’s obligations to the poor.

    * Oh calm down, I’m joking.

    • Despite my cheekiness above, I will co-sign this statement from both perspectives.

      And for the record, I didn’t have a settled opinion on President Obama’s invitation to Notre Dame, but did not care for the dismissive manner in which those obejcting were addressed.

      But in general, I think that devoting much time and energy to issues like this betrays a lack of priorities.

      The harm here is that it is possible the GOP may make an ad featuring Cdl. Dolan (though I strongly suspect Cdl. Dolan made not doing so a condition of this participation), which might lead some people to see it as an endorsement of the Republican Party in general and the Romney/Ryan ticket in particular.

      If this is the biggest problem we’re facing, these are great days indeed.

      But they’re not, and we know that. And when we use our forums on issues like this, it makes us less credible when we claim that the injustices faced by the poor or the unborn demand attention. If that were the case, why are we wasting time worrying about a bishop offering a prayer, or a president delivering a commencement address?

      • Kurt

        The harm here is that it is possible the GOP may make an ad featuring Cdl. Dolan (though I strongly suspect Cdl. Dolan made not doing so a condition of this participation),

        I hope (and doubt) Dolan is that much of an idiot. The majority of campaign ads for Romney are by outside superPACs that would not be bound by any such agreement. It would be a very unserious and ineffective condition if that was done.

    • I will also add that one thing I like about Cardinal Dolan is that, as far as I can tell, he does not seem to make the possibility of criticism (from either political side) the determining factor in what actions he will do.

      He thinks it would be a good thing to offer the prayer. Some people will sqawk. Let them. They probably would anyway.

      I think we need to to do the same. Speak our truth, do what we think is right, listen to others, but don’t let them define who we are.

      • Kurt

        I don’t have a problem with that. When criticized for preaching in another parish, John Wesley once responded “The world is my parish.” All of us, clerical and lay, New York diocese and Tampa diocese, have the equal right and freedom to speak as to what faithful citizenship means to them.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      MZ, I disagree to the extent that I think we need to draw a distinction between political and partisan, and I believe that the two conventions are so partisan that some prudential discretion is called for.

      On the matter of precedent: in 2008 the Democrats did not invite Bishop Chaput to offer either the invocation or benediction on any of the four days. However, they did not invite any other bishop either. On day 1 a Catholic lay woman offered the invocation, and on day 3 a religious sister offered the benediction. According to the Washington Post, the last time a bishop from outside his diocese was invited was 1972.

  • Can you imagine a conversation between THIS cardinal and THIS one?, and don’t you know that the second is much more representative of the Sacred College than the first?

  • Pinky

    I think a whole lot depends on what the Cardinal says during the prayer. I was just watching / reading some past Convention prayers, and they vary from the neutral to the partisan. If he’s a class act, he’ll stroke some feathers, ruffle some others.

  • Julia Smucker

    I can only hope and pray, along with Charles Camosy at the Catholic Moral Theology blog, that Dolan take this as “a Mahony-like opportunity” to disprove the partisan narratives and show instead how “the Church’s commitment to a tradition which began in the ancient Middle East means that it simply doesn’t fit into a right/left American binary created in the 1970s.”

    • Kurt

      Cardinal Mahoney not only accepted the customary duty of the local bishop to give a prayer at national party conventions but on the Sunday preceeding the 2000 DNConvention he celebrated Mass and administered communion in a ballroom at the Biltmore Hotel for those of us delegates who had already arrived.

      The homily far exceeded the beauty of his convention prayer. I might say the homily was an elaboration on it. Try to find a copy.

    • Pinky

      Yes. My point exactly.

    • Don’t hold your breath, Julia.

  • Mark VA

    Trellis Smith:

    You have provided a link to a photograph dating to late 1934, showing Argentinian Archbishop Copello blessing a Nazi flag during a Church Congress in Argentina. This photograph was reportedly used in 1935 by Der Sturmer, to score propaganda points for the Nazi party.

    You have not explained your thinking about this photograph. The link below may help in providing some context for those interested in this historical curiosity:

  • Mark Gordon

    One important fact about this is that Cardinal Dolan will be giving the benediction following Romney’s acceptance speech. In a sense, it will be the final piece of business at the GOP convention, and it puts Cardinal Dolan in the position of offering what Mirriam-Webster defines as “the invocation of a blessing; especially: the short blessing with which public worship is concluded.” When the balloons have all hit the floor and the assembled crowd is finally hoarse, when the last strains of Kid Rock’s “Born Free” have faded away, Cardinal Dolan will ascend the platform and “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” he will say … whatever. No one will be listening, really. All that will matter is that he is there and that his imprimatur has been definitively conferred on all that has gone before. That is what is so disappointing about this. And, for those “conservatives” like Mark VA who can suspend their celebrations for a moment, let me say that I would be equally disgusted if Dolan were offering a similar blessing at the Democratic Convention. Dorothy Day, Servant of God, pray for us.

    • Mark Gordon [August 25, 2012 7:03 am]: when the last strains of Kid Rock’s “Born Free” have faded away

      You know I had to youtube that video. A car covered with decorative guns. I mean, couldn’t the political coding be a just a tad bit less obvious? I hope that the DNC dance party selection is just a bit less cloying.

      Dorothy Day, Servant of God, pray for us.

      Indeed. Why should we not begin a litany of social justice heroes in this election season?

      Tommy Douglas, pray for us. (I am quite aware of his early acceptance and later rejection of eugenics. And yet the Canadian prairie Baptist preacher was a great witness to Christian social justice. We must grapple with the sins of our heroes.)

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Perhaps he will chuckle over Romney’s final birther joke, before the blessings.

    This is not only disappointing, but truly disgusting.

    • Mark Gordon

      I’ll remind you, Mark, that no one has asked to see Cardinal Dolan’s birth certificate.

  • Mark VA

    Mark Gordon and Mark DeFrancisis:

    Perhaps it is not so noticeable from the historically challenged port side, but for more than one hundred years there was an informal and symbiotic relationship between the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church in our country. The trifecta of Catholicism, union membership, and political affinity for the Democrats felt normal, obvious, and permanent, for many Catholics. The glue that held it all together was the ever adaptable definition of “social justice”.

    In history, however, such alliances are not perpetual – a truism, yes? Two of the three partners have, shall we say, evolved, but the remaining partner has not, and has even said “non possumus”. Thus we are witnessing a de-lamination of this alliance on a grand scale.

    Will this lead the Church in our country to a new relationship of the political kind? I doubt it, at least not for a very long time. Unless the Church Herself is de-laminated.

    What choices does the left wing of our Church have in this new situation? Fundamental ones, beyond the powers of nuance.

    • Mark Gordon

      The glue that held that coalition together was not an “ever adaptable definition of ‘social justice'” (sneer quotes noted) but a body of very definitive Catholic social teaching. It is true that that coalition was decisively sundered by the Democratic Party via its abortion advocacy, a point I’ve made here many times. No one here needs a history lesson from you, particularly since you appear to have obtained both your degree in history and certificate in Catholic Social Teaching from Beck University. Or was it the Limbaugh Wing of the Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies?

      As for your cramped and casual designation of everyone who disagrees with you as “leftist,” many of the writers here, including me, don’t consider ourselves members of the “Catholic left” at all. Certainly not on theological matters, and not on matters political either. For myself, I take as my own sentiments those expressed by Elizabeth Scalia, of the blog “The Anchoress,” who recently wrote: “There was a time in my life when people would ask me my political affiliation, and I said, ‘Democrat.’ Then, later, they asked, and I said, ‘Republican.’ Next time they asked, I said, ‘I’m not registered with either party. Now, when they ask, I say, ‘Catholic.'”

      • Kurt

        It is true that that coalition was decisively sundered by the Democratic Party via its abortion advocacy, a point I’ve made here many times.

        That has been a common meme, but serious research is showing it not to be the case. The ratio of working class Americans who consider themselves Democrats as opposed to Republicans has remained stable. If you factor out the loss of working class Southern whites following George Wallace, it looks even better for the Democrats. The Catholic Church however, is in a free fall for the loss of its working class members. In no other element of society has Catholicism plummeted so sharply.

        Of this trinity, it has been the Church who asked exited the relationship.

        • Mark Gordon

          Kurt, I know you are desperate to defend the reputation of your party at all costs. That’s why you are such a reliable example of the complete exhaustion of partisan politics in this country.

        • Kurt

          It’s not my party I’m defending. It is parlimentary democracy, which you seem to have a deep seated hostility towards. I can endure small groups of people who are totally convinced their thinking is superior to everyone else. It is when they suggest that their superior thinking trumps democracy that I get worried.

  • I repeat–even if no Catholic Americans are listening or caring–Dolan will pay a price for this at the next papal conclave, where no one will take him seriously. The REAL universal Church, more characterized by The Community of Sant’Egidio than by the idiotic politics of the American Catholic hierarchy will not even give such as Dolan even a momentary hearing at the election of Benedict XVI Ratzinger’s successor.

    • gadria

      I hope you are correct but think this is wishful thinking – if the american catholic church comes up with the expected percentage of money to finance the Vatican operations they will always have a prominent seat at the table.

      • Only if there is a Western pope. You badly underestimate the idealism of the Catholic Church of the Third World. THEIR hierarchs are not so much for sale.

        • gadria

          Lets hope your educated guess is correct.
          On some level we should not be shocked by the fact that yet another
          generation of church leaders is blinded by their hate of a group of people.
          Much of last century was spend ranting against the dangers of communism -oh even the virgin mary supposedly even got into the act and certainly anitsemintism did not raise its ugly head out of the blue.
          These days besides above named ‘enemies’ new catholic facism rants against pro choice murderers – clearly the majority of those folks would have zero problem requesting capital punishment for all these horrific murderers in our midth – in many ways humankind has not changed one bit – they did stone to death in biblical times – ‘good’ catholics would be front and center today. One has to trust that the decent folks on left and right prevail.

      • Only if there is a Western pope. You badly underestimate the idealism of the Third World’s Catholic hierarchs.

  • Mark VA

    Mark Gordon, a couple of quick points and a question:

    I think it adds credibility to our exchange to acknowledge that the Catholic – Democratic Party coalition existed to begin with, and that it was ” … decisively sundered by the Democratic Party via its abortion advocacy.” A common understanding of our history is necessary if we are to continue exchanging views. A tip of the hat to you;

    It would also be helpful if you tried not to see the Catholic Right exclusively thru political lenses. To offer a practical example here, can you see the Catholic Right thru the lens “non-possumus”, as that phrase was used and understood in the twentieth country?

    Finally do you think that the Catholic Church in our country could be de-laminated? (I assume we have a common understanding of this method). If so, which layers, do you think, are most susceptible to the solvent, and what kind of solvent would be most effective? Or do you think this concern shouldn’t apply to the Catholic Church in our country?

    • Mark Gordon

      I hardly think I need to establish my credibility with you, Mark. Who exactly do you think you are? As for “de-lamination,” I think that when the Church is faithful to its teaching on workers, the poor, and immigrants – what you sneeringly refer to as “the ever adaptable definition of ‘social justice'” – the Right is as likely to defect as the Left is when the Church is faithful to its teaching on abortion, family, and property. Which is why I reject all labels, parties, idolatries and ideologies – left; right; conservative; liberal; Republican; Democrat; even “American,” if necessary – in favor of “Catholic.”

  • Jordan

    Trellis Smith [August 26, 2012 4:04 am, transferred]: My fear is that the unnatural alliance between the Catholic right, the Southern Baptist right and the Mormon Church may already constitute a threat to the fundamentals of the secular republic.

    Very strongly agreed. However, I would be very cautious to not characterize the Catholic horse of the American social-right troika as theonomic or theocratic. The Universal Church’s mainstream acceptance of Dignitatis humanae strongly suggests that institutional Catholicism no longer desires political confessionalism. As digby has repeatedly noted, the politicized social conservatism which not a few American Catholics espouse is rather anomalous when compared with Catholic politics in other countries.

    I am not at all surprised that the heavily Catholic regions of the United States are also a very deep shade of blue. Dominionism is utterly foreign, even inimical, to Catholic social theology. Catholicism also has a long history of social democracy. American Catholics, in the main, strongly desire to maintain a secular state and vote accordingly. This choice in no small part stems from Catholicism’s long historical consciousness of the very negative consequences of political confessionalism. American evangelicals and Mormons, given the youth of their beliefs, have yet to truly learn the horrors of a confessional state.

    The readiness of some American bishops to yoke their political agendas to theonomic evangelicalism never fails to baffle and frighten me. Are we Catholics expected to abandon our respect for the secular state in order to advance the criminalization of abortion at any cost? This possibility strikes me as positively incompatible with Catholic social theology.

    • I guess my position on Cardinal Dolan appearance at the republic convention centers more on God than politics. What does the GOP Convention have to do with building the kingdom?

  • James Karney Bond

    Do not be fooled: Cardinal Dolan IS sending a message to the Catholic faithful by being there as Romney is nominated.

    And how, we shoulask, does this jibe with “Faithful Citizen” in which the USCCB is scrupulous in not appearing to endorse nor criticize any particular candidate or political party?

  • t kelly

    The guy is a Mormon 2 generations from family that had to leave the USA and flee to Mexico to be polygamist.

    • Thales


  • Pingback: Cdl Dolan: Dem Shill or Republican Stooge?()

  • Becca B.

    This is laughable. The CC has gone to the dark side. YOUR church supported BUSH FOR EIGHT YEARS, and he did squat about abortion. It is a non-issue, as Roe v Wade will not, and should not, ever be overturned. Dolan is a republican tool, as is the Prada-wearing guy in Rome. Shame on the CC, your tax exempt status should have been revoked a decade ago. Dolan and the rest of the angry,old, white men, are why the church is dying. The Nunsonabus, on the other hand, are truly doing God’s work.

    • I’m curious what one would have to say about the Church leaders that would merit being filtered here.

      If you want to be a place where people feel free to spew stuff like this, enjoy.

      [DCU: My general editorial policy has been to let through any comment that is not a direct attack on another participant in the discussion or otherwise beyond the pale as determined subjectively by me. Generally, I hope that disapprobation, such as yours in this case, makes the point that such comments are not appreciated.]

      • You know, I don’t like the comment either, but maybe it’d behove you to try to understand WHERE her views are coming from. There are precious few people here in India, where I live, who hate the Catholic Church so much as she does–and, here, the Church is in a distinclty minority position, but, still, the Hindus and Muslims associate her with Mother Teresa, and not with fat, moralistic and judgmental protectors of pedophiles like Dolan. What she obviously doesn’t know–and what is your DUTY to inform her about, instead of HIDING the fact from the American public (which most of you Right-Wing Catholics do–is that both of the most recent popes of the RC Church CONDEMNED America’s “wars of choice” in no uncertain terms, and BOTH of the more recent popes have CONDEMNED the fundamental philosophical premises of the Republican Party’s preferred “neo-liberal” economic policies. If you did that, maybe she might begin to take a different attitude toward your Church.

        • The tone of this post was not of one seeking correction if mistaken, and I am deeply skeptical that being corrected on this point of fact would do much to change the poster’s attitudes.

  • Cardinal Dolan should do whatever he thinks best, as long as it’s consistent with canon law, his sacramental responsibilities, and basic standards of human decency. But I take it your question is really whether it is politically a good thing or a bad thing for the Church. I’ll second — or, I guess, third — M.Z.’s comments on this point. The fact of the matter is that you can find people in both parties who think the bishops have largely sold out to the other party; this says more about them than about the bishops, and nothing the bishops do will avoid such interpretations. If Dolan had refused and that had gotten out, the same exact issue would have arisen, just with different groups of people making the accusations and the defenses. It’s merely a sign that people think in terms of parties more than they do in terms of practical reasons. And in the end, as some of the commenters have noted, it makes sense for a bishop to accept an invitation to pray at any important event he can reasonably get to; sun on good and evil alike, rain on righteous and unrighteous alike.

    • No, you’re wrong: people would NOT have thought he was being partisan if he had refused. They would have thought he was exercising the Christian virtue of “prudence” in the interest of his Church. Instead, he is being imprudent, and people are, in my view, drawing the correct conclusion: that his ideology is outweighing his religion. The political atmosphere of America is toxic right now, and ALL Christian hierarchs and pastors should avoid it like the plague.

      • You miss the point entirely: Which people? Vague generalizations about people are the height of uselessness in this context. You can easily find people who are praising Dolan now for “exercising the Christian virtue of ‘prudence’ in the interest of his Church”; namely, many of the people who are defending him.

        The irony is that in talking vaguely about ‘people’ you end up making your comment somewhat incoherent. If ‘people’ were drawing the same conclusions there wouldn’t be any controversy or dispute, would there? And likewise the vague talk of ‘people’ is inconsistent with your point that the political atmosphere of America is toxic; this requires a sharp and nasty polarization that leave any talk of ‘people’ suspiciously uncritical at best and obviously confused at worst — toxic political atmospheres are by definition cases where divisions make it impossible to talk about people as a unity.

        As for the claim that Christian hierarchs and pastors should avoid the political atmosphere of America when they live in America and have to occasionally talk about issues in which one or both major parties have taken a political interest, I’d have to see the argument for it, and its feasibility, before I even know what the position is in order to say anything about it.

        • “people”=the few people left in America who are not mindlessly polarized and who are able to compromise in the interest of the greater (spiritual) good. I imagine that would include a lot of Catholics who put their faith at a higher level of import than their ideology. Those are the people who, according to me, will not be in schism with the Universal Church when a Latin American, Asian or African sits in the See of Peter and draws the correct conclusion about which world power is the true “Antichrist.”

        • And I’m willing to bet that your favourite pedophile-protector got a nice slap on the wrist from the Vatican:

        • Thales

          And I’m willing to bet that your favourite pedophile-protector got a nice slap on the wrist from the Vatican:
          You know that Cdl Dolan wanted to and offered to speak at both conventions initially, right? (I’ll ignore the pedophile slander.)

        • In other words, people = contributing to toxic political atmosphere who happen to agree with digbydolben. The irony of insisting on one’s superiority in compromise while regarding the overwhelming majority of America as “mindlessly polarized” seems pretty obviously lost on you.

        • dominic1955

          I’m going to bet the next Pope will be an Italian. That said, Cardinal Ranjith would be an excellent choice…

    • Kurt

      Cardinal Dolan should do whatever he thinks best, as long as it’s consistent with canon law, his sacramental responsibilities, and basic standards of human decency.

      There is another factor which carries great weight in Catholic understanding and that is “custom.” Following custom indicates no political statement is being made (not following custom could indicate a statement). Custom has been for the local bishop to give an invocation. Now that Cardinal Dolan is also giving a prayer at the Democratic Convention, the statement by the break in custom is not to teh favor of either party, but maybe a claim that the USCCB prez is taking on certain “primatial” functions that heretofore have not been his role.

      • There are customs and there are customs. Customs geared to the service of canon law, sacramental responsibility, or basic standards of human decency certainly should be respected by bishops to the extent seriously possible. How much of a ‘custom’ this is, I don’t know; merely being the way things happen to have been for a while because nobody did anything differently is not ‘custom’, since custom requires entrenched and recognized habit. Even if it is, though, customs are unequal; if we didn’t recognize this, we’d be forced to say that any innovation is legitimate. In such cases, as elsewhere, people should do as they think best, to the extent that that is consistent with their obligations and responsibilities. If Dolan did not talk to the local bishop about it, perhaps there would be case, but I haven’t come across any such argument.

        I find these ‘primatial’ arguments in both directions hilariously funny; people are fond of thinking themselves sly and cunning, reading between the lines, but the most probable explanation is just that Dolan was asked and accepted for the reasons any other clergyman might.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          The custom of one bishop not “trespassing” on another bishop’s diocese is very old: perhaps dating to antiquity. It takes various forms, at various times; I do not know if it has a specific form in canon law. Even now, Cardinal Dolan respected the custom to the extent that he cleared the visit with the ordinaries of the dioceses he is entering.

  • It appears that Cardinal Dolan will also be giving the benediction at the Democratic Convention. When can we expect the Vox-Nova post criticizing him for doing so?

    • Mark VA

      Good point.

      In my view, Vox Novans tilt so much to the political left, they will not be emotionally able to do so. They are too wedded to a rigid set of assumptions, as the recent “watermelon” affair shows.

      • Mark Gordon

        Mark VA, it is you who is wedded to a rigid set of assumptions. In fact, every comment you offer here springs from a rigid set of assumptions, especially this lame notion that all the writers here belong to something you knowingly refer to as “the left.”

        So, to help you and Blackadder soften those rigid assumptions, and assuming you still retain the ability to think for yourself (without talk radio in the background), try to follow me: I, Mark Gordon, a Vox Nova contributor, think it is a huge mistake for Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, president of the USCCB, to ascend the platform at the Democratic National Convention and offer a benediction following the acceptance speech of its nominee, President Barack Obama. Charlotte has its own bishop, who could have offered a welcoming invocation. But for Cardinal Dolan to walk on that stage, after all that will have gone on before, and stand at the same lectern as Cecile Richards, Sandra Fluke, and the president of NARAL, is an abomination. Cardinal Dolan apparently considers himself pastor to the political elite in this country, but in fact he soils the reputation of the Church and his own reputation by appearing at either of these contrived, corporate, deeply anti-Catholic events. It would have been far better for him to lead prayer vigils on the streets outside both conventions: a vigil for peace and the poor in Tampa, a vigil for the unborn and families in Charlotte.

        • Mark VA

          You’re still tying your reasoning into knots. He should not pray at either place, because both houses are full of sinners? That line of reasoning has a long pedigree, as you undoubtedly know.

          Tell you what, Mark: let’s listen to Cardinal Dolan as he speaks at both events, and then we’ll have something of more substance to discuss.

        • Kurt

          Amen, Mark VA. The idea that the grassroots volunteer delegates at both conventions are such filty, abominable people that they are unworthy of the archepiscopal presence is a little hard to take.

    • I think BOTH parties should beware of being associated with the Bernard Law wing of the Catholic hierarchy.

    • Thales

      I take the Jimmy Akin and Mark Shea view of the situation: it’s not a duplicitous pay-off; it’s a fiscally responsible way to get rid of problematic priests as fast as possible, to get them out of the priestly ministry and away from kids as fast as possible. It’s the exact opposite of the Bernard-Law method, where problematic priests were not removed but just moved from parish to parish. What’s your suggestion for how Dolan should have handled the priests?

      • Turned them over to the police, for proper law-enforcement’s investigation

      • Kurt

        What’s your suggestion for how Dolan should have handled the priests?

        If Church procedures make it impossible to quickly keep a child abusing priest away from children, the solution is to change Church procedures, not use the lay faithfull’s tithes to pay them off to go away.

        I think a smart man like Dolan could have come up better ways to do this, but if lacking any other ideas, try this. “Memo to Vatican Congregation for the Clergy from Archbishop of Milwaukee. A priest of this archdiocese has been found to be a child abuser. Effective this morning I have suspended X from all priestly ministry, ordered him to leave Y rectory and am no longer paying him. If you have an objection to this, please respond to me in writing. While I seem to have misplaced my reading glasses, my friend the editor of the Milwaukee Journal has offered to open my mail and read all correspondence me. Sincerely yours in Christ…”

        • When you know that a man is a child abusing pedophile what you do is call the police and have him locked up. Full stop. Get it?

        • Thales

          I gave a larger response below, but I wanted to add that a letter as you suggest is not sufficient. A priest, by the nature of his position, has rights and is entitled to certain things from the Church (like sustenance). If you want to get rid of a priest, you can’t just write that letter and kick him out into the cold. But a settlement with the priest is the quickest and least expensive way to get rid of him.

        • Kurt


          If a priest who is a child abuser is given the right under Church law to continue to receive a benefice, then Church law is wrong as should be changed. As a Corporation Sole, an Ordinary has the legal civil power to stop payment of funds. I’m suggesting that the (arch)bishop should use the civil authority he has and let Rome deal with any canonical irregularities. In the words of a great American Republican in the performing arts, “Make my day.”

        • Thales

          [shrug] Then I guess we disagree. I like the fact that you can’t just take away a person’s livelihood and throw him in jail without guaranteeing him certain rights of due process, a trial, etc. Similarly with defrocking priests.

        • dominic1955


          Are you suggesting something along the lines of a canonical lynching for these men? Canonically, benefices (properly defined) are definitely a rara avis. However, seeing as priests and religious are basically beholden to the Church and thus dependent on it, providing some degree of monetary assistance is a far cry from “protecting” pedophiles or approving of the abhorent things they’ve done. Society provides for the sustenance and health care for criminals in the prison system, no? I fail to see how this is any different.

          Maybe its just me, but trying to appease the blood lust of a by and large ignorantly anti-Catholic rabble (even of people who are supposedly Catholic) by knee-jerk reactions and calls for flagrant abuse of justice is a close second to the most disgusting part of this whole scandal. People around here seem to like personal stories, then go find a priest who has been falsely accused and now sits in a sort of shadow world of an existence. Imagine having your whole world destroyed in this way. Everything you ever had or worked for is gone, people treat you like a leper and you get no real justice from Church or State. Its appalling and utterly shameful.

        • Kurt

          Dominic & Thales,

          People get their livilihood taken away from them every day. Like Mitt Romney says “I like firing people.” And it is conservatives who have a fit over not being able to fire teachers or other public workers, or private workers over matters much less serious than raping a child.

          As you know, I work for a labor union. If a member of our union shows up late for work, or doesn’t show up at all, or takes sick leave when they are not sick, or tells the boss to put it where the sun don’t shine, or doesn’t follow a direct order, or downloads some racy pictures on the company computer, or has low productiveity, or is drunk on the job, I’ll work to see the the punishment is appropriate and not excessive.

          If a member of our union raped a child, I not only wouldn’t defend him for one minute, I would tell the boss his co-workers want him out immediately.

          And these would be workers without the advantage of college degrees, unlike clergy.

          Dominic, no apologies and no shame on my part. Not an iota.

        • Thales

          You mean that you wouldn’t accord him due process rights and the rights to a defense, and all other rights due to him based on his dignity as a human person (even though he has raped a child)? Heh. I might be more liberal than you!

      • dominic1955


        Yes, that does seem like the more rational, less hysterical, more charitable and ultimately effective approach but then folks couldn’t slander the guy as a “pedophile-protector”. There is nothing like trying to badger conversation about Catholicism or leaders of the Church by throwing out such nonsense. After all, who possibly would want to try to defend a “pedophile-protector”. Can things get any shriller?

      • Thales

        Turned them over to the police, for proper law-enforcement’s investigation

        digby and Rodak,

        You must not be familiar with how law enforcement operates. Suppose you’re a bishop and you have an allegation that one of your priests abused children 20 years ago. You can’t just call up the police and get the priest locked up in jail that second. Yes, you tell the police, but then the police have to investigate, and the investigation takes time, and it takes more time, and it takes more time… and in many cases, there isn’t enough evidence for the police to do much because the allegations are 20 years old… and if there is enough evidence, then the prosecutor has to bring charges, and more time elapses, more investigation, lots of court hearings, then eventually a trial, an appeal, and then finally, the priest goes to jail. And during this entire time, the priest has still been in his parish. In short: calling the police and doing nothing else is a horrible way to handle the situation.

        And, remember, from the Church’s perspective, the Church has still got a priest on their hands (albeit, hopefully, he’s now in jail). What the police and legal system does to the priest is kind of irrelevant to what the Church should do to the priest. What the Church really wants is to get the priest defrocked. (At least, that’s what I think should happen — maybe you don’t think abusive priests should be defrocked.) Again, defrocking can take a long time, can be expensive, can be a very aggravating process for all involved. (And Kurt, the Church procedures of due process, etc. that respect the rights of the defendant priest — just like criminal procedures that respect the rights of the defendant — are, on the whole, very good marks of a civilized society that shouldn’t be eliminated.) An inexpensive settlement agreement that saves time, saves money, and gets the priest out of his priestly service as quickly as possible makes sense to me. And I don’t see any reason to think that it’s a way to “protect pedophiles.”

        • calling the police and doing nothing else is a horrible way to handle the situation.

          It WOULD be a horrible way to handle the situation if these offenses were not on the scale that they are, and if the Church, now, didn’t have a massive public relations problem on its hands, and if the Church didn’t need to send a message to all the secret pedophiles still in her ranks that they had BETTER cease and desist right now.Not only should they call the police, but they should tell the newspapers that they are calling the police. And let me tell you something that probably a lot of hierarchs don’t want you to know: When I worked for the Archdiocese of New Mexico, in their one and only archdiocesan high school in New Mexico as a lay teacher, we were told that, even the WHIFF of suspicion regarding this kind of behaviour would cause one of us to be dismissed from his or her position immediately (How’s THAT for “due process”?). However, they said that the Archdiocese would defend the priests and nuns all the way throught the courts, and that charges would have to be proved for them to be removed from their “ministies.” It sounds exactly like the Mafia to me.

        • Thales


          There happens to be a huge difference between firing teachers and firing priests. Lay teachers are “at-will” employees. That means that, as a general rule, you can fire them for any reason whatsoever or no reason at all. Priests aren’t “at-will” employees. You can’t just fire them. You have to go through the lengthy laicization process, which usually takes a lot of money, time, and aggravation.

          From your NY Times article, it looks to me like the Milwaukee Diocese coddled pedophile priests for 20+ years — and that very soon after Dolan became bishop, he defrocked them in the quickest and least expensive way possible. I don’t see the reason for the outrage.

        • dominic1955

          I don’t see the problem here, as Thales accurately described the situation. The more and more I hear about this whole child molestation scandal, the more I am inclined to think (but do not yet, I’m trying…) that some folks see this as a “felix culpa” with which they can browbeat the hierarchy with clear to Kingdom come for almost anything. Any little peep out of the bishops and someone will follow up with, “Oh yeah? Well you didn’t do X during the pedophile scandal…therefore we do not have to listen to you…” and other shrill nonsense along the same lines. I guess I didn’t get the memo that some weird neo-Donatism was in vogue now.

          By the nature of the vocation, clerics and religious are not just “at will” employees. A mere employee can get canned for almost nothing but clerics and religious aren’t just employees (this also seems to say something about some folks’ sacramental theology…). What happens if a priest is accused of child abuse? Is he just kicked out into the cold? He probably has little non-ecclesiastical skills or work experience, no place to live, not much of anything to fall back on. Guilty until proven innocent? Just as well string him up, right? That is all really charitable and oh-so sensitive… Then, even if he is guilty, the Church still has some obligation to him. What Cardinal Dolan did for those men is just charitable and legally prudent.

          But, of course, nothing will silence those hounds of the hierarchy that will stop at nothing short of a Brave New Church made in their own image built amidst smoking piles of lace and silk on the ruins of what once was the Catholic Church.

  • Thales and dominici1955, your view of the relative insignificance of the Catholic Church’s world-wide pedophile scandals has and will continue to be the “straw” that is “breaking the camel’s back” of disaffection with an institution that preposterously refuses to be accountable to the “pilgrim people of God” that it proclaimed to be the actual Church at the Second Vatican Council. Not only do I believe that pedophile priests should be publicly turned over to law enforcement, but I also believe that Benedict XVI Ratzinger should resign on account of his own behaviour in Munich and that any cardinal-bishop or archbishop who suppressed evidence should be barred from the papal conclave, and that the rest of the bishops and archbishops who betrayed the trust of parents by sheltering the monsters in their ranks from investigation and prosecution should be forcibly retired. Also, I believe that the “pilgrim people of God” should camp out in the Piazza di San Pietro during the next conclave and DEMAND that a pope be elected who will reform the curia and return to the “collegiality of all bishops” that was advocated at the Council. The “Roman system” and papal monarchism are destroying the Roman Catholic Church almost everywhere in the world where people have democratic values.

    • Thales


      So you think that Dolan in particular and the Church in general could have and should have done more in response to the pedophile scandal? That’s fine, that’s a fair position to hold, but that’s a different issue than the one that we’ve been arguing about. The issue that we’ve been arguing about is whether Dolan’s actions in Milwaukee were (1) a way to protect pedophiles, or (2) a way to quickly and inexpensively defrock the pedophile priests. I trust that I’ve successfully argued to you that Dolan’s actions were the latter, and that this was an improvement from the policy followed by the Milwaukee Diocese for the previous 20+ years before Dolan got there (namely, where the pedophile priests were coddled and/or accommodated). You might think that Dolan could have and should have done more in addition to defrocking the priests, but as I said, that’s a different issue than the one that we’ve been arguing about.

      • Yes, I do not believe that Dolan’s tepid response to quashing pedophilia in his diocese was criminal, but I DO believe it was “un-pastoral” and demonstrated a failure of leadership in times that are truly dangerous for the Catholic Church. Thus he demonstrated that he had risen to his level of ineptitude. He is certainly not qualified to be the primate of the American Catholic Church. But Ratzinger failed in the same way in Munich. These hierarchs show, over and over again, a failure of nerve when they refrain from protecting their flock, and their fearful concern to protect their institution, rather than those it may be harming demonstrates, in fact, that they actually DON’T have faith that, without their anxiety-riddled efforts, it could “prevail” against “the gates of hell.”

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