N.Y. Cardinal Timothy Dolan defends Obama invitation to Al Smith Dinner

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan defended his invitation of President Obama to the annual Al Smith Dinner in October, saying … Continued

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan defended his invitation of President Obama to the annual Al Smith Dinner in October, saying he is trying to encourage civility and dialogue amid a bitter battle with the White House over abortion rights and access to contraception.

Dolan has received “stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama,” he wrote in an Tuesday (Aug. 14) blog post. At issue are Obama’s new health care regulations, which require employers to provide insurance plans that cover contraceptive services for women.

Conservatives and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — of which Dolan is president — have criticized the regulations, which they say abridge the religious freedom and conscience rights of faith-based employers.

But the nonpartisan charity dinner is a time for civility, engagement, and dialogue, Dolan wrote.

“Those who started the dinner 67 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,” Dolan wrote.

The Al Smith Dinner is a lighthearted ritual of American politics held late in the campaign. The white-tie affair offers a rare glimpse of candidates exchanging jokes instead of barbs.

Invitations are traditionally extended to both presidential candidates during election years. Obama and presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney have both agreed to speak at the dinner.

Dolan said the dinner exemplifies the American value of free religious exercise, and called it an opportunity for civility and dialogue. He responded to critics by portraying Obama’s invitation as the lesser of two evils.

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

Dolan argued his approach took the moral high road by accepting and encouraging dialogue among those with different opinions.

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

The Al Smith Dinner, hosted by the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation as a tribute to the former New York governor who in 1928 became the first Catholic to win a major party’s presidential nomination, will take place Oct. 18 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The foundation provides support for needy children in the Archdiocese of New York.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • vsrm

    I have tremendous respect or Fr. Dolan. I do have to admit I was a bit perturbed by the invitation. However, I also understand that it takes courage to do what is right. However, I hope and pray that he tells President Obama, that women’s right do not depent upon abortion.

    According, to Joel Rosenberg, author of Implosion, since Roe v. Wade was passed, 54 million innocent children have been killed through abortion. That is an outstanding amount!! We do not want our children to follow this path. We have come a long way, given women now are more educated and have better opportunities, because statistically, more women than man go to graduate schools, and more women than man are currently employed.

    In closing, women do want equal pay and equal opportunity, but abortion is not the solution!

Read More Articles

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.