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Dolan, Obama, Laity and Outrage

Kresta Commentary

October 10, 2012

By Al Kresta

Dear co-laborers in the Lord,

I have an absolutely urgent request.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan has done an outstanding job leading the Catholic resistance to the HHS mandate. Archbishop of Archdiocese of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, an advisor to Benedict XVI, he has a well-deserved reputation as a spiritual leader. He is blessed with a winsome personality, great sense of humor and an instinctive, Catholic drive to reach out even to those with whom he disagrees. “Magnanimous” and “gracious” and “incarnational” often come to mind when discussing him.

SO THEN WHY DO I HAVE AN ABSOLUTELY URGENT REQUEST? Because I fear that he is unwittingly jeopardizing all his/our efforts over this last year. More than any other Catholic leader in America, Cardinal Dolan has inspired an army of united Catholic laity standing in union with a remarkably united group of Catholic bishops. Never before have I seen this kind of unity. As I listen to callers and read bloggers, however, I fear that the moral clarity which gave rise to this unprecedented visible unity is being obscured. We are on the cusp of an apparent lapse in judgment that will confuse the troops about the nature of the combat.

What is this lapse in judgment? An invitation to President Obama for a night of fun, fellowship and fundraising at the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner, October 18 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. A mere three weeks before the election. The Cardinal has invited, Governor Romney and President Obama to join himself and lots of well placed charitable donors for a night of good food, cigars, brandy, robust backslapping and gleeful ribtickling. Expect something like a roast with hot quips and slightly irreverent humor poking fun at political issues, opponents, and themselves.

So what’s the problem? Startling incongruity. Listen to the bishops’ rhetoric last year surrounding the President, the HHS mandate and the Church.

•”Unprecedented intrusion on the internal governance of the Church”,

• “hateful and radical step in religious intolerance”,

•”death knell for religious liberty in the United States”,

•”direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience…must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic Community can muster”…

•”literally unconscionable.”

Jesus said let your yes be yes and your no be no. Isn’t it incongruous, if not contradictory, to use this kind of language on Sunday and then call for a Thursday night of brandy, cigars, humor and photo ops a few weeks before the most important election in a generation. It sends all the wrong signals. A picture is worth a thousand words and all the pictures coming out of this event will shout “love all around”, “smile on your brother”, “everybody get together” and “how sweet it is that we can rise above our differences”.

The Cardinal doesn’t need to be reminded of how dangerous President Obama’s policies are for the future of religious liberty in America. He knows better than most of us. The USCCB recently published a document describing religious liberty as our first and foundational liberty. He knows that those policies, whether careless or malignant are interfering with the missionary mandate of the Church.

What he doesn’t know- because he can’t know- is how this invitation is effecting you and your lay mission and service. Only you can give him that feedback. I am on record saying that I believe this is a grievous mistake and people have been loading me up with phone calls, emails, and tears of disappointment and moral outrage. Some intemperate voices want to question the Cardinal’s courage and/or motives. Nonsense. All the evidence is to the contrary. There is nothing in his service to us to indicate a lack of backbone or less than a pure heart. This strikes me as a lapse in prudential judgment. I hope the Cardinal will consider our words and offer a public statement to orient the troops so to speak. We don’t need to know everything but when we are charging up Pork Chop Hill we don’t expect to be invited to a night of hanwu galbi, makkoli and the comedy of Kim Jong-un. It sends the wrong signal and makes me want to sit rather than charge.

As you are led, please communicate respectfully but clearly to Cardinal Dolan. He can be reached at (212) 371-1000 or [email protected]

Prayer remains our most reliable appeal to the court which is truly Supreme.

Al Kresta



•The Cardinal is not bound by custom to invite the President. His predecessors, Cardinals O’Connor and Egan did not invite President Clinton or Senator Kerry, respectively.

•To those who say that the Cardinal is going to engineer some prophetic challenge or “box the President’s ears”, as one email said, let me remind you that no host gets applause for ambushing a guest. Plus, the press doesn’t report subtlety very well. If the Cardinal appears to be a reluctant or chiding host, we lose all the way around.

•To those who say that the Cardinal is imitating Christ by inviting tax collectors and publicans, I would remind you that this is Democrats and Re-publicans. This isn’t a private dinner to which the marginalized and oppressed are invited thereby scandalizing the powers that be. It is a public dinner to which the rich and powerful are invited thereby scandalizing the thousands of “little people” who have been foot soldiers in this struggle to maintain Catholic identity and religious liberty

Al Kresta is President and CEO of Ave Maria Communications.

His afternoon radio program is heard on over 200 stations as well as Sirius satellite radio.

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