Friday, August 10, 2012

Predictable exploitation of Obama invitation to Catholic charity dinner in NY

You won't see me criticizing a bishop very often, even on prudential judgments.  I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and accept the fact they have their own consciences to act on, not mine.  They will answer to God for their prudential decisions, and I will answer to God for my response to any controversy and whether I maintained proper respect and virtue in discussing it.

In this post, you are going to see me over-use the word, "exploit," and it's many variations. I don't think it can be overstated.

As much as I like Cardinal Dolan, and appreciate a number of things he has done, I respectfully disagree with his inviting, or condoning the invitation to President Obama to speak at the Al Smith charity dinner in New York.  It takes place the third Thursday in October.  It happens just before the election. While Obama and Romney are suppose to be self-deprecating, you can fully expect exploitation by Obama supporters to win Catholic votes for him.  The exploitation has already begun. Here is the headline from a blog entitled, "Catholics for Obama."  Emphasis mine in italics.
President Obama to be honored guest at Al Smith Dinner

Pandora's box has been opened.

Pope Benedict XVI did not give Nancy Pelosi any such opportunity when she stopped in to visit when in Rome.  It happened in private.  No cameras were allowed.  Before she got out the door, the Holy See released a statement to make clear what happened (unbeknownst to her as she stood on the steps outside spinning the private audience).

It is the "ground troops" - ordinary, faithful Catholics that will have to exhaust tremendous time and energy trying to mitigate the damage once the exploitation begins to spread. 

We will see an increase of this kind of language.  Cardinal Dolan probably truly believes this is not honoring Obama, but what matters is how it is perceived by others.  Obama's mere presence at a well publicized Catholic event speaks volumes: One side is wounded; another sees it as an opportunity.  Good luck trying to mitigate the damage that will come when opportunitists begin to spin it in venues that all Catholic media together cannot reach, including Archbishop Dolan's own blog, which doesn't reach the average Catholic in the pew.  Most Catholics aren't even in the pew these days, so it is even less likely they will be reading any Catholic media where it is being explained that the invitation is not some kind of honor.

Superpac ads will undoubtedly exploit still shots, video or just make use of distorted headlines and articles. Only God knows how many people will be led to vote for Obama through the exploitation of his being at this event, and all that comes from it.

Salt has been poured into an open wound that faithful Catholics have been nursing for all too long.  This particular one seems to come around every four years and something needs to change. I hope Cardinal Dolan will consider a new tradition in New York - stop inviting presidential candidates and politicians altogether, given the grave assaults on life, family, and religious liberty, as we have seen with the present administration. Are there no other persons - those who have strong Catholic values - who can bring in big money for the Al Smith Dinner?  Do the ends justify the means, especially when there is great potential for the means to be exploited by others for evil? 

Archbishop Lori says the invitation is not an endorsement. That is objectively true, but how is it perceived subjectively?

As you will see in the reading list below, faithful Catholics are split. While some reacted quickly and strongly, one way or the other, there has been much greater silence over the issue.  I count myself among those who just felt like a deer in headlights.  Rather than lash out with my initial feelings on the matter in an emotional way, I wanted to ponder it for a few days, and digest what other reasonable people were saying.  Some of those articles are below.  I have not been swayed by those dismissing this as relatively harmless.  The issue of exploitation is just too great.  All it takes is one photograph that can be used to give the impression that all is well between the hierarchy and Obama. 

While there is much criticism that is making headlines, I think the minimal support out of orthodox Catholic sources, coupled with a much greater silence on the matter, speaks volumes.  This is just going to heat up as the event gets closer and in the days that follow, depending on how it gets exploited. 

Here are some posts I have read in recent days - that are supportive and not supportive.

Al Kresta devoted some time to it in his national radio hour on Friday (audio here).  He is encouraging people to write to Cardinal Dolan and explain how this will affect you and the work you do - respectfully.  The Cardinal can be reached at He can be reached at (212) 371-1000 or

UPDATE 8-12:  Raymond Arroyo asked Supreme Knight of the K of C, Carl Anderson, for an opinion.  Rather interesting reaction from Anderson.  He was certainly proceeding very delicately.

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