Gabriel Garnica
By Gabriel Garnica
October 24, 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words, thousands of votes, and millions of unborn lives. Such is the case with the image of Cardinal Timothy M.Dolan, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), whooping it up with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at the recent Al Smith Dinner in New York.

I have discussed this issue with scores of Catholics, young and old, and have reviewed the many observations of political and social observers as well, and can summarize the arguments on either side as well as add my own concluding observations.

Against: Cardinal Dolan's invitation of the most pro-abortion President ever to a dinner hosted by the Archdiocese of New York represents, regardless of Dolan's assertions to the contrary, a tacit stamp of acceptability sought by any candidate seeking the Catholic vote. Despite Dolan's insistence to the contrary, and demonstrated by his own words at the event, this invitation implies the mutual honors, to both the invitee and the Archdiocese, involving such an invitation and the presence of the invited guest. Despite Dolan's argument that this event does not seek to endorse a given candidate, the political reality is that it represents a traditionally powerful photo-op whose weight is only enhanced by the event's proximity to such a tight election as awaits us where life and religious liberty issues, so attacked by this President, are at stake. Cardinal Dolan's invitation and words at this event were at odds with the USCCB's own position regarding honoring individuals who defy fundamental Catholic moral principles with honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions. It is naïve and foolish to pretend that this invitation will not at least diffuse and perhaps confuse the Catholic Church's current battle with this Administration regarding life issues, religious liberty, and the Administration's clearly aggressive and dismissive stance toward basic Catholic teaching. Polls showing that roughly 2/3 of Catholics believe that Obama should not have been invited show that the invitation flies in the face of what most Catholics believe and will only feed the arguments of those Catholics who want to further dilute and confuse Catholic doctrine and moral principles. Dolan's defense of his invitation is susceptible to the Church Hierarchy's own inconsistency regarding moral issues, recent history, and common sense.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, has strenuously objected to this invitation, as have scores of others who argue that Dolan's claimed gesture of dialogue and discussion amid civility and open-mindedness is naïve at least and undermines public perception of Catholic resolve. Alternating denouncements, threats, and lawsuits with photo-ops, dinners, and frivolity is the height of absurdity which mocks the very principles involved. There is precedence for not inviting Presidential candidates who oppose life issues to this dinner, and the dinner's history demonstrates the event's potential role in shaping the Catholic vote so central to this election. That precedence should have been heeded this year for the reasons outlined above.

For: As Cardinal Dolan stated in his defense of his invitation, the Catholic Church should be about the kind of dialogue, open doors, civility, brotherhood, and finding common ground which this event, its history, and its namesake represent. Christ broke bread with those many in society considered sinners such as prostitutes and tax collectors without in any way implying that He supported or defended their sins. Our nation was founded on the ability to have open exchange with those with whom we disagree and, if the Catholic Church is to influence and change this society, it must engage it. Similarly, many view the Church as arrogant, judgmental, isolated, and exclusionary as well as paranoid and dismissive of opposing views. Such a perception inhibits, rather than enhances, the Church's ability to win hearts, minds, and souls. There is nothing inherently wrong with temporarily setting aside differences for some social exchange, humor, and civil dialogue serving a charitable cause. The Catholic Church does not endorse, support, or defend any given position by this exchange, and the average Catholic is not so naïve or ignorant as to perceive such support from the images and words made at such an event. After all, opponents in war have set aside differences to dine at Christmas, so it would be the height of hypocrisy and stubborn arrogance for the Catholic Church, which presents itself as a refuge from division and discord, to feel itself above such olive branches amid contention.

Consider, that the influence of Saul Alinsky, the infamous left-wing radical and father of community organizers, on Barack Obama has been clearly established. Also consider that Alinsky infiltrated the Chicago Catholic Church and used its more liberal wings to further his Marxist ideology under the cover of social justice efforts involving poverty and the re-distribution of wealth. Alinsky knew that photo-ops and events involving prominent Catholic clerics were powerful tools in his efforts to gain acceptance and standing within the Church and its organizations. Alinsky's influence on the Catholic Church is not only still present today, but fuels its left-wing, social justice dissident faction represented by such organizations as Catholics United, Catholics for Choice, Call to Action, and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which push pro-abortion, non-traditional, feminist positions undermining and rejecting core Catholic teaching. Even Dolan's own USCCB has been accused of promoting directly or indirectly, dissident causes and agendas through such efforts as its Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which was founded by clerical and lay Alinsky disciples. This radical socialist influence on the Church has spread to its institutions of higher learning such as Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Fordham, which routinely flout core Catholic teaching in the interest of so-called social justice and tolerance.

The link from Saul Alinksy to the Catholic Church and Barack Obama reads like a spy novel which, tragically, is not fiction. Obama will continue to use such events as this invitation to add credibility to his leftist Catholic support base, which he takes every opportunity to enhance by supporting the "left" kind of Catholic groups and individuals and further marginalizing the Church's more traditional core. With dissident groups already increasingly grabbing the media and educational faces of the Catholic Church, this invitation is yet another brick in the wall, thrown by Dolan himself, at the increasingly stained glass of our core Catholic Faith.

Thus, we should recall that Jesus dined with prostitutes and tax collectors and not with Pharisees, politicians, and others in power who mocked, undermined, or attacked His efforts. This is because Christ, knowing all hearts, saw that the former group were more humble sinners open to changing their lives and that, regardless of outward appearances, the latter group's worship of secular power , prestige, and popularity would only allow them to manipulate His offers of dialogue for their own agenda. Assuming Cardinal Dolan realizes that he, unlike Christ, does not know men's hearts and minds, it would be wise for him to avoid being manipulated and played by power brokers who clearly see the Catholic Church as a foe to be reshaped.

Look at the second and third images above. Which would you think more likely represents Christ's reaction and response upon seeing the moneychangers in the temple mocking God? While Cardinal Dolan might have suggested that Jesus dine, discuss, joke, and trade barbs with those moneychangers in order to open dialogue and find common ground, I will bet most rational, sane Catholics believe otherwise. One can engage this society without routinely hugging it and winking at its wrongs. John the Baptist and Sir Thomas More are brilliant reminders that we are called to be warriors for Christ and not diplomats for deception. Mark 6:5-6 and Luke 9:5 remind us that Christ did not bother engaging those with ulterior motives. Likewise, John 15:18 should remind Cardinal Dolan that secular approval and popularity which defies Christ's teaching is destructive to the souls one is entrusted to serve.

In conclusion, the stark image of Cardinal Dolan having a jolly old time with the very man who is presently prosecuting and mocking the Church Dolan claims to represent is a vivid reminder of why the Catholic Church is in its present state of division and confusion. Would Christ have dined, drank, and shared wine with Pontius Pilate on Good Friday to "open dialogue"? Would Our Lord have cracked some zingers while hanging on the cross? Jesus knew the place of humor and dialogue, but He likewise knew when it was inappropriate. Just as a mother knows the absurdity of laughing while telling her children she is serious about something, so too we should readily see how absurd it is to protest someone on Monday, sue them on Tuesday, dine and joke with them on Wednesday, and perhaps play golf with them on Thursday, and expect to be taken seriously by them on Friday. Even the most optimistic proponents of dialogue would have to agree that Christ forgave his persecutors but decided to stop short of group hugs.

If Cardinal Dolan truly believes that the dinner is "life-affirming," then how can he reconcile inviting the most passionately pro-abortion president in U.S. history to it? While Christ told us to invite the most voiceless and weak to our banquets, Cardinal Dolan has preferred to favor the most powerful and prominent at their expense.

© Gabriel Garnica


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