An Evening With the Cardinal at the Al Smith Dinner (Not So Grievously Bad) 13

I was going to write my post on the North American Martyrs today (and I probably still will later on… but you know how I am about keeping those sorts of promises), until last night when a friend asked me to share my thoughts on Cardinal Dolan’s inviting President Obama to the Al Smith dinner.

Since this is a touchy subject for many people, I hesitated to write on the topic. I changed my mind, mostly because I could not think of a good way to answer my friend in 140 characters or less (so you can imagine what social format we were using). And now that it’s all over and done with, I think there are a few good points we can take away from it.

Oh! That Biden… lol! He’ll laugh at anything! Good one Mitt! Hey, did you catch that one Barry? Did you think that was funny? Drink up, Pal!

I’ll start by saying that criticizing Cardinal Dolan is well above my pay grade. The times I’ve tried, somewhat naively, to empathize with his decision to continue with long-held custom and invite both candidates to the dinner, I found that others were less inclined to think nicely of the Cardinal for what he had done. After all, he’s suing the guy. Just forget about any aims at diplomacy, let alone the possibility of civil discourse at this point.

You know, the way I see it, I can’t speak for the Cardinal or suggest what the real Christian thing to do would have been. You can’t deny that inviting the President was a kind gesture — not to be taken as an olive branch or an endorsement, but at least as a way to give the man an early “going away” dinner, which is just what it might have been.

That’s right, some people were hearing a swan-song last night, and It wasn’t the Cardinal’s.

Besides, if the event had not gotten so much publicity over the controversy, many Americans would not have even noticed this:

Fortunately, a lot of people did notice it. Providential, right? Nobody could have foreseen this as an ample opportunity to give the public another sample of the two candidates’ demeanor or a clear reminder of what has been going on during with the debates these past two weeks (and this time without any media interference).

Speaking for myself, just because maybe I can’t see what good could possibly come out of inviting the president, does not mean that some real good could not come out of it or that the Cardinal did not see what good could come out of it. And that’s a point I think we all need to consider. Some of us — just speaking for myself here — are not in a position to judge what sort of thinking goes into making these types of decisions at these levels. God did not put me in a diplomatic position, thank God, so maybe I just don’t know what good diplomacy is. I’m sure some people fully agree with me on that point.

One thing is for sure. It is over and done with. What good came of it is good (and what bad, bad). Perhaps, as time wanes on and other important issues come to the fore, certain prominent Catholic lay people will stop attacking the hierarchy for not doing what they think should be done in the Church. That would be a good thing, seeing as how the bishops in this country have made a great effort to combat the HHS Mandate ON OUR BEHALF and many have spoken out recently on voting in good conscience, the sins of abortion and gay marriage, and things to take into consideration before receiving communion.

Okay, so they have not stepped up to some people’s desire to publicly excommunicate  people we don’t like. Personally, I’m glad that only a few people have the privilege to invoke that power, and that they don’t wield it like a squirt gun.

Now that the event is behind us, some people (Catholics), who know better than I do, will have less of an opportunity to attack the Church’s bishops. Maybe now Michael Voris will find something nice to talk about, for a change. (For those of you who are fans of the Vortex, that’s all fine; I am not, for precisely that reason).

At this crucial moment, I think it would behoove us more to stand united with the bishops who have been leading the charge to protect our religious freedom. Since none of us are anywhere near being in the Cardinal’s position or making the types of decisions he has to make (call me naive for saying that), I would like to suggest that we give the Cardinal the benefit of the doubt, and let’s move forward together.


  1. It seems to me that Jesus did the same thing – what’s the problem?

    And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Matthew 9.10-11 ESV

    Dining with sinners is not an endorsement… but an opportunity. And it worked out pretty well… it seems to me. Who had the last laugh?

    • I love your point, Art: “Dining with sinners is not an endorsement… but an opportunity.”

      If we look at it in that way, maybe some of us might begin to think that we should have been there too.

      And here’s something Cardinal Dolan tweeted yesterday: “If I only invited people to eat with me who agreed with me, I’d be eating all my meals alone.”

      • abcinsc — Excellent scripture reference. We are all sinners, and we are all unworthy. What is sad is that like the Pharisees some of us still refuse to admit how unworthy we are of God’s grace.

        Biltrix — I too am content with the fact I don’t have to make some of the decisions Cardinal Dolan must make. However, I do not disagree with his decision to invite Obama. The Al Smith Dinner has become a major political event, and it would have been a serious breach of protocol not to invite both of the candidates to the dinner.

        Politics requires us to converse with people with whom we have differences. In fact, that is the prime purpose of politics. When we reach the point we cannot invite a serious political figure to dine with us, it is probably because we are at war with that person and those who follow him.

        Are we at war with Obama? No. Not really. They are no bullets flying. Just the same, there are a great many dead babies.

        What we have is a Culture War and people making a “choice” that leads to a sad consequence.

        John 15:19 Amplified Bible (AMP)

        If you belonged to the world, the world would treat you with affection and would love you as its own. But because you are not of the world [no longer one with it], but I have chosen (selected) you out of the world, the world hates (detests) you.

        Thank you for sharing the video and your comments on the event.

      • I have to agree, Citizen Tom, that politics requires us to converse with people we disagree with; sometimes, with people whose company we would rather not share. It is also good for our ‘humanity’ that we make the occasion for polite and civil discussion. If it were not for opportunities like these, perhaps, we would be at war with each other. Nobody really wants that.

        Thanks for your comment and God bless!

  2. Both you and Art have a good point, and I’m also glad it wasn’t my call.

    The invitation is certainly not an endorsement, but this strikes me as one of those contentious decisions for which there is no perfect answer, only varying degrees of ‘less bad’.

    However, after watching both of their speeches, I have one favorite line:
    Romney’s opening of a joke, “….We’re now in the final months of the president’s term….”

    From your mouth to God’s ears, Mitt.

  3. I saw it as gesture that shows that we are to never give up even on the most ardent of blasphemers, sinners and such. It is the proper role of the Church to show compassion and mercy and as you once stated to me, even on occasion to wield excommunication as a means of correction for the merciful urging for a soul to examine their lives. I have a lot of misgivings on things that have happened to the Church that could have fingers pointing at the officials of the Church but that said, the Church on the whole mostly does the most compassionate things.

    I read an article last night that reveled in our leadership in the fight after Roe v Wade. However, my question that came quickly to mind was where was our solidarity on the issue and how did we do? Nothing has changed and the secular view has actually gotten worse. I am hoping for something good to come out of the Synod in Rome. Maybe we will get more serious on Religious Freedom, Evangelization and Intrinsic Evils that we are facing in our modern era.

    But whatever we see in civil discourse seems to emanate from the Church. Hatred and belittling sound bites is not the way the Catholic Church behaves. We want to win on the positive aspects of the faith and not on the negative aspects of blowing off our detractors and persecutors. An occasional thumping would be welcome, however, as it sends the message that the Church is not completely impotent in these matters.

    • Very well stated, Servus. Christ persevered with his enemies to the end, mostly showing them mercy and compassion and giving them opportunities to reflect and repent; other times, giving them a good and well deserved thumping (as you put it). Bishops in this country have delivered their paternal thumps as well, recently. There is no reason why they should not invite their opponents to peaceful dialogue and encourage them to engage in civil discourse — who else but the Church does that nowadays? Good point!

    • I believe that’s a pretty fair assessment, Noel, in which case last night’s performance was just more of a taste of the same and perhaps a fairer representation of the truth than we are accustom to seeing. The only problem is that the implications of the outcome of a reality show have less bearing on our lives, so that’s why we tend to pay it more heed — well some of us anyway. Thanks for your comment!

    • Thanks, 8-Kids. I read on another blog some commenter’s analogy of Christ being crucified between 2 thieves (alluding to the Cardinal sitting between the candidates). Okay, I suppose that’s judging too, at least in as much as it refers to the candidates. But it is one of the nicer commentaries I’ve seen out there aimed at tearing down the Cardinal. I suppose it is understandable why many people did not understand his decision and are unhappy with it. But more than just casting judgment, some are being brutally uncharitable with him over it. It’s rather sad.

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