Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Al Smith Dinner Debacle

I'm really not sure if my feelings about the recent Cardinal Dolan- Al Smith- President Obama dinner controversy are an indication that I have more faith in people or less faith in people after five short years of paying attention to what's going on in the Catholic world.

See here's the thing.  My reaction, when I read the non-stop coverage of the predicament, is not unlike my reaction to the recent political coverage.  Mainly it's a cross between "ugh" and "blah."

Don't get me wrong.  If it was my choice and I had the opportunity to invite our commander in chief to dinner I wouldn't be laying out an extra place setting at the table.  I think conversation would be more interesting with one of the camo wearing scary guys that shout and glare when they see our mini van about how it guzzles gas, that apparently frequent our new neighborhood (Hippies in camo?  Who knew?  And no, I have no plans to invite someone who shouts like a lunatic at gas stations over for dinner anytime soon, because we have enough craziness on our own without adding to the mix with a two year old and a four year old inside these four walls.).

So I wouldn't have made the same decision.

I was outraged back when Obama was given an invite and award at Notre Dame's commencement back in the day (and was sickened by the aftermath).  And the picture that starts off this blog post made my blood boil.  I was furious when my own alma mater gave out a scholarship honoring an abortion provider.  Yet the most I could muster, even after reading impassioned rants about the upcoming dinner and the scandal it was certain to create, was a small sigh and a shake of the head.

At first I thought it was simply because there is very little that would surprise me at this point when it comes to the political world and it's cross over into the religious world.  Over the last five years I'm sure we can all think of times when we really, really believed that someone was going to stand up to Obama, only to see them roll over and expose the yellow-ness of their underside (remember the Stupak debacle?  Oh we won't be paying for abortions the blue dogs swore...).

But then I thought about it a bit more and changed my mind.  I'm sure some portion of the apathy I'm feeling at the moment about the situation is disappointment that the decision isn't the one I would make (but then again, I'm not a bishop, nor am I privy to the process that went into this decision), and another part is the exhaustion I'm feeling at the moment from driving back and forth across the country and spending hours packing and unpacking and scrubbing and scouring and steaming the dirt of the floors (they actually ended up being several shade lighter after I did that!).

The other thought, however, that keeps popping into my head, is that I'm not sure how many Catholics really are going to be confused by this invitation.  I mean really, is anyone who's paying attention enough to hear about this dinner in the first place really going to think that this photo op means that the cardinal is giving Obama a gold star of support for the upcoming election?  I would really like to believe that most Catholics (and just people in general) aren't that dumb.

I mean, I'd like to believe that if you care, even a tiny bit, about what the Church teaches, you'd be able to do enough investigative research to figure out that Obama is a very, very poor choice (and has been all along).  And let's face it, plenty of self-identified Catholics don't care a bit about what either Cardinal Dolan or the Church itself teaches and are going to vote the way they want to vote when they enter the ballot box in November, even if the Cardinal were to appear every night on TV speaking from the Washington Monument with great elegance about the importance of this election and explaining in great deal exactly how dangerous this president is when it comes to religious freedom (and on so many other levels...).

So I'm just not sure I buy that many people (at least people intelligent enough to get up on that crucial Tuesday and then remember it's voting day and get in the car and drive all the way to the polls and then punch a hole or fill in a dot) are going to be tricked into thinking that Cardinal Dolan and the President are suddenly best friends and that the Cardinal is somehow endorsing him by inviting him for dinner.  But that's just me.  I've been wrong before and I'll certainly be wrong again... frequently it seems, when it comes to interpreting how these sort of things are going to play out.

Which is why I'm going to trust that the good Cardinal, who has proven that he is not a coward this past year, is truly doing what he believes is best and pray that God works through him to help resolve the issues at hand.  

Thomist wants me to add that he would jump at the chance of inviting our President over for dinner, if he was able to lecture (he may have said "yell at") him the entire time.  


  1. I have also sighed and shaken my head at the kerfuffle surrounding this. The whole point of the Al Smith Dinner (in addition to raising $$$ for "the poor, sick and underprivileged" of the Archdiocese of New York) is to encourage simple civility among those of differing parties and viewpoints.

    The Archbishop has done a magnificent job of stating his reasons, and as I think he is the best thing to happen to the hierarchy in a long time, I'm with him. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and the Archbishop knows this.

    I don't think it's a bad thing at all to hit Obama between the eyes with evidence of the myriad good works done by Catholics and the fact that there are plenty of us (even if some have strayed...)


  2. Regarding the "seal of approval" on Obama, if anyone gets that out of it, they are blind as Mitt Romney was also invited.


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