After it became public knowledge that President Obama’s healthcare plan would force the private sector, particularly religious organizations like the Catholic Church, to pay for contraception and abortion inducing medications, folks of faith fought back. Even the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke out against the Administration, releasing a strongly worded condemnation of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) contraception and abortifacient mandates in June. The bishops unanimously condemned the mandates as “a violation of personal civil rights” and pledged “vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate.” Nevertheless, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invited the President to keynote an upcoming fundraiser for healthcare causes.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan serves not only as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but also as the president of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation. The Al Smith Dinner is an annual fundraiser for the Foundation, which is named after former Catholic NY Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith. The proceeds from this annual white tie gala go to various healthcare causes, which makes it all the more strange that President Obama would be invited as one of the keynote speakers. Nevertheless, Cardinal Dolan extended the speaking invitation to the President just months after roundly, and rightly, rebuking the Administration on their DHHS mandates.
If the Al Smith Foundation had always invited U.S. Presidents and presidential candidates to the dinner, that would be one thing. If there wasn’t a history of the Foundation intentionally not inviting certain political leaders based on their positions on abortion, marriage, etc, then I would not be surprised and / or alarmed. Nevertheless, there is a history of the Foundation not extending speaking invitations to U.S. Presidents and presidential contenders on the basis of their public policies. President Clinton, for example, was not invited in 1996 due to his vetoing of a bill that would have banned partial birth abortion. Senator and former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was reportedly not invited to speak due to the fact he was an unabashedly pro-abortion Catholic. While I certainly don’t disagree with not inviting President Clinton and Senator Kerry on the basis of their overt and extreme support of abortion, I’m shocked that the Foundation would now invite President Obama.
Not only is President Obama extreme in his pro-abortion positions, being that he was the only state senator in Illinois to openly oppose granting personhood to preborn and newborn babies under the 14th Amendment, but he has also openly attacked religious freedom with Obamacare. Of all organizations that should know the threat this Administration’s policies pose to people of faith, the Catholic Church should be chief among them. They, after all, are the primary target of the Administration’s contraception and abortifacient mandates. Nevertheless, in a seemingly stunning reversal from their vehement opposition just this past June, the Catholic board of directors of the Al Smith Foundation is inviting the President back to their annual dinner.
To me, this is nothing more than caving to political pressure, and it undermines the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ principled, moral stance against the Administration’s assault on religious liberty. For Cardinal Dolan to extend an invitation to President Obama after he openly assaulted the American Catholic Church is, to me, like having sheep invite a wolf for dinner.