Cardinal Dolan has provided a defense of his Al Smith Dinner invitation to President Obama.
I have to say that Bill McGurn perfectly captured my thoughts and feelings about the invite in his excellent post last week. It has been a hot topic on the Catholic homeschooling Yahoo group I belong to -- with moms fiercely defending both sides. I, too, was pulled both ways.
But then I read Dolan today, on the Feast of Maximilian Kolbe, my favorite saint, and I'm wooed by Dolan's warm, firm, humorous, and humble response. The fact that perhaps struck me most of all was his reminder that the dinner raises money "to help support mothers in need and their babies (both born and unborn) of any faith, or none at all."
Perhaps the invite and the ensuing controversy will only aid in the pro-life and pro-women cause. Wouldn't that be just the perfect result?
Anyway, here's just a bit of it, but it has a strong lead-in and a classic ending. Very Dolan-esque. Hard not to love the guy. What do you guys think?
For one, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church. It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.
Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.
Three, the teaching of the Church, so radiant in the Second Vatican Council, is that the posture of the Church towards culture, society, and government is that ofengagement and dialogue. In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, mo re effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one. Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States. And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences. What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?
Finally, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom. In fact, one could make the case that anyone attending the dinner, even the two candidates, would, by the vibrant solidarity of the evening, be reminded that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion, assemble on behalf of poor women and their babies, born and unborn, in a spirit of civility and respect.
Go ahead, read it all.