Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the current president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be a busy man over the next two weeks. Dolan accepted an invitation to open the Republican National Convention with prayer, a move that had the Left calling foul and accusing Dolan of getting too friendly with Republicans:
The news that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the nation’s most prominent Catholic prelate, will deliver the closing blessing to the Republican National Convention in Florida next week was seen as a huge coup for Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive nominee. But the move has also prompted a sharp debate within the church over the increasingly close ties between leading bishops and the GOP.
“The cozy relationship between a sizable portion of U.S. bishops and the Republican Party should be cause for concern, and not just among progressive Catholics,” Michael O’Loughlin wrote in a post on the website of America magazine, a leading Catholic weekly published by the Jesuits.
“Cardinal Dolan’s appearance in Tampa will damage the church’s ability to be a moral and legitimate voice for voiceless, as those who view the Catholic Church as being a shill for the GOP have just a bit more evidence to prove their case,” O’Loughlin concluded.
Er, sure. Conservative Catholics had been criticizing Dolan for extending an invitation to Obama for the Al Smith Dinner, which the Huffington Post (linked above) also reported as controversial, considering Dolan’s leading role in the USCCB’s fight against the HHS contraception mandate. When Dolan accepted the invitation to the Republican convention, he also asked if Democrats would allow him to appear at their convention as well, to show fairness and impartiality. Initially, Democrats refused:
President Obama turned down a chance to have Timothy Cardinal Dolan deliver a prayer at the Democratic National Convention after Dolan told Democrats he would be “grateful” to deliver a blessing in Charlotte.
Dolan — considered the top Catholic official in the nation, as head of the Archdiocese of New York and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops — tipped off Democrats a few weeks ago that he had agreed to deliver the prime-time benediction at the Republican convention in Tampa next week, Dolan’s spokesman Joseph Zwilling told The Post.
At the time, Obama campaign officials said they would have a high-ranking Catholic offering a prayer in Charlotte. That turns out to be … Timothy Cardinal Dolan:
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), will give the benediction on the concluding night of next week’s Democratic National Convention, the USCCB has confirmed to The Hill.
“Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has accepted an invitation to deliver the closing prayer at next week’s Democratic National Convention,” USCCB spokesman Joseph Zwilling said in a statement, first obtained by Commonweal Magazine. “As was previously announced, he will also be offering the closing prayer at the Republican Convention on Thursday of this week.”
“It was made clear to the Democratic Convention organizers, as it was to the Republicans, that the Cardinal was coming solely as a pastor, only to pray, not to endorse any party, platform, or candidate,” the statement continued. The Cardinal consulted Bishop Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte, who gave the Cardinal his consent to take part in the convention that will be taking place in his diocese.”
The Anchoress scolds all sides for their attempt to politicize Dolan’s ecumenical efforts:
Okay, all you “progressives” who were fuming and breathing fire because Dolan was delivering the closing speech at the GOP convention? (You know who you are — the folks sending me snarky little, “why-don’t-the-fascist-misogynistic-bishops-just-admit-they’re-Rethuglicans?” love notes, to which I kept gamely responding, “Catholicism is not Democrat or Republican” while you cursed at me?) Well, now you can start fuming b/c he is delivering the closing speech at the Dem convention, too.
Oh, wait. My bad. Now Dolan praying at a political convention must be okay. Or, he’s just trying to prove he’s not the rat you thought he was. Or, perhaps Obama ignoring Dolan’s offer to pray wasn’t polling well.
Meanwhile, all you “conservatives” who were praising Dolan for speaking at the GOP convention? You can start accusing him of “destroying the church from within”, now!
The rest of us who weren’t that caught up with it to begin with?
Well, we can continue thinking that the role of a pastor is to be present, to teach and to guide. Dolan, simply by being present to BOTH parties in this horrifically divided and stressful year, is being a good shepherd, a good physician. Our nation is desperately ill — her very blood is toxic with hatred and it needs the antiseptic of the creed and penance — but no physician can force a difficult dose on a patient. First, he has to get the sick wretch to trust him enough to let begin treatment. I suspect this is what Dolan is trying to do.
I agree entirely, and also with Dolan’s invitation to Obama for the Al Smith Dinner. The role of a bishop should be to promote dialogue, not to shut it down; to promote prayer everywhere and among all, not to selectively engage in it; and to remind people that faith is larger than politics. Cardinal Dolan demonstrated real leadership in these areas, even though our immediate political sensibilities might have recoiled at his decisions. And Dolan’s ecumenical outreach demonstrates that his opposition to the intrusion on religious liberty in the HHS contraception mandate is not borne of Republican sympathies, but out of genuine and completely understandable opposition to the policy itself.
Cardinal Dolan has given us all a lesson in priorities and commitment.
Update: Margery Eagan deserves a special mention for egregious timing and politicization in today’s Boston Herald. After calling Dolan “pro-pedophilia” while weirdly defending Bernard Cardinal Law who actually covered up cases of pedophilia, here’s her conclusion:
They said Dolan and the hierarchy just keep trying to reassert power as fewer Catholics heed their political edicts. In fact, in June and July, a bishop-led “Fortnight for Freedom” crusade against those contraceptive mandates more or less flopped. The opposition “Nuns on the Bus” got more media play.
And before that, entire Catholic parishes signed petitions supporting American nuns, not the Vatican, when it started investigating their supposedly too-liberal views.
Say what you will about disgraced Boston Cardinal Bernard Law. When it came to helping the poor, he was a tireless crusader. Once upon a time, the hierarchy was too. Here’s what Dolan’s appearance Thursday signals: No more.
I wonder how the crow tastes in Boston.