The Archdiocese of New York is responding to criticism from prolife advocates upset that it has invited pro-abortion President Barack Obama to attend the annual Al Smith Catholic Charities dinner this October.
Obama accepted the invitation of Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the U.S Conference of Catholic bishops. The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner is an annual fundraiser for North York Catholic Charities and will be held on the third Thursday of October.
The Archdiocese posted a response on its blog and essentially defended the invitation saying it extended an invite to Mitt Romney, who is running on a pro-life platform, and has extended invitations to both presidential candidates in the past.
“It’s important first to understand what the Al Smith Dinner is, and is not, and then what the invitation means, and what it does not,” says Ed Mechmann for the Archdiocese. “The Al Smith Dinner is organized and hosted by the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, which is closely affiliated with but independent of the Archdiocese of New York.”
He said the dinner is not an official Catholic Church event and that no politician will be honored.
“The dinner is not a religious event in any way — it’s a civic/political event that raises money for Catholic charitable institutions. It’s not held at a religious building — it’s at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. It has no religious component aside from a benediction and closing prayer — much like sessions of Congress. A large proportion of the people who attend the Dinner are not Catholic, and the list of past speakers shows that only once in its almost 70-year history has a religious figure given the keynote address (Cardinal O’Connor),” he explained. “It’s also important that the politicians who speak at the dinner are not being given any honor or award by the Church, but are rather delivering an address that is one part jocular remarks written by professional jokesters, and two-parts generic political after-dinner bromides. Any comparison between the Al Smith Dinner and the honorary degree given to the President at Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony is thus completely off-the-mark.”
Mechmann says the Archdiocese strongly disagrees with Obama’s pro-abortion record.
“There is no question that the President’s political agenda and policy record are deplorable from a Catholic perspective — he is consistently anti-life and is ardent in his promotion and support of abortion, he is in favor of re-defining marriage, he opposes parental choice in education, his Administration is a consistent enemy of religious freedom, and there is good reason to believe that he has dealt with our bishops in less than good faith,” he said. “Give the consistency and strength with which our bishops — particularly Cardinal Dolan — have been proclaiming the Catholic view of public policy, it is hard to see how this one Dinner could possibly lead anyone to believe that the Church is softening her defense of life, the family, and religious liberty. When everyone wakes up the morning after, the struggle will resume.”
Instead, he says the dinner is a way for people to foster dialog and communication.
“The message is also that we can set aside our deeply-held differences and leave the partisan politics at the door for an evening, speak nicely and politely to each other, and work together for a common cause in the service of the poor. That’s a good thing, something that Al Smith would have been proud to associate himself with, and something that Catholics and pro-lifers should also support,” he concludes.
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See what several pro-life Catholic leaders had to say about the event and why they objected.