Obama Attendance at Catholic Charities Dinner Sparks Criticism

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 6, 2012   |   11:23AM   |   Washington, DC

President Barack Obama has been invited to attend the annual Al Smith Catholic Charities dinner this October in New York and  the participation of the pro-abortion president at the dinner is drawing nationwide condemnation.

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 millions of dollars raised at a single dinner is said “to bring hope to the neediest children of the Archdiocese of New York, regardless of race, creed, or color.” But pro-life advocates like Catholic pro-life activist Randy Engel, Director, U.S. Coalition for Life, are unhappy.

“Better to cancel the event than have it become another cause for scandal in the Catholic Church,” she said.

Engel says he is trying to get the message to Archbishop Dolan, “Please cancel the Al Smith dinner this year in memory of the millions of unborn children who have died and will continue to die under the government’s many anti-life programs.”

Father Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, is also unhappy about the event, and says some of the explanation he has heard about the invitation not being an endorsement of Obama’s policies but a courtesy extended to any president, doesn’t cut it with him.

“I’m all in favor of protocol and understand the difference between respecting the President’s policies vs. respecting his office,” Pavone said.”But there comes a time when the polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to scandal.”

“There comes a time when enough is enough and we can no longer afford to give people a reason to doubt our position as a Church. On August 1, the unjust HHS mandate went into effect for Priests for Life and millions of other Americans, and I announced to our staff that we are disobeying the mandate,” Pavone said in comments to LifeNews. “So no, I don’t think the invitation is appropriate at this time.”

Catholic pro-life writer Matt Abbott, who once directed a statewide pro-life group in Illinois, is also unclear as to why Obama received an invitation to attend.

“Perhaps I’m missing the boat, so to speak, but I must say that I’m perplexed and disappointed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York’s invitation to President Obama to speak at the annual Al Smith Dinner,” he writes.

That Obama received an invitation is somewhat of a surprise given that pro-life advocates celebrated Archbishop Dolan’s accepting the position as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dolan has been a strong friend and ally and has been called a “hero” by leading pro-life advocates in part for speaking out about Catholic politicians who support abortion.

“It bothers me if any politician, Catholic or not, is for abortion,” Dolan has said. “Because in my mind, we’re talking about a civil right, we’re not talking about a matter of Catholic Church discipline. We can’t allow the noble pro-life cause to be reduced to a denominational issue.”

In 2008, Dolan took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice-President Joe Biden to task for misrepresenting Catholic pro-life teachings.

“Church tradition is equally clear that bishops are the authentic teachers of the faith. So, when prominent Catholics publicly misrepresent timeless Church doctrine – as Biden and Pelosi regrettably did (to say nothing of erring in biology!) – a bishop has the duty to clarify,” he explained.

“Does the baby alive in the womb (a biological, not a doctrinal, fact) deserve the full protection of the law or not? Does one have the right to terminate the life of another at will? Can we consider one form of life – that of the innocent, fragile baby in the womb – inferior and expendable?” Dolan asked.

And, for the new New York Catholic leader, the answer is clearly no.

“We cannot be mute on this premier civil rights issue of our day,” he says.



Dolan also took on the abortion funding aspects of ObamaCare, saying it “does not reflect the protections of the Hyde Amendment.”

“We’re not the obstructionists here, since all we’re insisting upon is that the understanding that tax money not pay for abortions, in place since 1975, remains, ” he continued. “It is instead those who have radically altered the debate to open a loophole to eliminate the Hyde Amendment who are risking the very fate of this legislation.”

Meanwhile, in 2006, Dolan wrote a letter to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle asking him to reconsider his stance in favor of using taxpayer dollars to fund embryonic stem cell research.