Democrats Reverse, OK Catholic Leader to Pray at Convention

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 28, 2012   |   12:58PM   |   Washington, DC

Democrats have reversed course and are allowing Timothy Cardinal Dolan to deliver the benediction at the Democratic Party’s convention, as he will also do this week at the GOP convention in Tampa, Florida.

Previously, in a slight to Catholics, pro-abortion President Barack Obama rejected Cardinal Dolan’s similar offer of a prayer at the Democratic convention. Dolan told Democrats he would be “grateful” to deliver a blessing in Charlotte, according to the New York Post, but Obama turned him down.

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 and offered to do the same for Democrats.

After the initial rejection, Democrats, perhaps seeing they were alienating Catholic voters from the party and Obama’s re-election bid, relented.

The Archdiocese of New York has issued a statement with more information:

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has accepted an invitation to deliver the closing prayer at next week’s Democratic National Convention. 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 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.



Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded to the news in a statement.

“Over the past week, Cardinal Dolan has been hammered by liberals for accepting an invitation to give benediction at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Now that he will close both conventions, they look even more foolish,” he said. “The fundamental difference between Cardinal Dolan and these critics comes down to one thing: he is a man of principle and they don’t know how to spell the word. He invited President Obama to the Al Smith Dinner, knowing he would receive flak from some on the right. Then he agreed to speak at the RNC, knowing he would be blasted by some on the left. Now he has accepted an invitation to speak at the DNC and none of his critics—on both the left and the right—can figure him out.”

“What this shows is that Cardinal Dolan is able to rise above the politics of the moment. But to those who view the world exclusively through the lens of power, this is completely unintelligible,” he concluded.

The symbolism of Cardinal Dolan praying at the Republican convention is important as Romney works to reach Catholic voters in swing states to defeat pro-abortion President Barack Obama.

“This is not a partisan appearance. This is simply to do what a priest should do, which is to pray,” Joseph Zwilling, Dolan’s spokesman, told The Post. “He’s going to pray. He’s not going to give a convention speech.”

Still, Dolan’s appearance is important as the leader of the New York Archdiocese and the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is one of the leading critics of Obamacare and the pro-abortion mandate forcing religious groups to pay for abortion-causing drugs.

Thomas Peters of CatholicVote, a pro-life group that has endorsed Romney, applauded the move.

“I haven’t weighed in on the Al Smith controversy. Both sides make good arguments, but my hope is simply that we can do everything possible to maintain Catholic unity going into November and that, because Obama’s invitation to the dinner can’t be taken back at this point, we should make the best of it and learn lessons from it if we can,” he said. “That said, critics of Obama’s appearance at the Al Smith dinner should be happy to find out that Cardinal Dolan has consented to give the closing benediction at the GOP Convention in Tampa right after Mitt Romney gives his acceptance speech on the same stage.”

“In 2008 when Barack Obama won I predicted there would not be a good relationship between the White House and the U.S. Bishops during the Obama administration, and that proved to be true,” he added. “I now predict that if Mitt Romney wins the White House in 2012 there will be a very healthy relationship between a Romney administration and the U.S. Bishops, led by a close working relationship between Cardinal Dolan and President Romney. That’s all I say. But I think that means a lot when compared to what we have now.”

A Romney ad this month featured the late Pope John Paul II and accused Obama of a “war on religion.”

“Who shares your values?” the ad  asks. “President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith.”