Since Cardinal Dolan extended an invitation to President Obama to attend the Al Smith Dinner, along with Governor Romney, many Catholics have found themselves somewhere on the spectrum between concerned and outraged.
Many people consider it a scandal for a Catholic foundation and the Cardinal to host the virulently anti-life President when the Church is locked in an existential struggle against that same President.
After enduring so much criticism for this decision, Cardinal Dolan has taken to his Archdiocesan blog to defend and explain his decision. He makes several point in his explanation. First, the invitation is not an award. Second, the point of the Dinner is as an interfaith gathering, the whole point is to open the doors. Third, you gather more flies with honey. He paraphrasically says, Remember I am the same Cardinal leading the charge against the administration's attacks on the Church. This is a prudential decision, so pray for me and trust me.
For sure, Cardinal Dolan has been the outspoken champion of the Church's rights and the rights of individuals to practice their religion in public free from coercive immoral mandates. For this and by virtue of his position in the Church, he rightly deserves our praise, respect, and a fair amount of trust.
Cardinal Dolan, We trust you. I trust you. But I also have a warning for you.
You wrote about what the perception would be if you refused to meet with the President saying "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?"
We understand your point, Your Eminence. But you must remember that dialogue is a two way street and so is perception. President Obama's Chief of Staff has made it clear that the President is done compromising. The President is also the same man who gave a speech at Notre Dame touting his commitment to conscience protections. He is the same man who looked you in the eye last year and promised the same. This is the same man whose own Whitehouse website still falsely claims the endorsement of the Catholic Health Association. He lied. He lies.
Cardinal, our ongoing concern is not merely that this opportunity for dialogue and civility will be wasted on the President. If that were the worst that could happen, I think we could all live with that. Our real concern is that the President will use this opportunity to convince as many people as possible that the Church isn't really serious in its opposition. One can easily imagine a picture of you and the President smiling arm in arm being posted to the Whitehouse website right next to the false CHA endorsement the morning after the dinner.
Our ongoing concern Your Eminence is that this will not just be a wasted opportunity for dialogue, but an un-wasted opportunity for the President to sell his lies, to the detriment of faith and liberty for all.
Cardinal Dolan, we trust you. But do not ever trust President Obama.