Tonight’s a big night for Barack Obama and Catholics. Our very own Father Raymond J. de Souza writes about it in today’s National Post.

“The Al Smith Dinner is one of American Catholicism’s most glittering events — a massive fundraiser for the Catholic charities of the Archdiocese of New York,” he explains.

McCain and Obama plan to be there tonight. The dinner always gets a big name speaker — and every four years it hosts the two presidential candidates, just as it hosted JFK and Richard Nixon in 1960.

“While the remarks tonight are expected to be lighthearted and not too political, it is likely that Mr. Obama will try to use the occasion to present himself as a friend to religious and socially conservative voters,” writes Father de Souza.

Obama is expected to win the election this November, he points out, but he “is just flirting with 50% of the popular vote.” Why? Because religious voters don’t like his strongly pro-abortion stance.

Father de Souza helpfully counts the ways Obama is pro-abortion:

— against the ban on partial-birth abortion.
— against parental-notification for minors seeking abortion.
— against “conscience-clauses” for pro-life doctors who refuse to do abortions.
— for federal funding of abortions.
— would sign the Freedom of Choice Act, eliminating federal statute on any abortion regulations in all of the 50 states.
— voted in Illinois against the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act” which passed the U.S. Senate unanimously.

Asks Father de Souza: “Given the number of factors in his favor, and his explicit desire to make room for Catholic voters, religious voters and pro-life voters in his campaign, the substance of his abortion policy is extreme and counter-productive … So why does he adopt it?”

He answers: “Voters can only conclude that Mr. Obama believes in his policy sincerely.”

— Tom Hoopes