07 August 2012

Obama at the Smith Dinner? Yes.


Alfred Emanuel Smith (1873 - 1944) was the 42nd Governor of New York, and in 1928 he became the first Catholic to run for President of the United States. In 1945, one year after Smith's death, Francis Cardinal Spellman, the Archbishop of New York, inaugurated the Alfred E. Smith Dinner to honor the public service of Smith and Catholics in political life and to raise funds for Catholic Charities. For 67 years, the Smith Dinner has been one of the fixtures of New York's social, political and philanthropic life, and the famed Dinner is an intersection of leading figures in politics, culture, and the Church. Because Smith was the first Catholic to run for President, the dinner has also traditionally included the presidential candidates when it is held in an election year. In 2008, for example, John McCain and Barack Obama (pictured above) were invited by Edward Cardinal Egan, and both accepted. Following this well-established precedent, Timothy Cardinal Dolan has invited Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to attend this year's Smith Dinner, and now Cardinal Dolan is coming under attack from elements of the pro-life movement in the United States because he invited President Obama to the Smith Dinner. I believe that the critics are wrong and should stop their protests of the Cardinal's decision.

Although we must oppose President Obama's pro-death policies with every fiber of our being, it is nonetheless true that he is one of the two candidates for the presidency, and the Church must have open channels of communication with both major parties and their leaders -- including (perhaps especially) the ones with whom we disagree about fundamental matters of justice.

Cardinal Dolan did the proper thing by inviting Barack Obama to this October's Smith Dinner, and those in the pro-life movement who are protesting this decision are doing their movement and the Church no favor. Let it be, friends.