The president, the cardinal, and the “take your ball and go home” Catholics

Timothy Cardinal Dolan is a smart man. A good man. A pretty good shepherd of not only the New York archdiocese, but also the U.S. church, which he often ends up talking for as head of the U.S. bishops. He’s solidly orthodox and forceful in ensuring Church teachings are heard in the public square, and he’s worked very hard against the HHS contraception mandate.

I like this guy.

Or, if you believe right wing Catholics, he’s causing scandal, appeasing evil, and is a secret Democrat, and you can’t be Catholic and Democratic because of the party’s stances on Very Bad Things.

All this, because Dolan didn’t not invite the president to a Catholic charity dinner, to which the presidential candidates are usually invited because of their status as presidential candidates. Sigh.

See, some folks on the right regard Obama as evil (uh, guys? Judge actions, not souls) instead of terribly misguided (ding ding ding). So because he’s pro-abortion*, they want us to oppose anything he does, because it’ll look like a win for evil — even if the issue in question is something where Catholics and the president agree.

And that leads us to where we are. Let’s look at the reaction!

The Al Smith Dinner invitee, President Barack Obama, continues to spit in the face of the Church. Yet his invitation stands. ~Judie Brown, American Life League

So one can only ask: Is Archbishop Dolan merely revealing, once again, that he is possessed by an inner Democrat as yet only marginally transformed by his own religious beliefs? Or is he betraying the time-honored episcopal tendency, so often denounced by the saints as worldliness, to want to be “a player”, to be able to extend invitations to those in power and have them accepted? Only God knows. ~Jeff Mirus, Catholic Culture

Good grief. And don’t even look at comment boxes for any stories dealing with this, in which the cardinal clearly is cheering on the re-election of the president. Uh, right.

A theme running here, I fear, is disrespect for the cardinal. It’s amazing how much vituperation — not disagreeing, but condemning — has been aimed at the cardinal. These folks are so purist, so absolute that even acknowledging Obama may have done some stuff right doesn’t matter. And talking to this evil man, yes, eating with him, must mean you accept his evil ways.

None of these people has any idea what the cardinal may be doing behind the scenes. They don’t know whether he has something planned for the dinner, which I think he does. They don’t know, but they’re happy to fire away anyway.

Which leads me to what I hate to see in Catholicism: the “take your ball and go home” Catholics. They seem to be almost gleeful in wanting to shut down Church charities and hospitals with the HHS mandate, even though that’s the last-chance nuclear option. What they want to do is shut out those whom they see as enemies of the Church, both “foreign and domestic,” if you will. Then they complain when things don’t go their way.

Cardinal Dolan, wisely, has taken another trek. He realizes that if you shut out those you disagree with on some issues, then they won’t be around to help with the issues you agree with. Also, he is a shepherd. Granted, the president, who isn’t Catholic, isn’t truly one of his flock. But imagine if he can get through to the president, who thus far has shown total cluelessness as to why the HHS mandate is so bad. (No, I don’t think he’s intentionally trying to shut down the Church or its functions, but I do think he truly doesn’t understand why in the world we would oppose contraception and abortion.)

And no, the cardinal can’t disinvite Obama without also disinviting Mitt Romney, because only disinviting Obama would give credence to the idea that the charity is only supporting Republicans. Many Catholics would prefer that, but it’s still a bad idea.

It’s better to address the world as we have it than to take your ball and go home. The issue absolutists find is that they don’t actually accomplish much, but they do fret a lot. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the cardinal is trying to do something. Seems to me that approach, while having its own risks, has a much better chance of actually accomplishing something.

* Unlike many pro-lifers, I accept that there’s a difference between “pro-choice” and “pro-abortion.” However, I think it’s fair to refer to the president as pro-abortion, because his actions have served to promote abortion, not just tolerate it. Let me put it this way: if you were pro-choice but not pro-abortion, you would accept limits on abortion. That’s not the case with Obama.

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