In an election year when tension runs high between the Obama administration and the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the White House Thursday avoided any criticism of one of the best-known American prelates: Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, who will deliver the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention next week.
At the regular briefing for reporters at the White House Thursday, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked if he felt ‚??it‚??s appropriate that (Dolan) be speaking at the Republican Convention, or do you have any feelings on how it might affect the working relationship with the Cardinal or the association he represents moving forward?‚?Ě
The president‚??s top spokesman did not take the bait and simply said: ‚??I think there‚??s a tradition of religious leaders giving prayers or invocations at conventions. I don‚??t see a problem with that.‚?Ě
Carney‚??s ‚??punting‚?Ě on the question comes at a time that the archbishop of New York, who has met several times with President Obama at the White House, has grown outspoken in his opposition to the administration‚??s mandate of contraception coverage in Catholic institutions. In addition, Cardinal Dolan has been the subject of an online petition calling on him to withdraw his invitation to Obama to attend the annual Alfred E. Smith charity dinner in New York.
‚??If Cardinal John O‚??Connor didn‚??t invite pro-abort Bill Clinton in 1996 and if Cardinal Egan didn‚??t invite pro-abort John Kerry in 2004, then on what grounds could Your Eminence find to invite Obama in 2012?‚?Ě the petition asks Cardinal Dolan.
Liberal Catholics, in turn, have been weighing in against Dolan‚??s convention appearance. On the website of America Magazine, the weekly published by the Jesuits, Michael O‚??Loughlin recently wrote: ‚??Cardinal Dolan‚??s appearance in Tampa will damage the church‚??s ability to be a moral and legitimate voice for voiceless, as those who view the Catholic Church as being a shill for the GOP have just a bit more evidence to prove their case.‚?Ě
But Carney ducked the controversy altogether.
NOTE: The first Catholic priest to address a national party convention was none other than Father Charles E. Coughlin of Royal Oak, Michigan. The year was 1932 and it was the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Known as the ‚??radio priest‚?Ě because he was one of the most-listened to radio personalities of the time, Father Coughlin drew wild cheers from Democrats when he endorsed the Democratic nominee and declared the election was ‚??Roosevelt or ruin.‚?Ě Coughlin later broke with FDR and grew so controversial over broadcasts that appeared to be excusing Hitler‚??s Germany in the 1930‚??s that most stations would no longer carry him. In 1942, Detroit‚??s Cardinal Mooney forbade Coughlin from publishing his ‚??Social Justice‚?Ě newspaper for apparently pro-Axis leanings. Coughlin remained a priest and died in 1979 at age 88.