Dolan has reportedly extended an offer to Obama (as well as his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney) to attend this year’s dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, scheduled for Oct. 18, and reports say the president has accepted. That has mobilized abortion opponents, who view Obama as the worst thing since Roe v. Wade and an enemy of religious liberty because of his administration’s controversial birth control mandate.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, a leading abortion opponent based in Staten Island, said Monday (Aug. 6) that “the polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to scandal.”
“There comes a time when enough is enough and we can no longer afford to give people a reason to doubt our position as a Church,” Pavone wrote in an email. “So no, I don’t think the invitation is appropriate at this time.”
“Better to cancel the event than have it become another cause for scandal in the Catholic Church,” Randy Engel, head of the U.S. Coalition for Life, told LifeNews.com, an anti-abortion website.
The New York Archdiocese has not formally announced that Obama and Romney have been invited, or have accepted. But Meghan McGuinness Myers, executive director of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, which organizes the annual fundraiser on behalf of various children’s charities, told LifeSiteNews that Obama had been invited and had accepted.
The dinner’s website also lists Obama and Romney as keynote speakers.
Myers did not respond to requests for comment, and Dolan’s spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said in an email that an announcement would be made “when the speaker or speakers have been confirmed and finalized.” He did not elaborate.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Obama’s acceptance of the cardinal’s invitation was first reported on July 26 by a National Catholic Reporter blogger, Tom Gallagher, who also reported that Romney would attend.
But conservative anxiety about the possibility that Dolan would invite Obama has been building for months, and the invitation could herald a difficult stretch for Dolan.
The cardinal wears several hats — he heads the Archdiocese of New York, which launched the charity gala in 1945 in memory of Al Smith, who in 1928 became the first Catholic to head a presidential ticket.
But Dolan is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a leader in the hierarchy’s ongoing battle with the administration over new regulations that will require all employer health insurance policies to provide free contraception coverage and sterilization along with a range of women’s health services.