Sorry, but there is nothing good about this invitation of Obama to the Al Smith Dinner. Of course it is scandalous, and no amount of intellectual gymnastics can make it otherwise.
This is not the same as pouring hot coals upon the enemy's head by doing him good. Cardinal Dolan is not bringing a starving Obama in off the streets. Nor is it the same as Jesus reaching out to prostitutes and tax collectors. The prostitutes and tax collectors believed the Gospel and repented, whereas Obama has made it quite plain that he intends to continue on his present course. What this is is the extending of a gratuitous and completely undeserved honor to an enemy of the Church. It is the latest in a long line of Catholic clergymen cozying up to unfriendly and even pro-abortion politicians over the last half-century. It is one more log on the bonfire of cynicism, and a source of distress and confusion to the faithful.
Obama is at war against the Catholic Church, and has proven it by his actions. Why do so many in the Church not believe him? I guarantee Obama and his minions view this as a sign of weakness, and have even more contempt for the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, and the Church, than they did before. This is the way to prolong the war, not to win it.
And how can the bishops hope to rally Catholics in the pews against enemies of the Church whom they invite as honored guests at a dinner? William F. Buckley put the problem very succinctly 42 years ago, ruminating about the failure of Catholics to repel the forces of abortion in New York state (Inveighing We Will Go, New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1972, pp. 326-328):
When the time came to rally protests against permissive abortion laws, the troops were simply not there. It is very difficult for a Catholic fundamentalist to go on about Murder, while his Cardinal is photographed speaking amiably to the leader of the Assembly that passed the abortion bill a few months before. How would it have appeared if, let us say, Cardinal Spellman of New York had been seen shaking hands and chatting amiably with Martin Bormann? The answer is that Cardinal Spellman would have avoided doing any such thing. And that Cardinal Cooke’s willingness to traffic with legislators from New York who voted for the abortion bill seems to suggest that New York Catholics must regard permissive abortion policies as something less than the kind of thing that inspires mutinous relations between the subject and the state.
We are obliged to be civil to our enemies, to pray for them, and to be generous to them in their need. But we are not obliged to be intimate and chummy with them. In fact, when being intimate and chummy saps our will to stand up for the Faith, surely we would be obliged NOT to.