He didn’t ask my opinion, but I think Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, should have declined an invitation to deliver the closing prayer at next week’s Republican National Convention. I say that knowing that Dolan also was willing, if asked, to pray at the Democratic convention and that (to some considerable flak from conservative Roman Catholics) the cardinal has invited the president as well as Mitt Romney to address the famous Al Smith Dinner in October. That’s the charity event at which, in 1960, John F. Kennedy famously bested Richard M. Nixon
Here’s the problem: Dolan is not just any bishop; he’s the leader of the national conference, which has been feuding with the Obama administration over whether its mandate for contraceptive coverage is a war on religious liberty. The bishops’ campaign has led to understandable complaints that it is taking sides in the presidential election, not to mention placing the church’s opposition to contraception above its advocacy of compassion for the poor (a cause at least some bishops see as incompatible with Paul Ryan’s budget).
Dolan’s motives may be pure, but I’m not so sure about Mitt Romney’s. A featured role for America’s No. 1 Catholic prelate at the GOP convention is a not very subtle way for the party to appeal to Catholic voters, especially conservative Catholics. (Romney announced the Dolan gig in an interview on EWTN, the right-wing Catholic TV network.)