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Cardinal Dolan, Romney and the Bigfoot Protocol

August 27, 2012|By Michael McGough
  • Timothy Dolan speaks during a news conference after being elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Timothy Dolan speaks during a news conference after being elected president… (Steve Ruark / AP )

A reader has questioned an observation in a Times editorial on Sunday that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop who will deliver a benediction at this week's Republican convention,  "should have followed protocol and allowed a local and lower-profile cleric to do the honors."

The reader wrote that "the editorial claims that the cardinal usurped the right of the local bishop (the bishop of the St. Petersburg Diocese) to deliver the benediction, while the cardinal himself stated that he had consulted the bishop, Robert Lynch, who agreed to defer to the cardinal."

"Following protocol" in this case would have taken the  form of Dolan  explaining to the Romney-Ryan campaign that the tradition was for a local bishop to offer the blessing. Instead, Dolan "asked" Bishop Lynch to step aside. Amazingly, this obscure prelate "agreed to defer to the cardinal," the most important bishop in the United States. I'm reminded of the way foreign correspondents "defer" to a network anchorman who jets out to the scene of an international crisis. (In journalism, this is called "bigfooting.")

PHOTOS: 2012 Republican convention in Tampa, Fla.

Protocol aside, Dolan should have recognized why he was being recruited to offer a prayer that any Catholic clergyman could have performed. In an interview with the Catholic TV network EWTN, Romney made it clear that the invitation was related to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' "religious liberty" campaign inspired by the bishops' opposition to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate.

Said Romney: "I'll continue to meet with Cardinal Dolan, who, by the way, is going to offer the benediction on the last evening of the Republican convention after my acceptance speech. So I am making it very clear that the interest of religious freedom is something I support wholeheartedly."

Clearly Romney was hoping for some electoral gilt by association in inviting Dolan, the first among equals in the hierarchy and an Obama critic, to appear at the convention. For that reason alone, Dolan should have said no.

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