Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

And Rick Warren won't be hosting the Al Smith dinner, either

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 27, 2012

Do you remember the presidential debate that Rick Warren, the pastor of the Saddleback Church in California, hosted in 2008? The famous Evangelical leader had planned a similar event this year. But now he has withdrawn his invitations to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Warren explains that “it would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day."

(There may be another factor: President Obama reportedly refused to participate in the megachurch-sponsored campaign forum.)

One can’t help noticing the contrast between the views expressed by Rick Warren and those offered by Cardinal Timothy Dolan to explain why he will not rescind an invitation for President Obama. The Evangelical pastor decries the sham civility of an evening’s debate; the cardinal touts the Al Smith dinner as “an acclaimed example of such civility in political life.”

It’s no secret that I was dismayed by Cardinal Dolan’s decision to give President Obama a valuable “photo op” in the midst of a contentious campaign. But if the cardinal’s judgment is questionable, Rick Warren’s statement is astounding. Is it a bad thing to plan an evening of civil debate in the midst of an otherwise nasty campaign? Would he prefer several weeks of uninterrupted mud-slinging?

Cardinal Dolan seems to think that a night of light-hearted repartee—a time-out from the heat of the campaign, at least theoretically—could improve the tenor of campaign rhetoric. He may be wrong; I think he is. But give the cardinal credit. He’s trying to light a candle, and I’m afraid Rick Warren is doing the other thing.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jb5131013 - Sep. 12, 2018 8:44 PM ET USA

    Love your very tongue in cheek final sentence.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Sep. 12, 2018 1:50 PM ET USA

    I would wait and see what Pope Francis does. I am still waiting to see whether he answers the dubia. A problem for Pope Francis regarding the homosexual abuse scandal is that if he cracks down, he will be cracking down on that group of clerics that support his modernist agenda.

  • Posted by: seebert424930 - Sep. 11, 2018 6:56 PM ET USA

    I see no shift in Pope Francis's message on this. It is still blame the accusers, never support the victims.

  • Posted by: pauper servus et humilis - Sep. 01, 2012 9:13 PM ET USA

    Mmmmm. Picure Cardinal Dolan on one side and Bill Donohue on the other. Perhaps such a sandwich might do a soul some good compared to that of Biden and Pfleger? ... oohh that Mother Angelica could be fully cured and sit facing him... Ago tibi gratias pro universis beneficiis tuis, etiam ignotis... Yes, even the unknown ones...

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Aug. 30, 2012 3:19 PM ET USA

    Keep in mind, that whatever gets accomplished by Cardinal Dolan will be, in fact, the work of God.

  • Posted by: Defender - Aug. 28, 2012 12:35 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Dolan can't even keep his own house in order, why should anyone believe that he can do better on the national stage?

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 27, 2012 5:42 PM ET USA

    The question of the floor is not whether civility is "the order of the day" (we are still civilized thank God) but how far does ANY man have to go before, as they say, one "breaks fellowship...," put Scripturally, when one shuns or excommunicates a man? Can a politician, whether he claims to be protestant or Catholic, simply contradict and betray promises one after another indefinitely and still be honored with any kind of platform, or even fellowship with other serious Christians?