Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Cardinal Dolan in Charlotte: a looming disaster for Democrats

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 29, 2012

Say what you will about the prudence of Cardinal Dolan’s decision to offer a prayer at the Democratic convention. What about the tactical judgment of the Democratic Party leaders who will welcome him?

Jeff Mirus has questioned whether Cardinal Dolan should have made the offer to deliver closing prayers for the Democratic event. As usual, I find myself in agreement with Jeff. But there’s another side to the question: Should the Democrats have accepted his offer?

If I were a partisan Democrat, I would say No: the Democrats should not have invited Cardinal Dolan to Charlotte. Since I am not a partisan Democrat—quite the contrary—I’m delighted that they did. The cardinal’s appearance will hurt, not help, President Obama’s chances for re-election.

Sharon Otterman of the New York Times observes that Cardinal Dolan’s visit to Charlotte will “lead to one of the most intriguing tableaus of this convention season.” She explains:

Cardinal Dolan, an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage who is among the Catholic bishops suing the Obama administration over its contraception health care mandates, will bless a gathering of thousands of delegates who passionately disagree with him.

The Democrats are apparently planning a convention that will appeal to the primal instincts of anti-Catholic bigots. Speakers from Planned Parenthood and NARRAL will whip up the crowd, warning that any hint of restriction on legal abortion would constitute a “war on women.” Homosexual activists will acclaim the President for advancing their drive toward legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Administration officials will remind the world that Obama introduced mandatory contraceptive coverage despite tough opposition. And then, after hours of shrill rhetoric, with the crowd in a frenzy of partisan fervor, the convention organizers will introduce the leading American representative of the institution that is most closely associated with opposition to legal abortion, to same-sex marriage, and to mandatory contraceptive coverage: the Catholic Church.

One of the most important purposes of a political convention is to fire up the troops: to rouse passions, to rally the party’s faithful as they prepare for battle with their political enemies. This year the main enemy will be Mitt Romney, of course. But looking toward the future, over a longer time horizon, many liberal activists see the Catholic Church as the enemy. So how will they feel, and how will they behave, when an agent of that “enemy” appears on the convention floor?

Yes, the cardinal’s appearance will present an interesting tableau, to say the least. Whether Cardinal Dolan acknowledges it or not, he will be addressing a largely hostile crowd. (There will be hundreds of Roman Catholics on the convention floor, no doubt, but not the sort of Catholics who bow to episcopal authority.) Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Michael McGough conveys the “us vs. them” mentality that will dominate the meeting in Charlotte in his headline: “Prayer for the godless party: Dems call Cardinal Dolan’s bluff.”

How will partisan Democratic activists respond to the cardinal’s presence. I see two likely possibilities.

  1. Hard-core ideologues might make their contempt manifest. Cardinal Dolan could face demonstrations, interruptions, heckling, a chorus of boos.
  2. Or cooler heads could prevail, Democratic leaders could impose discipline, the cardinal could hear nothing but respectful applause.

In all likelihood the actual event will see a bit of both reactions. The cardinal will be greeted politely. But there will be some grumbling when Cardinal Dolan prays—as surely he will—for a respectful attitude toward human life and a determination to support marriage and family. And even if the angriest demonstrators are kept outside the convention hall, TV viewers might notice that the rhetoric of those who oppose the cardinal’s appearance will sound very similar to the rhetoric of Democratic speakers who appeared earlier on the convention schedule.

One way or another—because he is treated rudely, as an enemy; or because he is treated politely, as a foreign dignitary—Cardinal Dolan’s appearance in Charlotte will help Catholic voters to notice that they are no longer “at home” in the Democratic Party. Like the cardinal they may be accepted as guests, but as long as the Democratic Party embraces the culture of Death, Catholic Democrats will be operating on alien territory.

Cardinal Dolan offered to attend the convention if his presence was wanted. The truth is that he is not wanted. But the Democratic Party has chosen to pretend, and that is a serious tactical error.

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: AgnesDay - Sep. 07, 2012 4:53 PM ET USA

    Interesting, isn't it? The closing benediction was an afterthought. The real drama occurred hours before in the conflict over putting God in the platform. The catcallers and demons had silence thrust upon 'em by their own leaders.

  • Posted by: joancollins507161 - Sep. 04, 2012 3:59 PM ET USA

    The Democrats will welcome Cardinal Dolan with open arms, never fear. They will use him to garner more support from Catholics who can't bear to vote Republican for whatever reason. Many Catholics use any excuse they can to vote Democrat, even though it's the party of liberal social policies such as "gay" marriage, abortion and subsidized birth control.

  • Posted by: John3822 - Sep. 03, 2012 12:52 PM ET USA

    It won't matter - the Democrats will just appear to be inclusive and tolerant with folks they disagree just as Mr. Romney disagrees with the Republican party plank allowing abortion for rape and incest with hardly a blink from the party.

  • Posted by: impossible - Sep. 01, 2012 4:19 PM ET USA

    If Phil is right, then you had better watch Fox because the lame stream media might likely omit Cardinal Dolan's remarks, unless of course if they are unhelpful to truth.

  • Posted by: bnewman - Aug. 31, 2012 11:06 PM ET USA

    I am confident that Cardinal Dolan can handle anti-Catholic bigots of the left easily and with grace. It would be a PR disaster to the Democratic Party if stupid and disrespective catcalls were shown up on TV at the Convention.I think Phil Lawyer is quite right that all the risk is for the Democrats here, not the Cardinal. Of course the TV media know this and surely would try to minimise any such a catasrophe for the party of their choice..

  • Posted by: mdepietro - Aug. 31, 2012 10:20 PM ET USA

    If Cardinal Dolan says the same prayer that he said at the RNC, then the effect will help Obama. There was no reference to abortion, rather obligue references to asking to bless those yet to be born (Could refer to people to be born in 2070 as much as those now conceived, and a mention that God gives us life. The DNC will not boo. This will in effect give some cover to liberal Catholics who wish to continue to support Obama. The only prayer that would make sense is that Obama lose the election

  • Posted by: JoePip - Aug. 31, 2012 6:31 PM ET USA

    JMJ Hopefully it's God's way (controlling events that (the Godless party) Democrts think is their Will) of having his Word spoken.Possibly changing some Hearts. Mr.Romney,Congressman Ryan are not True Pro Lifers. They claim that in cases of rape, incest or the Mother's health could be at risk or possible death, Both say that Abortion is a right/permissible, Remember both are saying the Child has no rights, so it's right to slaughter them. How can a Bishop say Ryan's a good man? God is Good!

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Aug. 30, 2012 3:17 PM ET USA

    Listen closely on that night, and you will hear the howling of demons. I'm not sure I want to watch.

  • Posted by: geoffreysmith1 - Aug. 30, 2012 7:37 AM ET USA

    As a foreign observer of the American political scene, I do feel that Cardinal Dolan is on a hiding to nothing with his brave gesture to address the Democrats' convention. A similar scenario would just not be possible in Britain, with Archbishop Nichols being accepted as a speaker at a Labour Party conference. He would most certainly be cat-called and heckled to the point where he would be inaudible to most delegates. I very much fear that Cardinal Dolan will suffer likewise.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 30, 2012 2:45 AM ET USA

    I cannot help but feel a certain “disconnect” with what is happening here. Even the protestants in the main know better and have known better in this regard. The solution for our social problems is not a political one, but a spiritual one. Anyone who understands even remotely the protestant concept of revival would realize this. The Cardinal may in fact land an inadvertent political blow to the Democrats..., but what is happening with the souls he shepherds and the Church he governs?

  • Posted by: - Aug. 30, 2012 1:41 AM ET USA

    Republicans have never embraced Catholics. Even so, the idea of Democrats having embraced Catholics..seems ludicrous. One or another Senator may have advocated for WORKERS between 1890 and 1950. Even that stretches "embracing" teaching quite a little. Trouble is, the Democrats HAVE fomented AGAINST Catholic teaching repeatedly: abortion, same sex "marriage", "safe" sex education, and so on. Honest Catholics have NEVER been "at home" with Democrats, whatever they may insist.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Aug. 29, 2012 9:09 PM ET USA

    Pretend is a great word for these times. It might be the most inclusive and accurate term to describe contemporary reality. Even the "reality shows" bear witness to this truth. There is plenty of pretending to go around. If one pretends hard enough and long's still pretending. The reality is that it is more likely that, at best, Cardinal Dolan's appearance will have no bearing on President Obama's re-election with regard to the Catholic vote. We can pray that this changes.

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - Aug. 29, 2012 5:37 PM ET USA

    As St. Augustine realized after the sack of Rome, the Church does not have nor has it ever had nor does it need a political party or any particular political order. Romney's latest shift on the Right to Life and the inactivity of Congressional Republicans in the face of the HHS mandate proves that the GOP is the Scylla to the Dems. Charybdis.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 29, 2012 4:01 PM ET USA

    "Cardinal Dolan’s appearance in Charlotte will help Catholic voters to notice that they are no longer 'at home' in the Democratic Party. Like the cardinal they may be accepted as guests, but as long as the Democratic Party embraces the culture of Death, Catholic Democrats will be operating on alien territory." Which is why, after more than 30 years (and a stint on my County Democratic Committee) I became a Republican this year. I'm not happy with the GOP either, but it's better.

  • Posted by: sparch - Aug. 29, 2012 2:19 PM ET USA

    I agree wholeheartedly. The democrats can not have a victory with Dolan's appearance. The bishop will display the church in a hostile environment and show what it means to be Christian. As Catholics, will will be standing right next to him in our faith and prayers.

  • Posted by: michaelwilmes - Aug. 29, 2012 2:09 PM ET USA

    The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC: Abandon all hope all ye who enter here!

  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Aug. 29, 2012 11:56 AM ET USA

    It takes a lot of guts to walk into the gathering place of one's enemies and pray in the midst of them. Cardinal Dolan will surely receive heckles and boos but he must remain firm. Let us all pray for him that he may receive the grace to actually go through with this and to pray in a clear and unambiguous way for traditional marriage, an end to contraception and abortion and the conversion of all to the Catholic Faith.