Cardinal Dolan invites the Emperor Decius to Al Smith dinner
The American Life League is taking contretemps over New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan's invitation of President Obama to the Al Smith dinner (along with GOP candidate Mitt Romney) to a new level, claiming in a press release that "the appearance of camaraderie with a president whose actions and policies are no less hostile than Roman Emperor Decius who tried to root out the Christian religion by issuing an edict ordering all citizens to worship the state gods or face dire consequences."
As we sometimes say here at U.S. Catholic: That's AWESOME! Awesomely unhinged that is.
The Al Smith dinner is basically a roast, an opportunity for the candidates to poke fun at themselves and one another, setting aside the barbs of the campaign trail to help raise a lot of money for children's charities. Seen in this light, ALL's rhetoric is a symptom of all that's wrong with our public debate, in both church and politics. The idea that one cannot sit down for a meal across from someone with whom you disagree calls into question Jesus' entire ministry of eating with just about anyone--public sinners, self-righteous religious leaders, Roman collaborators. In fact, the basic idea is that eating together is the first step toward reconciliation, at least in the gospel.
Instead, in "defense" of life, ALL compares a fellow Christian to a tyrranical murderer. In Philosophy 101 that was called an "ad hominem," that is a personal, attack. Catholics--all Christians in fact--can and should do better.
There are definite differences between the demands of the gospel and the policies of politicians of both parties. Name-calling is one strategy for dealing with them; sitting down at table for a meal and a dose of self-depracating humor is another. I think I know which Jesus would choose.