It is with the greatest sense of humility that I undertake the most painful task of voicing my staunch opposition to your invitation to President Obama to speak at the Al Smith Dinner in October. The invitation, although cloaked in friendship and a cooperative spirit, is nevertheless mired by allowing the President to falsely appear as a defender of religious acceptance and tolerance, something he has recurrently demonstrated not to be.
Firstly, I understand the Al Smith Dinner has traditionally represented an opportunity for the nation to view, in your words, “both our country and our Church at their best,” but this has generally not occurred in a milieu riddled by affirmative attacks from the statesman against the convictions the followers of the Church’s teachings hold so dear.
I also commend and support the event as a venue for people of faith to gather “in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism…[aimed at helping]…those in need,” but such a lofty endeavor can only be undertaken if all those who are seated at the table share that conviction. Here, clearly, our President does not.
Bishop Dolan, as you well know, our Holy Catholic Church has been the brunt of the most brazen Presidential attack on its legitimacy in over a century while thoughtlessly undermining the First Amendment rights and liberties of our fellow citizens to a level not seen since the decisions of the Warren Court. Few know better than you, Your Eminence, of the detrimental effects the President’s egregious actions will have on the rights of every person of worship in this country. Such enlightenment cannot then allow one to provide that same political foe a stage on equal footing with the one person who stands the greatest chance to counter this assault.
Make no mistake, President Obama will not be attending this ceremony with the aim of promoting the air of civility you seek. Rather, he will attend for two reasons only. First to counteract the detrimental effects an unanswered appearance by Governor Romney will have to his campaign, and second, to benefit from the opportunity to be viewed as the benevolent statesman that had the courage to forgive those uncompromising and politically inept Catholics and work with them for the greater, humanitarian, and non-sectarian purpose of helping others and promoting social justice.
Your Eminence, I understand that you are “encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners.” However, at the Al Smith Dinner, you will not be dining with a sinner, but rather with one who time and again has demonstrated his desire to restrict your abilities to serve Jesus in the manner in which you were called.
Consequently, I most humbly and respectfully ask you, Bishop Dolan, to rescind the invitation to President Obama and deny him the opportunity to capitalize from the resoundingly supportive and favorably biased attention his visit will attract. If you feel uncomfortable with the prospect of having only one Presidential candidate on the floor that night, then our Church and our parishioners will be better served if you invited neither. Even this would deliver the message to the President of the resounding disapproval those with religious convictions and followers of our Most Blessed Catholic Church harbor to the confrontational and destructive positions he has taken towards our freedom to worship.
Most respectfully and reverentially,
Julio Gonzalez, M.D.