Cardinal Timothy Dolan Will Host Obama at White-Tie Fundraiser for Health Care Causes

Terence P. Jeffrey | August 8, 2012 | 1:25am EDT
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Sen. John McCain, then-New York Archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan and then-Sen. Barack Obama at the 2008 Al Smith dinner. (AP Photo)

( - President Barack Obama, who is moving ahead with a regulation that forces observant American Catholics to act against their consciences and the teachings of their faith, will be one of the keynote speakers at an Oct. 18 white-tie fundraiser hosted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The fundraiser—the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner--will benefit the foundation, which Cardinal Dolan serves as board president. The foundation's website says it provides funding “for healthcare causes.”

Al Smith, a three-term governor of New York, became the first Catholic presidential candidate in U.S. history when the Democratic Party nominated him in 1928.

Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts determined that Catholic hospitals in that state would be required to distribute Plan B abortion pills to rape victims, will join Obama as a keynote speaker at the white-tie dinner.

Both Obama and Sen. John McCain spoke at the Al Smith dinner in October 2008, shortly before that year’s presidential election.

But, in 2004, the New York Times reported, neither President George W. Bush nor Sen. John Kerry were invited; and, in 1996, neither President Bill Clinton nor Sen. Bob Dole were invited. Clinton was reportedly not invited because he had vetoed the ban on partial-birth abortion. Kerry was reportedly not invited because he was a pro-abortion Catholic.

Obama is outspokenly and unambiguously pro-abortion. He is also the only sitting president in U.S. history to expressly support same-sex marriage.

In Illinois in 2001, Obama was the only state senator to speak on the senate floor against legislation that would have simply said a born baby is a “person,” a “human being,” a “child,” and an “individual” and thus entitled under the 14th Amendment to equal protection of the law.

In June, under Cardinal Dolan’s leadership, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops unanimously approved a statement condemning a regulation issued under the Obamacare law by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that requires virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover, without cost-sharing, sterilizations, artificial contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.

The unanimous statement cited the bishops’ “vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate.” It pointed out that the regulation not only failed to exempt Catholic institutions such as hospitals, charities and universities, but also attacked the free exercise of religion of individual Catholic laypersons.

The bishops unanimously called the regulation a “violation of personal civil rights.”

Pope Benedict XVI makes New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan a cardinal on Feb. 18, 2012 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

“The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values,” said the unanimous Catholic bishops. “They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services’ contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so.”

On May 21, Cardinal Dolan’s Archdiocese of New York sued HHS Secretary Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner arguing the regulation violated the archdiocese’s First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

The lawsuit said the Obama administration was attempting to use a federal regulation to make Catholics act against their faith and was specifically designed to discriminate against the religious institutions, such as Catholic institutions, that oppose both abortion and contraception. The Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit also suggested President Obama himself had been duplicitous.

“The legislative history of the Act [Obamacre] also demonstrates a clear congressional intent to prohibit the executive branch from requiring group health plans to provide abortion-related services,” the lawsuit said. “For example, the House of Representatives originally passed a bill that included an amendment by Congressman Bart Stupak prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion services. The Senate version, however, lacked that restriction. To avoid a filibuster in the Senate, congressional proponents of the Act engaged in a procedure known as ‘budget reconciliation’ that required the House to adopt the Senate version of the bill largely in its entirety. Congressman Stupak and other pro-life House members, however, indicated that they would refuse to vote for the Senate version because it failed adequately to prohibit federal funding of abortion. In an attempt to address these concerns, President Obama issued an executive order providing that no executive agency would authorize the federal funding of abortion services.”

“The Act was, therefore, passed on the central premise that all agencies would uphold and follow ‘longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience’ and to prohibit federal funding of abortion,” said the archdiocese’s lawsuit. “That executive order was consistent with a 2009 speech that President Obama gave at the University of Notre Dame, in which he indicated that his Administration would honor the consciences of those who disagree with abortion, and draft sensible conscience clauses.”

Nonetheless, the New York Archdiocese’s lawsuit alleges, the Obama administration swiftly turned around and violated the assurance Obama had given Rep. Stupak to get Obamacare passed. It did so by forcing all health-plans—including those that would be bought or provided by Catholics—to cover abortion-inducing drugs.

“In less than two years, Defendants promulgated the U.S. Government Mandate, subverting the Act’s clear purpose to protect the rights of conscience,” said the lawsuit.

The Obama administration’s regulation, said the lawsuit, was in “direct contradiction” to Obama’s promise.

“In direct contradiction of the central compromise necessary for the Affordable Care Act’s passage and President Obama’s promise to protect religious liberty, HHS’s guidelines required insurers and group health plans to cover ‘[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity,’” said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit then pointed to the “war” HHS Secretary Sebelius believes she is in against pro-life forces to explain why the archdiocese believes the very purpose of the Obama administration’s regulation was to discriminate against pro-life religious institutions.

“The U.S. Government Mandate, moreover, was promulgated by Government officials, and supported by non-governmental organizations, who strongly oppose certain Catholic teachings and beliefs,” said the lawsuit.

“For example, on October 5, 2011, Defendant Sebelius spoke at a fundraiser for NARAL Pro-Choice America,” the lawsuit said. “Defendant Sebelius has long supported abortion rights and criticized Catholic teachings and beliefs regarding abortion and contraception. NARAL Pro-Choice America is a pro-abortion organization that likewise opposes many Catholic teachings. At that fundraiser, Defendant Sebelius said, ‘we are in a war,’ and criticized individuals and entities whose beliefs differed from those held by her and the other attendees of the NARAL Pro-Choice America fundraiser. She added: ‘Wouldn’t you think that people who want to reduce the number of abortions would champion the cause of widely available, widely affordable contraceptive services? Not so much.’

“Consequently, on information and belief, Plaintiffs allege that the purpose of the U.S. Government Mandate, including the narrow exemption, is to discriminate against religious institutions and organizations that oppose abortion and contraception,” said the lawsuit.

In stump speeches this summer, President Obama has repeatedly defended and boasted about this HHS regulation that the archdiocese of New York is arguing in federal court was designed with the “purpose” of discriminating against “organizations that oppose abortion and contraception.” contacted the the Archdiocese of New York on Monday and Tuesday to ask about the reported invitation to President Obama to keynote the Al Smith dinner, but did not get a response.

Late Tuesday, however, the New York Times posted an article with an explanation from the archdiocese on the invitation to Obama.

“It is the tradition of the Smith dinner to invite the presidential candidates in the presidential election years in the spirit of nonpartisanship, good humor and good fellowship,” archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling told the Times.

In 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on “Catholics in Political Life.”  It said: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

When Obama spoke at the 2008 Al Smith dinner he said: “Contrary to the rumors that you've heard, I was not born in a manger.”

“If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility,” Obama said. “Greatest weakness? It's possible that I am a little too awesome.”

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