Cardinal Dolan's blessing, and the Church's challenge

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered his highly-anticipated benediction Thursday night to close out the Republican National Convention in Tampa.Dolan will do the same for the Democrats next week in Charlotte, so this blessing seemed less like an imprimatur for the GOP than it would have had President Obama not taken the cardinal up on his offer to give the closing prayer after he accepts his partys nomination.Moreover, Cardinal Dolans four-minute prayer clearly had something for everyone or, rather, something to cheer and challenge everyone in the hall (if they were listening -- confetti and balloons and cheers for Mitt Romney filled the hall, and most TV coverage seemed to cut away for instant analysis before Dolan appeared.)The text of the blessing is after the jump.The most problematic moment for Cardinal Dolan, I think, came thanks to the introduction by House Speaker John Boehner, himself a Catholic, who said of his eminence: "Hes a man who knows that the preferential option for the poor doesnt translate into a preferential option for big government.Actually, that's not what Catholic teaching says at all -- that's what the Republican platform says. Well, actually the Republican platform doesn't have a preferential option for the poor of any kind. Boehner's words seem to me one of the more egregious insertions and distortions of Catholic teaching to partisan politics, up there with Nancy Pelosi on Augustine and abortion back in 2008.But as Amy Sullivan notes at TNR, Dolan was in a pickle. Her analysis of the bishops' differing approaches to Ryan's Catholicism and Biden's, e.g., and the GOP divergence from Catholic social teaching, is pretty magisterial.On balance, Dolan seemed to be a congenial guest for the Republicans; the audience could interpret the cardinals words liberally, so to speak, and go away pleased.So in case you missed it, here is the text of Cardinal Dolans blessing to conclude the 2012 Republican National Convention:

A Prayer for Our Country at the Republican National ConventionWith firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, let us pray.Almighty God, father of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, we beg your continued blessings on this sanctuary of freedom, and on all of those who proudly call America home.We ask your benediction upon those yet to be born, and on those who are about to see you at the end of this life.Bless those families whose ancestors arrived on these shores generations ago, as well as those families that have come recently, to build a better future while weaving their lives into the rich tapestry of America.We lift up to your loving care those afflicted by the recent storms and drought and fire.We ask for the grace to stand in solidarity with all those who suffer. May we strive to include your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free in the production and prosperity of a people so richly blessed.Oh God of wisdom, justice, and might! We ask your guidance for those who govern us, and on those who would govern us: the president and vice-president, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and on all those who seek to serve the common good by seeking public office, especially Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan. Make them all worthy to serve you by serving our country. And help them remember that the only just government is the government that serves its citizens rather than itself.Almighty God who gives us the sacred and inalienable gift of life, we thank you as well for the singular gift of liberty. Renew in all of our people a respect for religious freedom in full, that first, most cherished freedom.Make us truly free by tethering freedom to truth and ordering freedom to goodness. Help us live our freedom in faith, hope and love, prudently and with justice, courageously and in a spirit of moderation.Enkindle in our hearts a new sense of responsibility for freedoms cause and make us ever grateful for all those who for more than two centuries have given their lives in freedoms defense. We commend their noble souls to your eternal care as even now we beg your mighty hand upon our beloved men and women in uniform.May we know the truth of your creation, respecting the laws of nature and natures God and not seek to replace it with idols of our own making.Give us the good sense not to cast aside the boundaries of righteous living you first inscribed on our hearts even before inscribing them on tablets of stone.May you mend our every flaw, confirming our soul in self-control, our liberty in law.We pray for all those who seek honest labor, as we thank you for the spirit of generosity to those in need with which you so richly blessed this nation.We beseech your blessing on all who depart from here this evening and on all those in every land who seek to conduct their lives in freedom.Most of all, Almighty God, we thank you for the great gift of our beloved country. For we are indeed one nation under God, and in God we trust. Dear God, bless America, you who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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