Guess who's coming to dinner?

The Al Smith Dinner, that is -- President Obama, that's who, and many pro-lifers are none too happy about Cardinal Dolan extending the invitation:

The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, a leading abortion opponent based in Staten Island, said Monday (Aug. 6) that the polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to scandal.There comes a time when enough is enough and we can no longer afford to give people a reason to doubt our position as a Church, Pavone wrote in an email. So no, I dont think the invitation is appropriate at this time.Better to cancel the event than have it become another cause for scandal in the Catholic Church, Randy Engel, head of the U.S. Coalition for Life, told, an anti-abortion website.

Given all that has passed between the hierarchy and the president, and between Dolan and Obama personally, I'd say the invitation was a bold move. The Al Smith Dinner used to be a demilitarized zone, politically speaking, but Cardinal O'Connor did not extend invites to the presidential candidates in 1996 because it would have meant inviting Bill Clinton, and Cardinal Egan did not invite either candidate in 2004 because it would have meant inviting John Kerry.Egan did invite Obama in 2008, to the chagrin of some. Chagrin on steroids this year.My full story at RNS is here.

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

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