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Criticism Mounts Over Obama Appearance at Catholic Charities Event

Catholic leaders are weighing in on a decision by Cardinal Timothy Dolan to allow President Barack Obama to speak at the annual Al Smith dinner, with many calling the invitation disappointing and disturbing.

Catholic journalist and blogger Matt C. Abbott polled several high-profile Catholic leaders to see if they agreed with him that an invitation to speak at a Catholic Charities fundraiser should not have been extended to a president who has done so much to persecute the Church and believers.

The fundraiser traditionally invites presidential candidates to speak when held during an election year. President Obama has accepted this year's invitation and GOP rival Mitt Romney has not yet responded.

"Why in the heck is Catholic Charities of New York — apparently Cardinal Dolan himself — inviting our Church-persecuting president to speak at a Catholic fundraiser?" Abbott asks.

When he put the question to Father Frank Pavone of Priests of Life, he was told the invitation amounts to scandal.

"I'm all in favor of protocol and understand the difference between respecting the president's policies vs. respecting his office," Father Pavone responded. "But there comes a time when 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. Today, the unjust HHS mandate went into effect for Priests for Life and millions of other Americans, and I announced to our staff that we are disobeying the mandate. So, no, I don't think the invitation is appropriate at this time."

Michael Hichborn of American Life League had a similar opinion.

"We are living in possibly the greatest time of confusion that the Catholic Church has ever known. Catholics are profoundly confused about fundamental principles like birth control, homosexuality, abortion, Mass attendance, and even the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Given the latest revelations about Catholic Relief Services' errant funding practices, the ongoing scandal at the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and the serious problems at the Catholic Health Association, hosting Barack Obama at a Catholic Charities event, and giving him a platform to speak, only compounds the extreme confusion among American Catholics," Hitchborn wrote.

"In St. Paul's letter to the Romans, he said, 'The wages of sin is death. But the grace of God, life everlasting in Christ Jesus our Lord.' It's time to stop over-emphasizing the symptoms of sin, which are poverty, plagues, illness, and injustice, and go back to the very purpose for being a Catholic, unity with Our Blessed Lord. Until the Church returns to preaching the Good News about Jesus' Mercy and the joy of the Eucharist, while encouraging repentance and the rejection of sin, the Catholic Church will continue to resemble the political philanthropy that modern society claims that it is."

The dinner will be held in October, just weeks before the election.

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