Cardinal Dolan’s comments to Trump should have an edge

By Glen Argan

Michael Sean Winters, the Washington correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter, has taken me to task for arguing that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan should decline to participate in the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States (www.ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/inauguration-and-clergy).

Winters points to the long history of Catholic leaders praying publicly for their country’s secular leaders, illustrating his point with a prayer by the first bishop in the United States, John Carroll.

Well, I do have to eat some crow on this one and admit the ambiguity of my Dec. 31 post that led to Winters’ response (https://glenargan.com/2016/12/31/bishop-with-backbone-needed-at-trump-inauguration/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true).

I began by arguing that Dolan should be a no-show at the event, but devoted the bulk of the post to passing on some advice from Pope Francis and suggesting a couple of passages from Scripture that the cardinal might read at the inauguration.

The headline for the post, which Winters ignored, was “Bishop with backbone needed at Trump inauguration.”

Indeed, I have no objection to praying for Trump and will continue to do so myself. However, what I found most surprising in Winters’ reflection was his comment, “From what we know of Mr. Trump from his campaign, righteousness, virtue, justice and mercy will only be achieved through some kind of divine intervention. But when you get right down to it, is that not true of us all?”

Well, indeed, we all do need the help of the Holy Spirit. However, Winters is being more than a little blasé in equating the divine assistance needed by us all with the help needed by an erratic, nativist bigot accused by several women of sexually assaulting them and who will, as of Jan. 20, have his finger on the nuclear trigger.

This is an unprecedented situation in world history. One hopes that Cardinal Dolan takes the matter more seriously than does Winters, shows some backbone in choosing the Bible passage he will read and leaves the new president reflecting on the social nature of Christian faith.

Indeed, I will be clearer than my earlier post. Catholic bishops should be leading us all in prayer for elected officials, whether those politicians are left, right or centre.

If they are called upon to read Scripture at an inauguration or a party convention, that Scripture should have an edge. It should challenge some of the points where the official fell short of Catholic teaching during his or her campaign and leave no doubt as to Church teaching on the matter in question.

They should call upon the elected official to defend human life – unborn, born or dying – the alien, the orphan and the widow. A bishop’s presence at such an event is not to smile and give religious approbation to whomever gets elected. It is to leave them with a message they should remember throughout the duration of their term in office.

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