Republican convention prayers generating opinions

Published: Saturday, Aug. 25 2012 8:00 a.m. MDT

Kenneth Hutchins, right, a retired Massachusetts's police chief, has been asked by Mitt Romney to give the invocation on the final day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Courtesy photo

Mitt Romney is expected to be nominated as the party's presidential candidate on the last day of Republican National Convention, and the prayers to be offered that day are getting a lot of attention.

Kenneth Hutchins, a retired Massachusetts police chief and close friend of Romney, will offer the invocation that day. A story in Thursday's Deseret News details the religious ties between the two men — Romney as a Mormon "stake president" called Hutchins to be a bishop and the families have remained close.

Hutchins isn't the first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to pray at a GOP convention. The Huffington Post noted that Sheri Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book and a former counselor in the LDS Church's Relief Society General Presidency, offered a prayer at the 2004 convention.

But while Mormons reacted with interest to the announcement of Hutchins, based on Internet posts and website traffic, the news that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan would offer the benediction after Romney's nomination was greeted with mixed opinions.

A roundup of reaction by the Religion News Service revealed the toxic political divide within the Catholic Church over this year's presidential election.

“Cardinal Dolan’s appearance in Tampa (Fla.) will damage the church’s ability to be a moral and legitimate voice for voiceless, as those who view the Catholic Church as being a shill for the GOP have just a bit more evidence to prove their case,” wrote Michael O’Loughlin on the website of America magazine, a Catholic weekly published by the Jesuits.

Meanwhile, conservative Catholics predicted the participation of Dolan would benefit the church. “I now predict that if Mitt Romney wins the White House in 2012 there will be a very healthy relationship between a Romney administration and the U.S. Bishops, led by a close working relationship between Cardinal Dolan and President Romney,” said Thomas Peters, who writes for CatholicVote.org, which has endorsed Romney and his Catholic running mate, Paul Ryan.

The RNS noted that traditionally the bishop in the host state would offer a prayer at a national political convention. But it is rare for a leader in the hierarchy to fly in to deliver a benediction.

"Philadelphia’s Cardinal John Krol did so in 1972 when he was president of the bishops' conference and went to Miami for the Republican convention that nominated Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. But that seems to be the only modern precedent."

Schedules on the Republican National Convention website show half of invocation and benedictions have been unassigned. Monday's closing prayer will be offered by Hispanic evangelical leader Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church will offer the benediction on Wednesday.

And the party will have people praying for them — or for their interests — before the 2012 convention convenes on Monday. The Florida Family Police Council is holding a prayer rally on Sunday afternoon in Tampa, Fla.

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