Democratic Party leaders invited a Catholic leader to have the last word at the party's national convention, and today the benediction of Cardinal Timothy Dolan is being picked apart, criticized and praised.
Drawing the most attention was Dolan's treatment of abortion and same-sex marriage in his closing prayer — topics on which the Catholic Church is at odds with President Barak Obama, who also touched on them during nomination-acceptance speech just before Dolan prayed.
"Cardinal Timothy Dolan Gives 'Life' Prayer at DNC," was the abnews.go.com headline that hit the web shortly after the archbishop said, "Amen."
"Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and a leading Catholic-American voice opposing abortion and President Obama's health care reform law, inserted what some saw as an anti-abortion remark into his benediction Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention," wrote Russell Goldman in the article.
"Thus do we praise you for the gift of life," Dolan said. "Grant us to defend it. Life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected."
The Catholic Church has long opposed Democratic Party platform planks that promote keeping abortion legal. The church has also assailed the administration over an Affordable Care Act provision that would require religious institutions to provide employees with contraception coverage. Several church-affiliated organizations have sued the government over the contraception provision in the law claiming it violates their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.
More obscure in the benediction were what some say were Dolan's references to same-sex marriage.
"Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God," Dolan prayed. "Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community."
While one website compiled a list of obscene Tweets, some of which blasted Dolan's perceived reference to gay marriage under the headline "Liberals Cuss out Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan," the Advocate.com, a leading gay advocacy website, seemed less certain what Dolan was referring to.
"Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and the nation’s leading Catholic official, appeared to ask divine authority for help in resisting the progress of marriage equality and protecting the unborn in his closing speech to the Democratic National Convention, using allusive but stronger language than marked his benediction at the Republican National Convention."
Even the Catholic News Herald wouldn't commit to what Dolan was talking about in its line-for-line comparison between the Cardinal's prayers at the RNC and DNC.
"Cardinal Dolan also included language in his DNC prayer that might be considered a challenge to the Democratic Party's support for same-sex 'marriage' in its 2012 party platform. "
Other bloggers also made detailed comparison's between Dolan's prayers offered at the RNC and DNC — from the word count to the actual content.
"While Dolan prayed for the 'sacred and inalienable gift of life' at the Republican National Convention, he did not ask specifically for protection for the unborn," observed Jaweed Kaleem for the Huffington Post.
"Dolan mentioned morality at the RNC, but not remaking 'institutions (God) has given us.' At the RNC, he said, 'May we know the truth of your creation, respecting the laws of nature and nature’s God, and not seek to replace it with idols of our own making,'" Kaleem said.
After Dolan was asked to pray at the RNC, he said he would do the same for the Democrats if they offered the invitation. The party initially rebuffed Dolan then later asked him to offer the closing prayer of the convention. The invitations ignited some debate on the appropriateness of having a prominent religious leader participate in such partisan events.
Michael O'Loughlin, wrote in AmericaMagazine.com, a Catholic Jesuit publication, that despite his "concerns about Dolan’s appearance at the conventions, I hoped he would challenge both parties, making both Democrats and Republicans alike a bit uncomfortable. To some extent, he did."
Rabbi David Wolpe wrote in the Washington Post that people shouldn't automatically jump to the conclusion that offering a prayer at a political convention is a tacit endorsement of that party's policies.
"If prayer means endorsement then God is made small. The clergy who give their allegiance entirely to one side of the political spectrum or the other do not, I believe, appreciate the richness of traditions nor the reality that different sides of the national argument have powerful truths embedded in their outlooks."