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September 07, 2012 11:30 AM Whistling In a Red Hat

By Ed Kilgore

I mentioned briefly last night that Timothy Cardinal Dolan threw a curve at the very end of the Democratic National Convention with a “benediction” that probably sounded vanilla to those relatively few viewers or listeners who saw or heard it (reasonably sure the broadcast and cable networks had all ended coverage or switched to “analysis” by then), but actually was loaded with dog whistles to the Catholic hierarchy’s grievances with the Democratic Party and Barack Obama.

Salon’s Irin Carmon deconstructed it all quite well:

There was only one person who appeared onstage at both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, and he used his platform tonight to not-too-subtly snipe at the agenda we’ve been hearing defended all week, including a mention of those “waiting to be born, welcomed and protected.” That would be New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was hastily added to give a benediction at the DNC after he agreed, to some controversy, to do the same at the RNC.
Tonight, he was given pride of place immediately after President Obama. ”Grant us the courage to defend life,” he said, and added, “Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty, the first, most cherished freedom.”
But lately, when Dolan has said “religious liberty,” he’s really been talking about your birth control. This is the same man who was successfully courted by Romney in their mutually rabid opposition to the contraceptive coverage mandates in the Affordable Care Act, and who is suing the Obama administration over the policy — the same man who has called Obama’s stance on gay marriage “saddening.” (At the RNC, the statement was more muted: “We ask your benediction upon those yet to be born, and on those who are about to see you at the end of this life.)
And here was a very coded kick at the platform support for gay marriage: “Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. 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.”

Now the thing about dog whistles is that they are by definition subtle, and are “heard” by those who have the code, which in this case means people who are more or less already in the GOP camp, plus those of us who spend a lot of time watching them. So I doubt that even observant Catholics who haven’t joined the Culture Wars would be swayed. This makes you wonder what Dolan’s point was, other than to give his comrades the satisfaction of “speaking truth to power” at the very peak of the enemy’s celebrations.

If you look at Dolan’s benediction in Tampa, you could make the argument that he was doing something similar there in veiled references to immigrants and to the poor and suffering. But after highly conspicuous Catholic Paul Ryan gave the signature convention speech with nary an effort to discuss his own budget’s effects on the poor and suffering (itself the object of some episcopal displeasure), Dolan’s words didn’t stand out as they did in Charlotte.

All in all, he should have stayed home or stayed on less controversial ground.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • BillFromPA on September 07, 2012 11:42 AM:

    There are plenty of Christian clergy, apparently others need not apply, who are pro-choice, anti-pedophelia and who preach and live according to the actual words and deeds of Christ. For Christ's sake, get one of them to perform the required voodoo next time.

  • candideinnc on September 07, 2012 11:49 AM:

    His idea of "natural law" is law ordained by Catholic fiat. Natural law, for him and the nazi in Rome is following the superstitions of so-called "holy" books written by a bunch of superstition-ridden desert fathers who probably were under the influence of sun-stroke. There is, in reality, no "law" to nature. There is the norm or what is commonplace and there is the exception. These religious bigots would like to call the exceptions "deviant," with all the connotative baggage that term has in society. But it is simply the occasional alternative. Such exceptions as homosexual activity are seen in the animal kingdom and in human kind. If there were a "god," it would seem that his plan was that somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the time, this aberration will occur. So

  • danimal on September 07, 2012 11:49 AM:

    The more exposure Cardinal Dolan gets, the happier the conservative religious zealots (who were ALWAYS going to vote GOP) are and the more scared the women (and gays) get.

    I'll let you do the math, but IMHO, the Obama campaign can't be hurt by having an old white male threatening birth control access on the tv too much. In fact, they may want to buy him a block of time right before election day.

  • candideinnc on September 07, 2012 11:51 AM:

    His idea of "natural law" is law ordained by Catholic fiat. Natural law, for him and the nazi in Rome is following the superstitions of so-called "holy" books written by a bunch of superstition-ridden desert fathers who probably were under the influence of sun-stroke. There is, in reality, no "law" to nature. There is the norm or what is commonplace and there is the exception. These religious bigots would like to call the exceptions "deviant," with all the connotative baggage that term has in society. But it is simply the occasional alternative. Such exceptions as homosexual activity are seen in the animal kingdom and in human kind. If there were a "god," it would seem that his plan was that somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the time, this aberration will occur.

  • martin on September 07, 2012 11:54 AM:

    This makes you wonder what Dolan’s point was, other than to give his comrades the satisfaction of “speaking truth to power” at the very peak of the enemy’s celebrations.

    Actually, it makes you wonder what the DNC's point was. They felt the need to suck up to close the convention? This "compromise" will get them nowhere.

  • Ken D. on September 07, 2012 11:55 AM:

    Well, yeah. But to disavow support for "life" or "religious freedom" because one disagrees with the encrustations others have sought to tape on to those expressions would be an abject surrender. I don't believe many members of the highly diverse Christian fold have felt the need to abandon that term because they disagree with the right-wingers who have tried to hijack that label for their exclusive use. If this is the best dog-whistling the cardinal can do, he is not all that good at it.

  • Peter C on September 07, 2012 12:00 PM:

    If a tree falls in the woods, but there's no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?

    The convention was over at the end of Obama's speech. The Catholic official who got attention at the convention was Sister Simone Campbell, whose speech was powerful and well-received.

  • DRF on September 07, 2012 12:02 PM:

    To martin's question--the point of having Dolan for the Democrats was to blunt the effect of this senior Catholic figure appearing to be, in effect, endorsing the GOP by appearing at their convention.

    Reading the excerpts from his text in Kilgore's post above, it seems offensive in that it appears to be taking a political position. However, if it is correct that Dolan did something similar at the Republican Convention, then I'm less troubled by it.

  • c u n d gulag on September 07, 2012 12:05 PM:

    It's NOT that Dolan should have stayed home!

    It's, who the feck invited him in the first feckin' place?

    Who ever had that "bright" idea, ought to be 'disMitted!' (See earlier Ed post for the meaning of this term).

    What, no Liberal clergyman could be found?

    Or was this done in the hope, that seeing thousands of men and women of all races and religions (or not) cheering for a woman's right to choose her own destiny, and her own health choices, might make Dolans shriveled heart open up, and make him see "reason."

    If he didn't give a sh*t about the screaming of little boys and girls of all races while his clergy raped them, why would he give a sh*t about adults demanding "choice?"

    He and his Priests didn't give the kids any 'choice,' now did they?

  • JM917 on September 07, 2012 12:06 PM:

    Too bad the Dems didn't think to ask the Nuns on the Bus, or Jim Wallis. Or did Dolan horn in and DEMAND the slot, on pain of roaring more maledictions?

  • DRF on September 07, 2012 12:08 PM:

    To martin's question--the point of having Dolan for the Democrats was to blunt the effect of this senior Catholic figure appearing to be, in effect, endorsing the GOP by appearing at their convention.

    Reading the excerpts from his text in Kilgore's post above, it seems offensive in that it appears to be taking a political position. However, if it is correct that Dolan did something similar at the Republican Convention, then I'm less troubled by it.

  • TCinLA on September 07, 2012 12:10 PM:

    There's nothing better than an Irish priest to demonstrate the provenance of the term "bog stupid."

  • Anonymous on September 07, 2012 12:23 PM:

    More Penguins, less Cardinals!

  • Varecia on September 07, 2012 12:28 PM:

    Well, if memory serves from my experience attending the 2008 Convention in Denver, much of the crowd was inadvertently already on their feet heading for the exits by the time the closing benediction was underway, mainly because they were seeking to get out of the arena ahead of the masses and had jumped to their feet the second the acceptance speech was over.

  • candideinnc on September 07, 2012 12:35 PM:

    TC -- go a little lighter on the anti-Irish slams, please. If memory serves me, the brightest lights in the Democratic party have often been Irish--Kennedys, McGoverns, Leahys and many others. Nothing stupid in that crowd.

  • martin on September 07, 2012 12:40 PM:

    To martin's question--the point of having Dolan for the Democrats was to blunt the effect of this senior Catholic figure appearing to be, in effect, endorsing the GOP by appearing at their convention.

    In short, sucking up.

    If they really wanted to blunt the effect of a senior catholic figure endorsing the GOP, they should have reported him to the IRS for violating the church's non-profit tax status.

  • John B. on September 07, 2012 12:42 PM:

    All in all, the moment he took the podium Dolan should have been arrested for conspiracy to cover-up repeated sexual assaults on young boys by his subordinate pedophile priests. He's a criminal and should have been treated like one.

  • sparrow on September 07, 2012 12:49 PM:

    I doubt that Dolan's takeaway message had much if any effect on his audience at the convention and will soon be forgotten, that is if anyone even bothered to pay attention.

  • Mary G on September 07, 2012 12:55 PM:

    My theory is that he was trying to bait the crowd into booing or other behavior that the right wing could seize upon as a dreadful insult and therefore take away from the substance of the convention as a whole.

    It was so impressive to see so many heads bowed in prayer, though I doubt they were actually the same prayer as the cardinal was giving. Even those who didn't pray kept straight faces and respectful silence.

    This is more discipline than I have seen in a long time from the herd-of-cats that can be the Democratic party. It was a very well run convention in a multitude of ways.

  • boatboy_srq on September 07, 2012 1:40 PM:

    “waiting to be born, welcomed and protected.”

    Dolan has his language backward here. What he means is "waiting, welcomed and protected, to be born." Too much RC/Fundie/wingnut policymaking welcomes and protects the next generation only so long as they're not breathing on their own. Take your first gulp of oxygen without assistance, and that "welcome and protection" is done.

    Maybe it sounded better in the original Latin.

  • Ryan Seacrest on September 07, 2012 2:44 PM:

    What is wrong with Dems? Seriously? Get one of the Nuns on the Bus!

  • Michael on September 07, 2012 4:11 PM:

    I think many people are missing the point...the dnc is an open tent, there are anti choice democrats as well...the main pony had shed his coat....