For Christians, there is no middle ground.
I won't spoil the ending by describing it, but as an RCIA director, I enjoy recommending that movie to new Catholics precisely because their reaction to the movie's ending will give them, and me, a feel for how Catholic their worldview is.
Similarly, "The Scarlet and the Black" is an historically accurate movie whose ending discombobulates
Christian audiences. The last five minutes are, again, shocking. Some Christians walk out disgusted, muttering under their breath about the perversity of the Catholic Church in general and Catholic priests in particular. But others walk out strengthened in their Christian convictions by the movie's resolution.
And so we come to Cardinal Dolan's Al Smith Dinner and the invitation of Barack Obama. Indeed, we might treat on the way the Al Smith Dinner organizers treat pro-abort groups versus pro-life groups in general.
Is Dolan acting as a stooge or a Christian?
Is it scandal to give Obama a platform, or is this Dolan's brilliant scheme to give Barack the opportunity to either publicly make up or make a fool of himself?
Mary Ann Kreitzer opines that Dolan's invitation shows disrespect for the unborn. Dolan would presumably never entertain the idea of inviting Barack to dinner if our fine President were in the habit of "stabbing a bishop in the head and sucking out his brains." And she brings forward numerous Scriptural examples of precisely this refusal. I confess an enormous amount of sympathy for Mrs. Kreitzer's position.
But, as I listened to this morning's sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan, I realized there was historical precedent of a sort. We have the example of the Church in and after World War II.
Even though the Nazis were responsible for slaughtering thousands of religious, priests and bishops in death camps across Eastern Europe, the Pope approved of smuggling these same Nazis - including Adolf Eichmann - out from under the nose of Allied troops who wanted Nazi leaders arrested, tried and hanged.
Now, the comparison is not exact. The Vatican ratlines were run in secret, those smuggled out were not being given a public forum. Still, there is no indication that the men being smuggled out were penitent - as in Eichmann's case, we can be pretty sure that at least some of them were not.
So, what are we to think about Cardinal Dolan inviting our modern-day Eichmann to a public dinner, in which the participants 'roast' one another? Does it signal some tacit approval of Barack Obama?
Well, again, we have precedent. For instance, we know Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, signed a concordat with Hitler on behalf of the Church, even though Pacelli was under no illusions about the integrity of the man with whom he treated:
“This man is completely obsessed,” he said. “All that is not of use to him, he destroys; all that he says and writes carries the mark of his egocentricity; this man is capable of trampling on corpses and eliminating all that obstructs him." [editor's note: does this sound familiar?]
Pacelli said "I had to choose between an agreement on their lines and the virtual elimination of the Catholic Church in the Reich"...Pinchas Lapide notes that whilst negotiations for Concordat were taking place, pressure had been put on the Vatican by the arrest of ninety-two priests, the searching of Catholic youth club premises, and the closing down of nine Catholic publications.Concluding a concordat with a madman is certainly a lot more binding then simply inviting him to dinner. Even so, the Church has chosen to treat with madmen many, many times in her history. We have not yet had to descend to the level of concluding a treaty with Barack Hussein Obama, although the pressure he places on Catholic institutions in this country have not gone unnoticed by Rome.
November has not yet come. Neither Cardinal Dolan nor we know for certain who will win the election, or what this particular madman will do if he does win a second term. Many, including myself, hold honest concerns that an Obama victory would spell the end of the remnants of free elections in the United States.
So, is Cardinal Dolan's invitation scandalous or wise?
Is it an exercise in Christian charity or participation in evil?
I honestly don't know.
I pray that Cardinal Dolan does.