by Karen Mahoney

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, formerly the Archbishop of Milwaukee, thanked God for living in a country that respects religious freedom, and prayed for individuals battling COVID-19 and those caring for them, the unborn, the elderly, immigrants and refugees during the opening evening of the Republican National Convention.

The pre-recorded prayer included prayers for the protection of all lives, men and women in the U.S. Military, those facing challenges such as plague, hunger, drugs, trafficking or war.

Let us pray. And pray we must, as grateful citizens of a country we boldly claim to be one nation under God.

Pray we must, praising the Lord for a country where freedom of religion is so cherished.

Where both Republicans and Democrats begin their conventions, heads bowed in prayer.

Pray we must, conscious of those suffering from Covid, and those wearied front-liners who care for them and all of us. Pray we must that all lives may be protected and respected, in our troubled cities and the police who guard them.

In tense world situations where our men and women in uniform keep the peace.

For the innocent life of the baby in the womb.

For our elders in nursing care and hospice.

For our immigrants and refugees.

For those lives threatened by religious persecution throughout the world, or by plague, hunger, drugs, human trafficking or war.

Pray we must in Thanksgiving, in Thanksgiving, dear God, for democracy.

As we ask your hand, Almighty Father, upon this convention and the nominees of both parties, and his wisdom upon an electorate so eager to perform its duty of faithful citizenship

Pray we do, for we dare claim.

In God we trust.

While Cardinal Dolan was invited to offer the prayer as an extension of he and President Donald Trump’s long-time friendship, his appearance drew the criticism of some in the mainstream media, prompting him to issue a statement on Twitter.

“As a priest, one of my most sacred obligations is to try and respond positively whenever I am invited to pray. Prayer is speaking to God, offering Him praise, thanking Him for His many blessings, and asking for His intercession; it is not political or partisan. That is why I have accepted an invitation to pray at the Republican National Convention. My agreeing to pray does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate, party, or platform. Had I been invited to offer a prayer for the Democratic National Convention, I would have happily accepted, just as I did in 2012. It is my hope, during this tumultuous time in our nation’s history, people of all religious faiths or none at all might join together in seeking peace and reconciliation in our hearts, inner cities, and in our country.”

Local reaction to Cardinal Dolan’s invocation was mostly positive, though it fell short of the mark, according to Beth Ivantic-Kneesel, a member of St. Anne Parish in Pleasant Prairie. She said she had hoped he would have delivered a more substantive prayer to the masses.

“I think it was an empty, politically correct prayer so not as to offend anyone with God’s truth,” she said. “He missed an opportunity to ask why God was removed from the DNC platform in 2016 and this year, God was removed from the pledge at the DNC Convention.”

Kneesel took issue with Cardinal Dolan’s words “Freedom of Religion is cherished” and asked how that was reflected in members being locked out of their churches and synagogues while they are allowed to be desecrated.

“He spoke about our elders in nursing care and hospices, but missed the opportunity to condemn euthanasia which is promoted by the Democrats. He spoke of the baby in the womb, but as a Catholic, he could have added, ‘May we pray for the end of the grave sin of abortion.’”

Teresa Hill, member of St. Elizabeth in Kenosha, agreed, and added that Cardinal Dolan should have emphasized the sin of abortion more in his prayer.

“I had a hard time seeing him praying for both parties knowing what the Democrats represent,” she said. “They are for abortion. I think praying that a Democrat does not get elected would have been better.”

Dan Miller, State Director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, said that as a Roman Catholic, we hold the fullness of the faith near and dear to our hearts.

“In times such as these, it is heartening to see our Church leaders get involved in the political forum. Now more than ever, we need to heal our land, and that is done best in humility and on our knees in prayer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” he said. “I am thankful for Cardinal Dolan’s presence at the RNC Convention. How many hearts will he have touched with his prayer? How many souls saved by exposing the evil of abortion? We may never know for sure until we experience the four last things: death, judgement, heaven or hell. God bless Cardinal Dolan for all he does to end abortion in our land.”

According to Vicki Thorn, executive director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing and founder of Project Rachel, Cardinal Dolan’s prayer was well done, especially in light of this contentious election season.

“I think he had to walk carefully and if he was invited, why not go?” she said. “As a shepherd of such high standing in this country, there are times and places where it is necessary if invited, to say ‘yes’ and to walk the narrow road — because it is very narrow. He did a good job in terms of the prayer and he covered just about everything that could be covered in terms of political hot spots and other issues such as the elderly, nursing care, children in the womb and immigrants. All of those topics follow the agenda of the Church and I don’t think Democrats could be unhappy with his prayer.”

Thorn added that Cardinal Dolan did a good job with his follow up comments to the press in walking a fine line despite being put in the “eye of the hurricane.”

“He clearly expressed what was on his mind and while it was such an impossible position to be in, in terms of where Cardinal Dolan’s heart is, this was where he was supposed to be in terms of life issues,” she said. “He walked carefully so as not to offend anyone. I was happy he took the really Pro-Life stance of the Church at large and covered it.”