The New York Times editorializes that John Kerry should not be barred from the Al Smith dinner (of course). Named for a prominent New York Catholic politician who ran for president, it is a Catholic forum bringing out the two presidential contenders for white ties and humorous political speeches, under the watchful eye of the cardinal-archbishop of New York.
Catholic leaders of the New York Archdiocese are considering whether Senator John Kerry should be barred from the Al Smith dinner, one of the city’s grand political events, because Mr. Kerry, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and other views at odds with church teachings. This would be regrettable since the Al Smith dinner, at its best, exemplifies pluralism and tolerance.
Tolerance is not in itself a virtue, and neither is pluralism, if we are asked to tolerate evil and a plurality of immoral behavior. As the Times itself notes, Bill Clinton and Bob Dole were not invited in 1996 because Clinton had vetoed to the partial-birth abortion ban. It is endearing to see the newspaper so concerned at the loss of the dinner’s “grand heritage” as if that were really its concerns. Instead, I think liberals are more concerned that they might see a new wave of concern for orthodoxy sweep across the country and that the very important Catholic vote might swing away from Democrats toward Republicans. I would wish it were so, but I wonder if the bishops are up to doing such a thing. I think the jury’s still out on that.