I could not have had more fun watching the conventions. Before they began, if someone had asked me which convention would have the more dramatic religious stories, I would have picked the Republican one in a heartbeat. What with Mitt Romney's Mormonism and his evangelical base and all that. But it turned out that all the interesting religion news action was over in Charlotte, where the Democrats gathered. There are so many stories -- and their coverage or lack thereof -- that I'd like to get to but one big one from last night was the evening's conclusion. As with the Republican Convention, Cardinal Timothy Dolan offered the benediction. And he gave an almost identical prayer to the one he gave in Tampa. But while the prayer in Tampa made roughly no news, his prayer in Charlotte has generated quite a bit of coverage and controversy.
To my ear, having heard both benedictions, I thought the prayers were identical. But there were some changes and the prayer at the DNC had some additional words. To compare the two prayers, I was thankful for this Huffington Post story that simply quoted the entirety of both of them. You can read them for yourselves as they are pretty long. The two minor changes were not minor in content, however, and reporter Jaweed Kaleem picked up on those:
"We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected," Dolan, who as the Archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has spoken out strongly against abortion, said at the DNC.
And making what seemed to be a allusion to same-sex marriage, which President Barack Obama and the DNC have endorsed, Dolan said: "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."
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. At the RNC, he said, "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."
Religious liberty was also a petition in both prayers.
You may find it interesting how ABC News characterized the pro-life portion of the prayer. Here's the first paragraph:
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.
I get that journalists have decided that all references to the pro-life movement must be in terms of "anti-abortion" and many references to the pro-choice movement must be in terms of "abortion rights" but I think this shows the limitations of the phrases. Not only does the pro-life movement, and Dolan's prayer, encompass far more than just protection for the unborn, to frame the entire movement as restrictive, rather than protective, is telling. When someone specifically argues for protection (rather than restriction), the journalistic buzz words are pushed to the limit.
Anyway, there are some interesting side stories to this piece, in terms of how this prayer was covered by the media (few outlets showed it -- this is why everyone should watch these things on C-SPAN) and how it was received at the Democratic Convention relative to the Republican one and why.
The Los Angeles Times' Mitchell Landsburg got into that in his piece on the prayer, which ends:
Dolan was criticized by some in the church when he initially agreed to deliver the benediction at the Republican convention, an act that was seen as taking sides in a partisan fight. He said at the time that he would also be willing to give his blessing to the Democratic convention, and the Democrats took him up on the offer. By the end of the night Thursday, some of them may have been wondering why.
I don't get the passive language. If someone accused Dolan of "taking sides in a partisan fight" we should know who that person or those persons are, right? Maybe we should hear why they made that accusation. There's just no need for passive newswriting like that. Anyway, please let us know if you see any particularly good or bad media coverage of the prayer.