‘More Than Happy’ to Formally Invite Obama to National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Founder Says

May 8, 2009 - 2:58 PM
The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast organization is "more than happy" to formally invite President Barack Obama to its annual event, its founder, Joseph Cella, told CNSNews.com on Friday.

President Barack Obama speaks about jobs, Friday, May 8, 2009, in the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast organization is “more than happy” to formally invite President Barack Obama to its annual event, its founder, Joseph Cella, told CNSNews.com on Friday.
 
“If it takes a formal invitation for the president to attend the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, and pray with us and have breakfast with us – but not have a platform [to speak] – we’ll do that, we’ll be more than happy to do that next year,” said Cella.
 
President Obama was not sent a formal invitation to this year’s prayer breakfast – an event in Washington, D.C., that started in 2003 – because it has been the group’s practice to accommodate a president if he expresses interest in attending, as President George W. Bush initially did in 2003 and in other years, said Cella.
 
Obama’s office did not express interest in attending, so no accommodations were made, said Cella.
 
A White House official told CNSNews.com that the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast “actually never reached out to us, from what we can tell, so it’s not on the [president’s] schedule.” 
 
“They did not contact us, which is normally how, for any event involving the president, it goes through the process,” the official said.
 
Obama would have been welcome to attend the event, to pray and engage in fellowship with other attendees, but not be given a platform to speak, Cella said, because the president’s policies on the sanctity of all human life and traditional marriage between one man and one woman “are wholly inconsistent with the core social teachings of the Catholic Church.”
 
As a state senator, during his presidential campaign, and as president, Obama has advocated and/or voted for a variety of policies that support abortion across-the-board, the destruction of embryos for research, openly homosexual people in the military, and gay legal unions, among other issues, including the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
 
The latter is a law passed in 1996 that says no state has to legally recognize a same-sex marriage, even if the marriage occurred in a state where it is legal.
 
While the president did not receive a formal invitation to the breakfast, all Catholic members of the Cabinet and Congress did.
 
These included officials such as Vice President Joe Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), among many others.
 
None of the Catholic members of the Obama administration responded to the invitation from the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast except Sebelius, who chose not to attend, Cella said.
 
The “larger and more important question is” why didn’t these Catholics in the administration respond, in particular Vice President Biden, Cella wondered. “We invited them, and the only one we got a ‘no’ from was Sebelius.”
 
The 6th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, attended by about 1,500 people, took place at the Hilton Washington on Friday morning. The keynote speaker was Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court. The guest speaker was Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.