Obama Is Welcome to Attend National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

May 7, 2009 - 2:41 PM
President Obama would be welcome to attend the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) on Friday, but he would not be given a platform to speak at the breakfast.

Vice President Joe Biden (foreground) and President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama would be welcome to attend, gather in fellowship, and pray at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) on Friday if he expressed an interest in attending the annual event, the organization’s founder told CNSNews.com. But Obama would not be given a platform to speak at the breakfast.

“We would welcome him,” said NCPB founder Joseph Cella.  “He could have breakfast and pray with us, and engage in fellowship.  But by no means would we grant him a platform to address the breakfast.”

Cella explained that Obama’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” and Obama therefore could not be given a platform to speak at the event.

The NCPB set a policy in 2002, when it was founded, stating that as an organization it would uphold the “core social teachings” of the Catholic Church, and speakers at the breakfast would have to be in agreement with those fundamental principles, said Cella.
 
“That’s a criteria we set forth … and we will never depart from that,” he said. This policy was set before the U.S. bishops issued a document, in 2004, stating that: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

President Obama was not invited to the breakfast and this is consistent with the event’s history, said Cella.  President George W. Bush spoke last year and attended previous National Catholic Prayer Breakfasts. But Bush, who is a Protestant, not a Catholic, had expressed interest in attending in 2003, one year after the NCPB was launched, and the group subsequently welcomed him and made the arrangements for his attendance.
 
For last year, Bush again approached the NCPB expressing an interest and then arrangements were made.  This year, Obama--who is a Protestant, not a Catholic--did not express an interest in the event and thus no arrangements were made, said Cella.
 
However, all Catholics in the White House and Cabinet, as well as both chambers of Congress were invited to the breakfast because they are Catholic.
 
Some of these Catholics include Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), among many others.
 
As this story went to press, none of those Catholics had responded to the invitation, said Cella. However, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) did respond and will be attending, as well as Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.)  and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), and a few others, so far, said Cella.
 
He estimated that about 1,400 people will attend Friday’s breakfast.  The keynote speaker is Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court at the Vatican. The special guest speaker is Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
 
The theme of this year’s breakfast is “the teaching of the Catholic Church,” said Cella, who added that he hopes the event will give attendees hope and motivation to better face the challenges that affect their own lives, as well as the church and the culture.
 
A praying of the rosary will begin at 7:15 a.m. and the 6th annual breakfast will start at 8:00 a.m. at the Hilton Washington in Washington, D.C.