Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will deliver the keynote address next month at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a black-tie event that raises money for Catholic charitable groups and annually attracts the highest-level U.S. political figures.
Mr. Ryan, a Republican who speaks frequently about his Catholic faith, will yuk it up with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and “deliver the evening’s principal speech in the spirit of collegiality and good-humor that is a hallmark of the annual gala,” according to a statement from the Archdiocese of New York.
The archdiocese highlighted Mr. Ryan’s “commitment to empowering local organizations in the community” and his involvement in his home parish in Wisconsin.
Paul Ryan has clashed with Catholic leaders in recent months
Mr. Ryan has clashed with Catholic leaders in recent months, especially over his so-far unsuccessful efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and for championing a budget blueprint that would shrink the social safety net. He is a frequent target of NETWORK, the social justice organization led by Sister Simone Campbell, and he was challenged by another Catholic sister during a CNN event earlier this summer.
Still, Mr. Ryan is popular with other Catholic leaders, including Cardinal Dolan. During a radio interview he conducted with Mr. Ryan in 2014, the New York archbishop described himself as a “fan” of Mr. Ryan, calling him “a man of deep principles and sincere Catholic faith” and “a great ally” on pro-life issues.
During presidential years, the dinner often plays host to the Democratic and Republican nominees. Last year’s dinner included speeches from Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton and was an opportunity for the candidates to trade barbs with one another just a couple of weeks before the election.
This year’s dinner, which will be held Oct. 19, will be emceed by actress Patricia Heaton. The “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle” actress has been vocal about her Catholic faith, including during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in which the pair engaged in a “Catholic throwdown.”
The dinner’s namesake, Alfred E. Smith, was a governor of New York and the first Catholic to be nominated for the presidency by a major party.