On Thursday, President Barack Obamawill attend the annual Al Smith fundraising dinner in New York City. Also in attendance will be Cardinal Dolan, setting the scene for a potential clash, say conservatives.

Obama’s new health care mandates, under Obamacare, have angered plenty of conservative Catholics,even leading Cardinal Dolan to sue the Obamaadministration in August.

According to The New York Post, many conservative Catholics will attend in anger. “They’re going in hopes that the cardinal’s going to slam him,” said state Sen. Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican attending the annual Al Smith Dinner. “It’s insulting that [Obama is] coming. What he’s doing to the Catholic Church — forcing them to do things against their beliefs — it’s reprehensible.”

A source close to Cardinal Dolan told the Post that, “The cardinal himself wonders whether he made the right decision” in inviting Obama. “He knows the president wants this for one reason, and that’s the photo.”

The Al Smith dinner, named for the late New York Democratic governor who in 1928 became the first Catholic nominated for president by a major party, is historically attended by presidential nominees. Mitt Romney will also be on hand at the black-tie, $2,500-a-plate affair.

Now, conservatives are concerned that Obama’s appearance at the Al Smith dinner this week could be interpreted as theChurch endorsing his candidacy.

Nearly all presidential candidates have attended the annual dinner since 1945. However, in 1996, Cardinal John O’Connor didn’t invite President Bill Clinton, who had vetoed a partial-birth-abortion ban, nor his challenger Sen. Bob Dole; and in 2004, Edward Cardinal Egan passed over John Kerry, a Catholicwho is pro-choice, as well as incumbent President George W. Bush.

“Our whole objection is inviting Obama to this dinner about 18 days before the election,” said Jim Sedlak, vice president of the American Life League, to the New York Post.

Cardinal Dolan
, however, blogged that, “It’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance,” showing signs of readiness to engage in conversation about the matter.

Some conservative Catholicsagree - including Catholic League President Bill Donohue who said, “If Catholics want to change the culture, they need to engage it.”