Pope Obama

Pope Obama

Hattip to the ever eagle-eyed Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative.  Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, ex-Lieutenant governor of Maryland, and oldest of Bobby Kennedy’s offspring, has a screed in Newsweek where she explains how Obama represents American Catholics better than the Pope.  As one reads the article it becomes clear that the ex-Lieutenant governor actually means liberal Catholics like her when she says American Catholics, no surprise since she has always been a vociferous supporter of abortion.

Paul Zummo gets to the heart of the matter nicely:

“It really isn’t about whether or not Catholics in America view the Pope or the President more favorably, it’s about a faux Catholic’s outrage that the Church refuses to change its core teachings and mission on the say-so of irate children like Townsend.  We’ll leave aside the sheer duplicity in the statement that Obama actually listens to different points of view and focus instead on the shrill cri de couer of another bitter progresso-Catholic who believes she knows better than the Magisterium.  I guess when you’re the spoiled child of a family that hasn’t contributed anything to the American polity since her grand-dad built his fortune by exploiting the 18th Amendment, you’re pretty used to getting your way.  But here we have the Pope, head of an institution that has the temerity to say “NO!” emphatically to the progresso-Catholics who just stomp their feet in anger over the Pope’s refusal to give them condoms and let their gay friends get married.”

I have long suspected that for some, by no means all, Catholics on the Left in this country their true Pope’s last name begins with an O rather than a B.  I therefore have to give KKT credit for honesty if for nothing else.

Update: Good commentary on the Townsend article by Ed Morrissey here at Hot Air.

27 Responses to Pope Obama

  1. Joe Hargrave says:

    I don’t see why a much-needed critique of Townsends outrageous column had to include an attack on the Kennedy family (and I disagree wholeheartedly that JFK and RFK were ‘no contribution’ to the American polity). Isn’t this the same sort of thing conservatives go nuts about when it is done to Palin?

    The Pope does continue to say NO – and I am grateful that he does and would consider another religion, perhaps, if he ever stopped. But the Pope did not scream “NO” in Obama’s face, and Obama, for his part, has never insisted that the Church stop being the Church.

    People like Townsend on the left – and I am sorry to say, plenty of her counterparts on the right – attack each other with a viciousness neither the Holy Father nor Obama are either willing or able to engage in. I used to think leaders should and could set good examples to follow.

    It is apparent that most people have no interest in emulating anyone or anything but wild beasts fighting over the last scrap of bloody meat.

    Well, as an ardent Benedictine myself, I will follow the Pope’s example. And I will also stick to my usual belief that arguments, even arguments as insulting and ignorant as Townsends, should be addressed on their own merits, and not ‘linked’ to personal history or any other sort of irrelevancy.

  2. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Joe, other than Joe Kennedy, Jr. dying heroically in WW2, JFK’s heroism after the sinking of PT 109, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s magnificent work in creating the Special Olympics, I think Paul’s critique of the Kennedy clan is largely on the mark. I agree with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in regard to JFK and RFK, that seeing them in action in Washington was “rather like watching the Borgia brothers take over a respectable North Italian city.”

  3. Joe Hargrave says:

    Well, whether or not I agree with that assessment, the point is, what does it have to do with her arguments?

    It isn’t relevant and it brings us down to her level.

  4. Donald R. McClarey says:

    There I disagree with you Joe. Let us say that the argument were being made by someone who belonged to a family noted for faithfully observing the teachings of the Church, and that the person making the argument had carried on in that fine tradition. I think that would add more force to the argument, if not more logic. That this argument is being made by the scion of a family noted for adherence to left-liberalism and a somewhat flagrant public flouting of the teachings of the Church by a few of the more well-known members of the clan, lessens the force of the argument.

  5. Art Deco says:

    I think Pres. Kennedy can be commended for making the correct calls during the Cuban Missile Crisis. IIRC, Edward Kennedy participated in drafting and shepherding through Congress some of the legislation enabling deregulation in the transportation sector thirty years ago. Can we truly say that Mark Shriver contributes notably less to the commonweal than any other member of the Democratic caucus? Also, and conceding that five of Robert Kennedy’s eleven children have been implicated in wretched public scandals, it is too much to refer to his daughter Kathleen Townsend as ‘spoiled’ unless you have personal knowledge of behavior which indicates as much. (Unless it is your opinion that any child of the patriciate must be spoiled).

    I think it reasonable to suspect that Joseph P. Kennedy was one of the world’s genuinely evil people and that he and his issue have damaged the quality of American public life. To say that collectively they have offered nothing worthwhile is de trop.

  6. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Art, in regard to the Cuban Missile Crisis, although I am thankful we got through it without the world perishing, I think Kennedy’s performance left much to be desired but I will concede the point. I had forgotten about Ted backing deregulation and I will also concede that point. As to Mark Shriver I honestly do not know of any contribution he has made. Paul can speak for himself as to KKT, but I suspect that he may be referring to her run for Governor of Maryland in 2002 when she appeared to think her Kennedy status assured her of victory and lost in the general after a weak campaign that was much criticized by Democrat activists at the time. I believe her opponent was only the seventh Republican to be elected governor of Maryland, and he was booted out in 2006. As to Joe Kennedy, Sr, he was the type of slime that gives slime a bad name.

  7. I suppose it’s an exaggeration to say that the Kennedies have contributed nothing to the polity — but it’s pretty arguable that they have contributed more bad than good. (Though the rosy glow of martyrdom and celebrity around JFK tends to obscure the incompetence and corruption that too often epitomized this day to day.) But exaggeration is a pretty standard technique in polemic, and I would say one pretty much draws polemics on oneself when one explicitly endorses Obama as a Catholic leader over the pope.

    And really, no one would care what Kathleen Townsend said on Catholic issues, were she not minor nobility in “America’s royal family”.

  8. Art Deco says:

    Error on my part. Mark Shriver is an official of the Save the Children Federation. He did serve two terms in the Maryland legislature but was defeated in the Democratic primary when he ran for Congress. Both he and his cousin Kathleen have had an indifferent record in electoral contests in a state dominated by the Democratic Party (between them they are zero for three or zero for four on Congressional contests). I would wager both are a good deal better behaved and functional than the median of their family. The Kennedy clan cannot sell these two in Maryland but they can sell Edward, Joseph II, and Patrick in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I does not make any sense, unless there be a faction of the general public affectionately disposed toward sybaritic excess (incorporating vehicular manslaughter), loutishness and stupidity, and sheer, sorry-assed incompetence (incorporating a history with booze and drugs).

  9. paul zummo says:

    The point is, Joe, that the author in question has basically built her career based on nothing more than her family brand-name – a brand name which frankly is of dubious quality. It calls into question her credentials in attempting to establish her vision of the American Catholic Church.

  10. Eric Brown says:

    I agree with Joe on this one. I think the point at large is being ignored.

    The argument at hand is an intellectual position of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend that is terribly flawed, which can be argued against without resorting to attacking the Kennedy family and pointing out there contribution, or lack thereof, to America. The latter point has nothing to do with the statement that President Obama supposedly is more representative to American Catholics than the Pope is. That’s a matter in and of itself that can be intellectually dismembered without the slightest mention of the Kennedy family or their political history.

    The problem I have is that such a critique can really turn into a rant that does nothing but render judgment after judgment — many of which, I might agree are valid — to the Kennedy family, but does nothing to contribute to the debate over the status of Catholicism in America and the growing gap between self-described Catholics and the teachings of the Church.

    I’m not convinced that many of such Catholics could not be simply redirected toward orthodoxy through calm and patient dialogue. I’ve seen it happen with too many people, who really “never thought about it” and with whom a patient witness turned them around. Instead, we “demonize” them — wrong and unorthodox though they are — into enemies, that is conscious and willful enemies of the Church, in absolute, full understanding of the Church’s teaching, but they just oppose it anyway and push their liberal agenda. Maybe I give them too much credit. But I am doubtful. I have, in fact, never known anyone who disagreed with the Church who could accurately describe to me the Church’s teachings on life, family, and sexuality — why they were are the way they are, how they, though distinct, they are related to one another.

    Again, I’ve never met someone who disagreed with the Church who could accurately describe her teachings. It is largely in ignorance that such nonsense, as displayed in Mrs. Townsend’s comment, is said. Perhaps they are not open to change and are not willing to learn what the Church says and why, at this point in their life, if they ever were. I’m totally not in position to make that call and I’ll pray for them. That is not the point here. Neither am I saying these people with these very influential roles should be “let off the hook.” I’m more concerned about the way we engage them. One of the biggest things I remember as a non-Catholic and as a convert is how off-putting the approach a lot of Catholics, consciously willing it or not, can be.

    God assist me, but I don’t know how turning debate to focus on the spiritual and moral failures of the Kennedy family and their political impact on Americans fully exhausts, or even addresses, the absurd notion that President Obama is more representative of American Catholics. A simply address of ecclesiology and the essential nature of the Church and her moral teachings would be sufficient. I see no reason at all to even go in the other direction. In fact, even if I did, I would think it prudent to strike the cord that would win me more allies not less if I could do so in a way that is faithful to my responsibilities as a Catholic. I’m going to have to disagree Donald.

  11. Art Deco says:

    The point is, Joe, that the author in question has basically built her career based on nothing more than her family brand-name – a brand name which frankly is of dubious quality. It calls into question her credentials in attempting to establish her vision of the American Catholic Church.

    I am sorry to be a pest, but what calls in to question her credentials are 1.) she is not a bishop or a shepherd of any kind; 2.) the private life of her immediate family of origin and that of her collateral relations on both sides has been manifestly disordered (“Sheila, its just Catholic gobbeldygook”, quoth Joseph Kennedy II); and 3.) Sargent Shriver aside, has there been any member of the clan known in the last 30 years to have sided with the Church against the Liberal Establishment on certain non-negotiables?

    She is a legacy pol as well, and none too successful at it. The degree to which ‘branding’ of this sort seems to influence the capacity of aspirant office holders to raise funds and prevail in elections is dismaying but a separate issue.

  12. Donald R. McClarey says:

    That’s all right Eric, I sometimes even disagree with myself! Paul however nails it in that she would never have been asked to write that dreadful article but for her being a Kennedy. A defeated candidate for governor in 2002 who has not held elective office since would not have received such an invitation to write otherwise.

    When I was growing up, my mother had a picture of JFK on the wall. She was deeply hurt when the revelations about his personal behavior began to surface. Too many people in this country directly associate Catholicism in this country with the Kennedy clan, and this article helps to reinforce that connection which I believe has been detrimental to the Church. I think under her circumstances the fact that she is a Kennedy is of importance in considering this article, and why Newsweek decided to run it.

  13. Eric Brown says:

    Thanks for the insight of the views of Catholics who have lived since the rise of the Kennedys and how it effects them. I’m glad we can cordially disagree. 🙂

  14. paul zummo says:

    God assist me, but I don’t know how turning debate to focus on the spiritual and moral failures of the Kennedy family and their political impact on Americans fully exhausts, or even addresses, the absurd notion that President Obama is more representative of American Catholics.

    I haven’t. You have. My post was 700 words, and you and Joe are focusing on one sentence. That’s your problem.

  15. paul zummo says:

    Eric, my apologies- I didn’t mean to be so hasty and rude in my reply – I shouldn’t try to write when I am pressed for time. Anyway, while I understand your concerns, I think I addressed the substance of her complaints with as much due consideration as she put into writing them. Let’s be honest – there was no there there. It was a basic racpitulation of the traditional progresso-Catholic list of demands that the Church must make. The only reason that tripe was published in the first place was due to who she was, not the sentiment expressed in it.

  16. Joe Hargrave says:

    And Paul,

    “It calls into question her credentials in attempting to establish her vision of the American Catholic Church.”

    I’m sorry to say that I completely disagree. If she were making arguments that were inherently true, we would reject any attempt to dismiss them on the basis of what family she hails from.

    That rule of logic does not change when the arguments are false. Her arguments are false because they are false – a tautology, I am well aware, but justified in this case. Anyone inclined to agree with them, moreover, is certainly not going to be convinced not to on the basis of her family history.

    It’s just mudslinging. Both sides engage in it – throw enough mud and hope that it sticks. Arguments must be evaluated on their merit alone, on the extent to which they conform to the known facts and the rules of logic. This particular argument fails miserably enough on both counts without having to resort to ad hominem.

  17. A non-Catholic friend of mine sent be Townsend’s article and asked for my reaction. My response: complete and utter crap. Townsend on the left is making the exact same mistake as Weigel on the right — trying to divide Catholic social teaching into the bits I like and the bits I don’t like. Caritas in Veritate makes clear that the social doctrine is a single doctrine, all related, and should not be pulled apart.

    I, for one, found her argument tired and jaded. That generation is still fixed on Humanae Vitae — get over it. Incredibly frustrating.

    That said, the attack on the Kennedy family was uncalled for. I found the most poignant moment of Obama’s meeting with the pope was when he handed him a letter from Ted Kennedy, who clearly has not much longer to live. A deeply flawed man, Kennedy still faught the good fight in so many areas. And for me, RFK was the greatest president that should have been.

  18. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “My response: complete and utter crap. Townsend on the left is making the exact same mistake as Weigel on the right”

    Actually no. Weigel was claiming that parts of “Caritas” were inspired by the Office of Justice and Peace in the Vatican. He did not claim that George Bush, for example, was a better representative of American Catholics than the Pope. Townsend stands all by herself in that regard.

    As for the Kennedy clan, I can understand why an extreme liberal such as yourself can have a tender spot in your heart for Ted. RFK was a political chameleon who went with the flow and was constantly reinventing himself. Anti-Communism in fashion: RFK the Red-hunter. People tired of Vietnam: RFK the peacenik. It never ceases to amuse me how one of the more ruthless pols to ever strut on the American scene inspires such sentiments on the Left.

  19. catherine KENNEDY says:


    Now we have many USA relatives that eg serve in the armed forces, and in other fieldsds as well
    we just want to let you know that NOT ALL Kennedys are Pro abortion rather we are Pro life pro life pro life!!!!!

    What Pres Obama* should have presented to his Holiness Pope Benedict the real Pope, not a pretender to the throne as some surmise PO* is

    was CLEAR , TANTAMOUNT, IRREFUTABLE proof that Obama will not only move to reduce abortions but that he Obama will follow the current American pro life trend and so become a pro life president like some of his predecessors were!!!!!
    Facta non verba
    deeds NOT words PRESIDENT O !
    people want action, not glib PERFUNCTORY oraty
    game, set, match to his Holiness Pope Benedict for reminding Obama and the world of the Church’s TOTALLY correct pro life position

  20. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Catherine, Kennedy, as you know, is a noble and common Irish name, and I know many fine pro-life Kennedys myself.

  21. paul zummo says:

    I am sure Mary Jo Kopechne admires Ted’s ability through the years to “fight the good fight.”

  22. catherine KENNEDY says:

    AUSSIE KENNEDYS* say gracie tanto ie Thanks Donald for that! Yes , Kennedy is a noble and common irish name!
    Now we AKs* are so sick and tired of the pro abortion mindest that is running RANCID in the world
    This mindset has to be thwarted! once and for all!
    President O(PO)^ has the chance now he is the incumbent president to set the pace, to lead the way to follow the example of the brave USA Pro life clergy/ laity that so often speak up and out pro life
    you ALL know who we mean the likes of
    Archbishops Chaput, Burke, Cardinal Rigali, Bishop D,Arcy etc, etc.
    Indeed about one third of the bishops that spoke up against the PO^ visit to Notre Dame all so deserve both our gratitude, respect and recognition for all the unborn lives that they must surely help to save through correctly enunciating the pro life teachings of the Church

  23. Art Deco says:

    A deeply flawed man, Kennedy still fought the good fight in so many areas.

    Recalling that in 1979 he was asked by Roger Mudd why he was running for president and had a less than concise and coherent answer, I am not sure he had much of a rationale for what he did do or did not do other than it was the role of a lifetime. I seem also to recall that one of his pet issues at the time was national health insurance. If I am not mistaken, he did not manage to get a bill out of subcommittee though he was chairman of the subcommittee.

  24. Art Deco says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how one of the more ruthless pols to ever strut the American scence inspires such sentiments on the Left.

    Not the whole of the left. He managed to snooker figures as disparate as Cesar Chavez, Gloria Steinem, and Charles Peters, but there was a large constituency that could not abide the man. I have a dear friend who was obiligated to work on his 1964 Senate campaign. He said the experience of meeting Kennedy (in Auburn, N.Y. as I recall) and seeing him interact with his aides and retainers left him appalled. He was hot and heavy for Eugene McCarthy four years later. Gloria Steinem has also said the planning and discussion groups she and Allard Loewenstein were involved in during 1967 and 1968 were shot-through with ‘Bobby-haters’.

  25. e. says:


    “I have long suspected that for some, by no means all, Catholics on the Left in this country their true Pope’s last name begins with an O rather than a B.”

    Careful there — you just might find yourself guilty of the modern version of praemunire and, thus, be branded a traitor to these United States, according to some of our more distinguished ‘patriots’!

  26. cminor says:

    Catholic Online has a good, concise response posted:


    It feels kinda weird but refreshing to read Morning’s Minion’s comment and nod in agreement. Still,on reading Townsend’s assertion that in her family politics was considered an honorable profession, I’ll admit to some uncharitable reflections myself on possible reasons for this view.

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