Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat Congressman from Rhode Island and a son of Teddy Kennedy, has announced that he will not run for re-election. Kennedy in recent months has been engaged in a very public conflict with his Bishop Thomas J. Tobin over the issue of abortion as detailed in posts here, here and here. I suspect that Kennedy is not running for a number of reasons, perhaps the most salient of them being that the electoral outlook for Democrats, even in Rhode Island, is the most challenging since 1994. A recent poll indicated that Patrick Kennedy was probably going to face a difficult re-election race.
Ed Stoddard of Reuters’ religion blog Faithworld carries a roundup of the skirmish between Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has claimed that Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin.
In conclusion, Stoddard asks:
This leads to a question about the consistency of views in the U.S. Catholic Church leadership. The Church opposes abortion and therefore liberal politicians who support abortion rights risk being refused communion. The Church supports a healthcare overhaul that would make the system more equitable. So does a conservative Catholic politician who opposes this reform risk being denied communion for ignoring the Catholic social teaching that justifies it?
How about support for capital punishment, which the Vatican says is unjustified in almost all possible cases, or for war? In the build-up to the Iraq war, Pope John Paul was so opposed to the plan that he sent a personal envoy to Washington to argue against it. Did bishops threaten any measures against Catholic politicians who energetically supported that war despite Vatican opposition?
The author’s questions reveal an elementary ignorance concerning the moral issues in question and their relationship to varying levels of Church teaching. While I am disappointed by his answer (Faithworld is generally one of the better and more educational “religion blogs” in the secular media), it is understandable — as even many Catholics find themselves confused on this matter. Read the rest of this entry »
This morning I woke up and checked my inbox to find an “action alert” from a group called Catholic Democrats urging me to support Patrick Kennedy. They want us to contact Bishop Tobin and ask him to “stop using the Eucharist as a political weapon.” The alert might as well have been composed by Catholics for a Free Choice.
Well, I decided to do the opposite. I sent the bishop an email of support. And I don’t think it would be a bad idea for the rest of us to do the same. The email address provided in the alert is: email@example.com. This is for the communications office of the Diocese of Rhode Island.
The notion that Bishop Tobin is “using the Eucharist as a political weapon” is ridiculous. Bishop Tobin has simply held to the crazy idea that it does actually mean something to be a Catholic, and that the Eucharist is not something to be taken lightly. The complaining going on about this is like a child’s temper tantrum over not being able to have a cookie. Either you view the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ, or you don’t. If you do, that means accepting what Scripture and Tradition have taught about what state a person must be in to partake of it worthily. If you don’t, then why be a Catholic at all?
No, I don’t want to be one of those “if you don’t like it, just leave it” people – but seriously, at what point do you just say, “this isn’t the Church for me?” Doesn’t one’s honor and dignity, their self-respect, rest upon making consistent moral decisions? Can one perpetually keep one foot in the Church and one in the pro-choice camp? If it really means that much to a person that they receive Holy Communion, shouldn’t they try to amend their lives in such a way as to be rendered worthy of it?
It is not Bishop Tobin that is using the Eucharist as a political tool, but Patrick Kennedy and all of his nominally Catholic supporters. They want the Eucharist because it will signify that there are no consequences for the reprehensible political positions they take. They want the Eucharist so they can continue milking the Catholic vote, so they can more easily call themselves Catholics when they go campaigning without having the awkwardness of a public scandal on their hands. Well I’m glad one bishop had the gall to stand up to them, and I hope he never wavers.
Hattip to commenter Mr. H. Here is how Bishop Tobin comes across when he is allowed to actually get a word in edgewise. Compare and contrast his O’Reilly interview with his ambushview with Chris “Obama Makes My Leg Tingle” Matthews.
Bishop Tobin on MSNBC last night was treated awfully by Chris Matthews.
Patrick Kennedy, a son of Ted Kennedy and a Democrat Congressman from Rhode Island, has been engaging in a very public conflict with the Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin. Prior posts on this combative dialogue are here and here. Kennedy has now revealed that he is barred from receiving communion. The Bishop has responded by releasing this letter:
I am disappointed and really surprised that Congressman Patrick Kennedy has chosen to reopen the public discussion about his practice of the faith and his reception of Holy Communion. This comes almost two weeks after the Congressman indicated to local media that he would no longer comment publicly on his faith or his relationship with the Catholic Church. The Congressman’s public comments require me to reply.
On February 21, 2007, I wrote to Congressman Kennedy stating: “In light of the Church’s clear teaching, and your consistent actions, therefore, I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.” My request came in light of the new statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that said, “If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definite teachings on moral issues, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.” (Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper, December, 2006)
Faithful readers of this blog will recall this post here discussing the Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin taking Patrick Kennedy, Teddy’s son, to task for attacking the Church over ObamaCare. Now the Bishop has written the following letter to Congressman Kennedy:
Dear Congressman Kennedy:
“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” (Congressman Patrick Kennedy)
Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.
For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic? Read the rest of this entry »