Kennedy’s Church of Personal Influence
One aspect of the controversy between Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Bishop Thomas Tobin with a broader application is Kennedy’s misunderstanding of religion’s place in life:
U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy said he was “not going to dignify with an answer” Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s public comments that Kennedy could not be a good Catholic and still support abortion rights. Kennedy called those comments “unfortunate,” and said, “I’m not going to engage [in] this anymore.”
Clearly, Kennedy sees this as a political problem, and the bishop as a constituent whom he was willing to indulge if it would make the problem go away. (Doesn’t this guy realize I’m a Kennedy?) Read the above in the context of the bishop’s revelation, on Dan Yorke’s show, that Kennedy had requested that their “private” meeting be held in a prominent public place during the lunch hour. As I suggested in a vlog back in September, fame and fortune distort one’s perception of life, which can be especially detrimental on spiritual matters.
Wherever he believes the origin of the dispute to be, Kennedy should find it worrisome that he’s run into this conflict with his Church and seek to resolve it, honestly and with openness and charity. Of course, one suspects that the irreducible requirement of any worldview, for him, is that women must be permitted to kill their children prior to birth, an irreducible division.
As Bishop Tobin implies in his letter to Kennedy, the congressman is effectively excommunicating himself:
Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” — as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.
Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category — it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.
Kennedy may be able to find an ordained priest to administer Roman Catholic sacraments for him, but his religion appears to be more of the church of the individual sort — in his case, the Church of Kennedy. However strong his faith might be, it isn’t Catholicism, not just because he rejects and actively, publicly works against a core consequence of its belief system, but also because he rejects its structure and authority. That’s a pretty definitional consideration in the Catholic Church.
Indeed, for a sense of what Congressman Kennedy is doing to the Church whose faith he professes to share, look to his supporters. In a post titled “Stick to your guns, Patrick Kennedy” (illustrating an intention to attack the religious institution with militant imagery), by Sean South, Matt Jerzyk provides this nice little nugget as an update:
… as America seeks to undermine the influence of clerics overseas on other nations and groups, people of conscience should condemn Tobin’s inappropriate attacks on Kennedy — especially considering the fact that we are – after all – in the land of Roger Williams.
For trying to ensure the faithful representation of its beliefs — worked out as a matter of international cooperation through millennia of developing religious thought — the Church faces comparisons to radical terrorist regimes. One cannot expect better from irreligious Progressives, I fear, but even Patrick Kennedy should recoil from such rhetoric and take it as evidence that he ought to reevaluate his understanding of faith’s requirements.