Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bishop Tobin Teaches Kennedy About What It Means To Be Catholic

Bishop Tobin, Bishop of Providence, RI, has once again responded to US Representative Patrick Kennedy in their continued confrontation over abortion, health care and the role of Catholic Bishops.  The difference is that this time, Bishop Tobin isn't leaving any wiggle room.  Here is a quick synopsis of events.

1 - It started with Kennedy making crazy statements about the US Bishops, health care, and abortion.
2 - Then, Bishop Tobin responded.  He took a strong stand against Kennedy's ignorant statements.
3 - Kennedy responded by saying he isn't any less of a Catholic because of his stance.
4 - Bishop Tobin responds strongly.  I recommend a careful reading of the Bishop's article.
Some snips of the column:

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.
Notice that Bishop Tobin didn't start this, but felt he had to respond to the inaccurate statements.
“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.
The Bishop is teaching clearly here. Next he cuts to the chase.
There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?
I recommend you read the rest.

5 - Kennedy has already responded and cancelled their meeting.
When a reporter asked asked Kennedy: "Does all of this hurt you? Do you feel wounded?" Kennedy responded: "I think it's unfortunate. I'm not going to engage this anymore."
But when asked if he had been threatened with denial of communion or other sanctions, Kennedy said those were subjects he planned to discuss with the bishop. "Ideally, he will keep it between us."

Kennedy said he initiially criticized the U.S. Catholic bishops because they said that they would oppose the health-care reform bills pending in Congress if they did not explicitly deny federal funding for abortion.

"What I disagreed with them is that if they didn't get their they, weren't going to support overall health-care reform," he said. "That's something i felt very strongly was destructive to the process."
I will let you interpret his response yourself.

Tip o' the hat to AmP.


Literacy-chic said...

Typo: Bishop Tobin, not Bishop Kennedy (after the first quoted passage)

Eric said...

Smackdown! Maybe this will lead to his conversion.

Marcel said...

Thanks for the correction.

tour86rocker said...

Eric, do you really think a "smackdown" is conducive to conversion? Think about your words. I hope you're not saying that you use this tactic yourself. There's no quicker way to drive someone into his shell under normal circumstances.

On the other hand, if we're talking about only this specific incident, Rep. Kennedy and every Kennedy of that extended family has certainly had plenty of chances that I can understand that this public rebuke must have been necessary. There are some who aspire to be only as Catholic as the Kennedy's and that is setting the bar quite low.

I wonder if Tobin realizes the can of worms he opened by criticizing people who find themselves inside the Catholic Church due to baptism as an infant, family ties, culture, etc. without holding the Catholic faith in reality. If the Church were to also Inquire into the faith of individuals who weren't famous, they'd find the Churches to be rather empty in a hurry.

Eric said...

My comment was meant to highlight the repeated and arrogant flouting of Catholic teaching by a politician who seems to use his 'faith' as a political tool. When the Catholic church, and the Bishops, are attacked in such a deliberate and erroneous way it is important that the attackers be admonished. Thus, Kennedy was smacked down.

Larry said...

The bigger problem between the Bishop and Kennedy is Kennedy's very public support of abortion. Then he goes and attacks the church publicly for reminding him of this. I think more politicians need to be reminded of this. It was obvious how Pope Bendedict did a smack down on Palosi on this.