Thank you to Bishop Tobin of Providence, RI, for sending a clear message to Rep. Patrick Kennedy that his public support for abortion is inconsistent with being a Catholic in public life. Unfortunately, Kennedy has declined the invitation to dialogue with the bishop and come to a greater understanding of Church teaching.
Personally, I find the entire Kennedy family’s position on abortion disingenuous to the extreme. Even cultural Catholics who have no formal training in the faith know that the Church is vehemently opposed to the taking of innocent life. To deny this is like denying the sun will rise tomorrow. But the Kennedy family remains convicted that it can grasp both horns of the dilemma and remain consistent–they think they can be a public Catholic figure who is also very publicly pro-abortion.
In reality, the public/private distinction should not matter. If you are Catholic, that entails holding certain beliefs and rejecting others. The Church says that there is one God in three Persons. If a Catholic then says in a press conference or in the privacy of his own home that there are many gods or a good god and evil god working in the world, his fundamental beliefs as a Catholic are called into question. It is only fitting that a good shepherd like Bishop Tobin would recall his sheep to the flock when they have strayed.
And that is why the public censure of Rep. Kennedy makes sense. Kennedy’s support of abortion was and is very public, and the bishop’s response must be equally public. The bishop has a duty to protect the faithful from scandal, which would result from allowing a very public figure to misrepresent the Church’s teaching. Tobin has called Kennedy into communion and dialogue, and Kennedy obstinately refused the invitation.
It will be interesting to see what Rep. Kennedy does and if the meeting between these two ever takes place. As a Catholic with some interest in politics, I’m perhaps saddened most by the potential of the Kennedy family and the Kennedy name that could have done so much good for the world consistent with their Catholic faith and the Church’s teaching. Only time will tell whether Rep. Kennedy has the courage to break free from the inconsistency of the rest of his family and embrace the Church’s teaching.