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Politics and Religion: Excommunicate Representative Patrick Kennedy

November 27, 2009

Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat Representative of Rhode Island is an accessory to murder in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

The Most Reverend Thomas Tobin is Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.  Bishop Tobin has been in the news lately for having discouraged Representative Patrick Kennedy from participating in Holy Communion during catholic religious services (Mass). This spiritual or religious retribution, for lack of a better term, was initiated because Representative Kennedy has a significant record of voting for pro-choice legislation in his capacity of a public servant, in the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of the First Congressional District of Rhode Island.

One thing that I am fairly certain of in this matter is that Representative Kennedy has never had an abortion.  Since we can accept that as gospel (pun intended) what about pro-choice matters could possibly have caused Representative Kennedy be the target of punishment by the Catholic Church? Another thing that I am not so certain about is how a person’s approach to their professional legislative duties on behalf of a total constituency and the nation could somehow become a personal faith issue in the eyes of their church. In this case, Kennedy seems to be enduring a public incitement based on an indication of flawed faith or a violation of church tenets, worthy of chastisement.

Let’s be frank about this. Apparently The Most Reverend Thomas Tobin and others in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church view Representative Kennedy’s pro-choice voting record as a conduit which funnels women (figuratively speaking) into abortion clinics. I don’t want to make this too simplistic, but apparently, by voting in the affirmative on pro-choice matters, Representative Kennedy is enabling or facilitating a sinful act according to church ideology. I understand that the Catholic Church is strictly anti-abortion, even as a result of rape or incest, and the Catholic Church is very clear on this. From a purely personal and or religious perspective Representative Kennedy may well be anti-abortion too. But should he or any public servant, be exclusively guided by their personal spiritual or religious beliefs in serving their varied constituencies and the broader nation?

I have an opinion on this matter. But I would characterize it as an American opinion rather than a Catholic or religious one. After all, America is guided by a constitution and not any religious tenets of a specific church. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator, with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. That one phrase has always fascinated me. “Their creator” is so incredibly indefinite yet powerful in its simplicity. These simple words speak volumes about our American responsibility to governing on behalf of all Americans using a well calibrated moral compass yet without regard for our individual religious beliefs. Of course there are many Americans who accept no concept of god at all.  They are Americans all the same.

I completely understand that the aforementioned quote from the Constitution speaks to life also. In an ideal existence, I would desire that abortions did not exist. But I don’t rule the world or the nation nor the will of anyone else. I only rule my own body, heart and soul. I don’t know that there will ever be consensus on when life begins or any other pro-choice matters. Does one choose to believe from a religious or moral standpoint that abortion or capital punishment is wrong. They are welcome to voice those beliefs. And yes, they will no doubt suffer anguish while living in a nation which permits such legal acts under the umbrella of our vast governance.

This action against Representative Kennedy is as disappointing as it is impotent. Yet, the Catholic Church has a very long record of displaying its impotence when confronted with difficult public challenges. God knows they have had their share of public challenges. Maybe they can take this opportunity to really take a stand. If the Catholic Church really believes that Representative Kennedy is fueling a killing machine, they should excommunicate him! They should make a real statement which drives home a clear and resounding message to all Catholics worldwide. Then they could excommunicate every living Catholic woman who has ever had an abortion. Every Catholic boyfriend, lover or husband who drove their girlfriend or wife to an abortion clinic to have the procedure could be expunged from the Catholic church. After all, an accessory is an accessory. Then the church can start excommunicating gays and lesbians with abandon. If I recall correctly, the church is made up of sinners except for the Pope perhaps? From where I sit I don’t think they are going to change their ways. It is likely a pipe dream that the Catholic church would start discipining the fallen clergy and those countless nameless members of the church who have negatively altered the lives of so many children in recent decades.  A clean sweep might be just what is needed for the Catholic Church. They could call it “The Great Excommunication of the 21st Century”. But wow, that might put a dent in the ole pocketbook.

I completely understand the social divide between those who would like to see our nation guided by Christian ideology and those who do not. I certainly understand that if Christians have significant numbers in our legislative bodies they have the potential to promote and accomplish the passage of laws that are based in large part on their Christian religious beliefs. That way, the First Amendment remains intact on the surface. Certain legislators, whether out of fear of being denied communion, being excommunicated or denied fellowship in their individual church communities, may insert their religious beliefs into their legislative logic rather than relying on belief in the clear and proven guidance of their Constitution. These legislators have sworn to support and defend the very same constitution.

Sadly, this attack on Representative Kennedy is nothing more than a political stunt. The Catholic Church is simply attempting to influence politics  while demonstrating an unwillingness to accept the American legislative process. Representative Kennedy is serving his nation while being attacked for doing so. I applaud his service. It is a shame that he is being singled out in this partisan way under a veil of deception draped on him and an issue of national importance to the Catholic Church. Yes many religious organizations, corporations and special interests seek to shape this nation to their desires by manipulating legislators. Yet, as long as we all know what is happening here, calling it what it is, then at least we are all living in some degree of a rational real world.

Still, being curious mind that I am…What would happen if the church actually did excommunicate Representative Kennedy? He is from the most well known and perhaps most revered Irish Catholic families in the history of America. Excommunication would certainly send a signal . . .

Most Reverend Bishop Tobin, if you really feel so strongly about this issue, you should suggest the excommunication of Representative Kennedy to the Pope.

Go ahead, I dare ya!

L. A. Walker

Catholic Bishops land in two more controversies.

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