ProAbortion “Catholic”

I ask that this be read in charity and for information.  Please don’t be amused at how “this ‘Bad Proabort’ got smacked down by this bishop.”  Instead note the consistent call to learn and correct a false mindset.  We can and should work for that change of mind in those we oppose.  We should not be happy that we showed them how smart we are.

Dear Congressman Kennedy
11/12/09 12:00 am

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?

“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.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

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?

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.

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Providence

see the original posted at


One Response to ProAbortion “Catholic”

  1. Laura says:

    I wonder, first of all, how many are really conscious of Canon 229#1 – and yes, I mean priests, for starters, since they are the ones entrusted with instructing the faithful. That, however, is an issue for another post, in another venue, I think.

    What I love about this letter is that it could be applied to any number of issues being challenged by individuals anywhere, not only abortion. This is a warm, personable pastoral letter from a shepherd addressing a major misunderstanding expressed by one of his flock.

    Congressman Kennedy has asserted that he can be Catholic on his own terms. Bishop Tobin reminds him that individuals do not possess the authority to re-define what it means to be something (in this case, Catholic). I could walk down the streets of Raleigh, proclaiming myself to be Zoroastrian, for example, but no one in their right minds would take me seriously; I do not even begin to espouse or manifest the tenets of Zoroastrianism in any facet of my life. Yet Christians of all stripes think they can reject the fundamental defining points of Christian identity – the dogma – and retain some right of being identified by what they have rejected.

    There can be no dichotomy in the heart of a Christian – no clean divisio between sacred and secular. Our Lord said “you cannot serve God and mammon,” and it is simply practically impossible to be both sacred and secular. As Mr. Kennedy very publicly demonstrates, one must subsume the other – and it ought to be that the “secular” is re-viewed and absorbed wholly into the sacred; all ought to be Sacred in the mind and heart of a Christian.

    And – this gets tricky – we have to be willing to ask our shepherds to do what Bishop Tobin did. Word is that one of our local priests made the statement from the pulpit that it was okay to support the health care bill because we must take care of the poor, that the abortion issue could, in effect, be put on the back burner in order to aid the poor. When I see him next, I intend to ask him if this story is so – and if he verifies it, I hope to have the grace to point out to him that the unborn are the poorest of the poor in our developed Nation, and that it is obscene to suggest the poor might be helped by killing the poorer.

    I wish more Bishops would do as Bishop Tobin has done. I pray that the courage of these few who are speaking out now – Bishop Tobin, Archbishop Dolan, and others – will stir the hears of others to being re-awakened to their duty and their mandate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: