“While I greatly respect the Catholic Church and its leaders, like many Rhode Islanders, the fact that I disagree with the hierarchy of the church on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic,” Rep. Patrick Kennedy (a son of the late Ted Kennedy) wrote in a letter to Tobin, agreeing to a sitdown. “I embrace my faith which acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.”
“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,” Tobin (Catholic Bishop of RI) wrote. It is disputed whether the bishop has barred Kennedy from receiving communion in RI, or simply asked him not to do so. The bishop claims he did not tell his priests to refuse to give Kennedy communion.
Analysis: There is perhaps an interesting question regarding the reference of an “imperfect humanity.” Is Kennedy referring to those people who accidently get pregnant or to the men having ecclesialastical positions in the Catholic Church? Kennedy could be saying that differing from the men who run the Church on particular societal issues ought not put one’s salvation at risk. If so, then Tobin’s claim that imperfect humanity does not apply to him involves a conflict of interest. Moreover, the fact that he and Kennedy had gotten into a public spat means that Tobin’s act to barr Kennedy from receiving communion also involves a conflict of interest. Tobin’s first mistake was in violating his pastoral role by getting into a brawl with Kennedy. Any subsequent “pronouncements” are tainted by Tobin’s self-interest as a party to a brawl of sorts, and thus illegitimate. Given human nature, none of us can properly vaunt himself or herself above others in terms of that nature. The best we can do is to try to help each other. I don’t see that happening in this case. Instead, I see the antithesis of what Jesus evinced and stood for. To try to say that “loving thy enemy” means barring him demonstates the extent to which Christianity can be bent to fit one’s interests in the guise of something else. More than anything, transparency is needed in how Christianity is abused. That it can happen by those presumably closest to it may be why Jesus points to the outsider and the stranger as having greater faith than those we would expect. Christianity needs to be applied to Christianity. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt 20:16). There is also Matt 23. “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses. … And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” The extent of mental gymnastics that has been involved in finessing that line is truly amazing.
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