Bishop Tobin to Congressman Patrick Kennedy: ´What does it mean to be a Catholic?´
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.
Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence
We thank Bishop Thomas Tobin for his clarity, courage and the genuine pastoral concern shown toward Congressman Kennedy. We also thank the Bishop for his uncompromising defense of those whose lives are threatened by the continued rebellion of too many Catholics in public life who openly reject the truth,confusing many in the process and causing serious scandal.
We ask our readers to pray that Congressman Kennedy would prayerfully receive this loving and needed correction and then reschedule his meeting with this good Shepherd. We also ask our readers to increase their prayer for all of our Bishops as they continue to contend for the truth about life and pastor the flock of God entrusted to them.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Politics & Policy News
- Supreme Court: No, you can't ask for proof of citizenship for voter registration
- What happens when the Culture of Surveillance meets the Culture of Corruption?
- Obama tells Charlie Rose Americans are uninformed on NSA program. So why doesn't he inform us?
- Bombshell: Low-level NSA agents can wiretap anyone, even the president, sans warrant
- PRISM precursor programs sparked concerns, potential resignations under Bush
- Facebook, Microsoft reveal number of government requests for your info, but no details
- Whistle-blower Snowden says Obama can still save face after PRISM debacle
- The Culture of Life: Senator Rand Paul gets it right
- Obamacare to cost everybody more than they are paying now
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?