Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bishop Tell It Like It Is

Bishop Tobin publicly calls Rep. Kennedy to ‘conversion and
repentance’ November 10, 2009

By a mutual decision, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence and
Representative Patrick Kennedy-- the son of the late Senator Edward
Kennedy-- have postponed their meeting to discuss the Catholic
congressman’s support of abortion. Over the weekend, the Rhode Island
congressman sided with abortion advocates in voting against the Stupak
amendment, which barred the use of federal funds from paying for most
abortions in the House’s health care reform legislation.

Following the vote, Bishop Tobin issued a public letter to
Representative Kennedy in which he ripped the congressman’s statement
that “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,” wrote Bishop Tobin in the letter, which will appear in the
November 12 edition of his diocesan newspaper. “And it raises an
important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?”

The bishop continued:

[W]hen 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 …

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?
The prelate concluded:

[I]n 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.

From an email received.

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