Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Is A Bishop's Place?

Timothy Egan of the New York Times takes on Rhode Island Bishop Tobin's quarrel with representative Kennedy:

In a terse exchange of letters, the bishop said it was “inappropriate” for Kennedy to receive communion. Kennedy responded: “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy of the church on some issue does not make me any less Catholic.”He said later he would have no further comment; that it was “an issue of faith,” between himself and God.The Jesuits were also big on logical thinking, encouraging generations of mushy-headed knuckleheads like myself to bring a rigorous intellectual test to matters of the public domain. With this recent claim of his, Bishop Tobin would have trouble blustering his way past the priests who taught my freshman civics class.There are 65 million Catholics in the United States — 22 percent of the population. And a slim majority of them, 51 percent, believe abortion should be legal in most circumstances, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A full 60 percent support the death penalty, which the church has long opposed.Those numbers mean that more than half of all American Catholics are in a position somewhat similar to Patrick Kennedy’s. To be consistent, the bishop should start checking them off at the altar rail as they line up to receive communion — sinner, saint, sinner, saint, and so on.It’s absurd, dangerous and impossible for any cleric to think he can know the precise state of grace of a fellow Catholic who feels moved to worship publicly. But that is the logical conclusion of the bishop’s campaign.American Catholic bishops wrestled with this question five years ago, regarding the faith of Senator John Kerry, a pro-choice practicing Catholic and the Democratic nominee for president.They smartly refused to issue a blanket order; most bishops wanted no part in such a political inquisition.

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