Original Post, 11/24/09
In what Sen. Patrick Kennedy has admitted was a long time coming, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island wrote the Catholic senator an email informing him that he will not be allowed to partake of the Eucharist, or what is commonly known as Communion, because of his support of reproductive rights, in particular when it comes to health care reform.
In a statement issued Sunday, Tobin made known he informed Kennedy in February 2007 that it would be "inappropriate" for him to continue receiving the fundamental Catholic sacrament, "and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so."
Bishop Tobin appeared on Chris Matthews and got a lashing.
The bishop is not deterred. The most recent development occurred Tuesday morning on a Rhode Island radio show on which Bishop Tobin appeared.
"If [Sen. Kennedy] cannot abide by the teaching of this church, not just this one but others and ... what it means to be a Catholic ... maybe he should find another fine Christian denomination where he can be more comfortable," the bishop said.
Bishop Tobin also has the ear of Rhode Island Gov. Carcieri, who is a member of the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage and, in a move many criticized has heartless, recently vetoed the bill that would have given domestic partners the right to make burial arrangements for each other.
But can we honestly be surprised that this is the direction that Catholic Church leadership is headed? Strong-arming politicians to craft secular law to reflect church law?
Patrick Kennedy told the Providence Journal that Tobin had barred him from receiving communion and instructed priests in the diocese not to administer the sacrament "because of the positions that I've taken as a public official."
Naturally the question arises, "What public policy positions will the church hound policy makers on next? Marriage equality?"
Michael Jones at Change.org says, "It was a narrowing of Catholic theology to strip issues like poverty and social justice from the forefront of the Church, and replace them with opposing abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. It was also a call to Catholic politicians: oppose abortion and gay marriage at all costs, or risk the threat of the Church denying you Communion and publicly tarring and feathering you as a sinner."
And he's right. The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. threatened to throw the poor and homeless under the bus, claiming they will end their charity work if the District City Council passed their same-sex marriage legislation.
Let's not forget to that they are issuing a new edict that will be signed by hundreds of U.S. Bishops that will strongly unite them all behind a common statement condemning the love between gays and lesbians. Behind this they can rally and step into public policy making more than ever before.
Moreover, the church has pledged $2 million to fight marriage equality, despite closing parishes left and right due to lack of funds.
More recently, some Bishops signed onto the Manhattan Declaration with a swath of excitable, anti-LGBT evangelicals. The Declaration in part states, “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence."
Even more, “We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other antilife act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent.”
What's shocking is the church leadership's blatant intimidation and misuse of the Eucharist, one of the most sacred rites of Catholicism, in an attempt to force upon those with the hefty responsibility of writing secular law what the Church believes should be the law all U.S. citizens must abide by.
Are we to see next Catholic members of Congress strong-armed by their bishops to vote against the Respect for Marriage Act? Are we to see politicians blackmailed into voting against ENDA? Will the bishops manipulate these policymakers by using their beliefs of salvation by threatening their very souls?
This is exactly why Thomas Jefferson wrote of the need for the separation of church and state - to avoid this very wrong and morally corrupt yet powerful tactic that history has witnessed those in a position of religious power use time and time again.
Thankfully, Sen. Kennedy is not easily jolted by Tobin's blatant tar and feathering of his soul, but we all know many politicians are not as steadfast and grounded, their religious beliefs scaring then into manipulating hands of bishops.
The best we can do is keep on top of the church and watch their every move, and when we see them strike, we back up our allies in Congress.
Putting aside whether or not you're religious, I would hope that you would agree that no religious member of Congress should be manipulated into fearing for their salvation simply because they're doing their job.
RELATED: Republicans may now face losing funding from their party if they support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. It appears the GOP is taking tips from the Catholic church.