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Kennedy vs. the Catholic Church

Opinion Dept.
By MARY ANN SORRENTINO  |  October 30, 2009

Last week, Congressman Patrick Kennedy took the Catholic Church to task for opposing health reform that fails to include an explicit ban on federal funding for abortion. And he was right to do it.

The Church says it wants “the preservation of human life,” yet it has not shown similar vigorous concern for victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Darfur, and endless other global massacres.

Of all the Kennedys in politics, Patrick seems the least likely and the most uncomfortable. He does, however, show periodic flashes of passion, as when he championed equal consideration for mental illness and physical illness — inspired by his own battles with addiction.

His charge that a Catholic Church that is truly pro-life must support health care reform is correct, of course. Opposing a national health plan that might fund the abortion choice, as well as the adoption choice, and the choice to have a child is like opposing child support laws because they might encourage divorce and remarriage (also contrary to church law).

If the issue is the protection of human life, one wonders where these concerned Catholics have been for the last eight years as thousands of grown human beings are blown away in needless wars.

We see no daily picketing of the Pentagon, no refusal to pay taxes, no bloody war posters carried outside armed forces recruitment offices, no real Vatican outrage at the murdering of adult obstetricians who delivered babies and also performed abortions, only the harassment of women seeking to terminate an unintended pregnancy.

In Rhode Island, the diocese that now says Kennedy owes the church an apology closed its only adoption agency more than a decade ago to save money. I rest my case.
Patrick Kennedy may have blown this whistle in a moment of pique, and many will not be surprised to see him reconcile with the same hierarchy that turned a blind eye to the transgressions of publicly philandering patriarch Joseph Kennedy, sons Robert, Jack, and Ted, and divorced, remarried, and remarried again Jackie O.

Money talks in the Vatican and it speaks just as loudly as it does in Congress.

But if, along the way, Bishop Tobin and others feel the need to publicly degrade the Congressman from Rhode Island — as is their wont before they eventually “kiss and make up” — then Kennedy deserves the support of reasonable people.

In any imperfect health system, our taxes will pay for cirrhosis treatment for drunks who drink too much and AIDS therapies for irresponsible people who court this deadly disease. We will cover cancer and cardiac care for those who won’t stop smoking or won’t lose weight no matter how often they were told. And we will continue to pay for wars that kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, leaving countless others raped, mutilated, and destitute.

Bishops may not like it, but Patrick Kennedy has logic and truth on his side this time, and — if you look closely — you might even see a guardian angel nodding in agreement.

Related: The problem with the Church's selective embrace, Culture wars, Robert McNamara, RIP, More more >
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