by Jesse Galef
When people simultaneously try to serve their country and serve God’s will, conflicts will arise. Some politicians are worse than others at separating their faith from their policies *cough DeMint cough* but it’s pretty consistent for us to see them putting their personal convictions over sound, secular policy.
But Representative Patrick Kennedy is under pressure for for NOT allowing the Catholic Church to dictate his stances. In another highly publicized confrontation between the church and pro-choice Democrats, he has been barred from taking communion:
“The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion,” Kennedy said in a telephone interview.
Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty by telling him “that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official,” particularly on abortion. He declined to say when or how Bishop Tobin told him not to take the sacrament. And he declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop’s injunction.
The article notes that Rep. Obey went through a similar ordeal in 2003, and that Sen. Kerry was threatened during his 2004 presidential run.
Separating church and state is a tricky task. I can definitely understand how this is difficult from the Church’s point of view – they believe abortion to be a great moral evil and, in their religious capacity, want to admonish individuals who support it. But they need to recognize the distinction between Representative Kennedy, elected official of Rhode Island, and Patrick Kennedy, the man who goes to their church. It is utterly inappropriate to use communion as a weapon against Patrick Kennedy for something that Representative Kennedy does.
If Representative Kennedy believes that protecting women’s right to choose is a good thing for our country here in this world and in this life, his duty is to support it. But he’s threatened with punishment in the afterlife for doing his job. For now, he’s carrying out his responsibilities – good for him. Those whose faith would prohibit them from supporting our secular government should not run for office.
I find myself thinking about JFK’s famous speech on religion in 1960:
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
So say we all.