Bishop To Kennedy: You're Not A Profile In Courage

It's a free country, and no one says you have to be Catholic --or if you are, that you have to be a good one. That's between you and God. But please, if you elect to be a bad one, which is no one's business but your own, spare us the pretense that it is you who are faithful and the rest of the Church which must conform.

Or so writes Bishop Tobin to Patrick Kennedy. Except more reluctantly and politely.
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.
So here goes:
“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when 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.
[skipping the numerous citations from texts]
There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”
But wait, there's more: a definition of what it means to be Catholic and a little examination of conscience for Catholic politicians in that regard. Then he circles back to the main point:
Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in 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.

Love this flourish:

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.
Kennedy's response is that Tobin is publicly picking on him and he is very disappointed in his bishop.
“I had initially agreed to a meeting with him [Thursday], provided we would not debate this in public in terms of my personal faith, but unfortunately, he hasn’t kept to that agreement, and that’s very disconcerting to me.” But he also said he expects to meet with the bishop, if matters of faith will be kept “between us.”

How 'bout stop saying your "Catholicism made you do it" to justify your votes, and Bishop Tobin will have no cause to comment?

On another note, but in this post because it involves another Congressperson picking on the Catholic Church, curtsy to CMR for this story. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey wants the IRS sic-ed on the Catholic Church.

I expect political hardball on any legislation as important as the health care bill.
I just didn’t expect it from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Who elected them to Congress?