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Another Courageous Kennedy Shows True Leadership

November 23, 2009

Representative Patrick J. Kennedy’s support for women’s reproductive justice is strong-and he stands in solidarity with Catholics across the United States. He is one of many Catholic politicians who stand by both the courage of their convictions and their consciences to support women’s reproductive choices.

Bishop Thomas Tobin’s recent statement that Representative Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) should not take Communion puts Bishop Tobin in the small minority of bishops who have attempted to intimidate Catholic politicians. But Representative Kennedy knows that on this issue he is at one with the vast majority of Catholics who are prochoice.

Catholic politicians at the state and federal levels support the beliefs and needs of their fellow Catholics and those who elected them in making public pronouncements in favor of contraception, abortion, assisted reproductive technologies, gay rights, embryonic stem-cell research and a married clergy.

Like Representative Kennedy, some public figures have been threatened by their bishops who refuse to see that, as elected officials, they should represent the best interests of the electorate, not just the views of the Catholic hierarchy. Some Catholic politicians have being ejected from their choirs, removed as lectors and told they may not assist in reading at Mass or in taking up collections. These personal and vindictive tactics have been troubling to these Catholic policymakers, but have done little to change their views or convictions about what is the right thing to do on behalf of their constituents.

Despite what this minority of bishops has done-and it is worth noting that the majority of bishops do not seek to use the sacraments as political weapons-prochoice Catholic policymakers continue to stand by their consciences.

In Catholic theology there is room for the acceptance of policies that favor access to the full range of reproductive health options, including contraception and abortion.

All Catholics have a right to know, a right to decide, a right to speak out, a right to be treated fairly and a right to participate in the life of their church. Our freedom of conscience is at the heart of Catholic moral teaching-and it is that which defines us as Catholics, not what a bishop decrees.