This may come as a shocker but, as a Catholic, I support traditional marriage. As a Catholic, I am also pro-life. And, as a Catholic, I find it deeply offensive that the President of the United States would use the coercive power of the federal government to force Catholic organizations to go against their moral teaching.
Caroline Kennedy feels differently. Even though she describes herself as a Catholic, Kennedy thinks it’s important to expand access to contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, and that it’s the responsibility of the federal government to do so. How do I know? She said so herself at the Democratic National Convention.
“As a Catholic woman,” Kennedy began, “I take reproductive health seriously. And today it is under attack. This year alone, more than a dozen states have passed more than 40 restrictions on women’s access to reproductive health care. That’s not the kind of future I want for my daughters or your daughters. Now isn’t the time to roll back the rights we were winning when my father was president.”
A couple thoughts:
First, as a Catholic, Kennedy should realize that God already gave her the tools necessary to regulate her reproductive capabilities. It’s called natural family planning. Of course, women are free to purchase their own contraception, but it seems unnecessary given the fact that birth control actually doesn’t cost a thing.
Second, a study recently released by the Heritage Foundation confirms that “a child’s probability of living in poverty is reduced by 82 percent when his parents are married to each other.” If Kennedy is so concerned about other people’s daughters, why doesn’t she talk about the need for strong families? The evidence clearly indicates that when there is a breakdown in the family children suffer the most.
Third, Kennedy seems to have forgotten – like her progressive ally Sr. Simone Campbell – that life begins at conception, and that as a Catholic it’s not above her pay grade to uphold that teaching. She should also be aware that her liberal positions on women’s “reproductive rights” act as a blanket endorsement of what Blessed John Paul II referred to as the culture of death.
The reality is that if Kennedy actually was “a Catholic woman,” she wouldn’t be saying these things. As Ethics and Public Policy Center Fellow Stephen White argues in a recent column: “there are some things [in Catholic teaching] that are always wrong.” And “among such evils is the intentional taking of an innocent human life.”
To be sure, White adds, “many other issues require prudent judgment.” But “all Catholics are expected to work to make the civil law reflect…what the Church teaches [about abortion].”
Although White goes on to claim that “the moral flexibility of Democrats on social issues has driven away millions of Catholic voters over the last few decades,” there seems to be a large, rather confused group of Catholics who, like Kennedy, still support the Democratic Party.
Christina Pesoli, a blogger for the Huffington Post, is one of them.
Although Pesoli describes herself as a Catholic, she recently admitted that she is “praying for a schism” within the Catholic Church – even though doing so, according to Canon Law 1369, would mean that she is ipso facto excommunicated.
In her column, “Why This Catholic Girl is Praying for a Schism,” Pesoli insists that the Catholic Church has “lost its mind,” and that life as a Catholic is comparable to that of a person who is married to a drug addict.
She says she prayed for decades that the Church would evolve on “it’s backwards and outdated policies relating to women…and equality.” But having just witnessed the Vatican’s recent “crackdown” on women religious, Pesoli is “holding out for a schism.”
Pesoli argues that Catholics like Melinda Gates, Stephen Colbert, the Kennedy’s and John Kerry will be the “Social Justice Catholic Church,” while people like Rick Santorum, Antonin Scalia, Paul Ryan, and Newt Gingrich can be the “Conservative Catholic Church.”
“In the Social Justice Catholic Church,” she writes, “there will be no more of this nonsense over contraception. In the Social Justice Catholic Church, everyone will be treated equally – men, women, gay or straight. Everyone will be allowed to marry, even priests.”
I don’t know how Pesoli’s Social Justice Church would differ from the Episcopal, Anglican or any number of progressive Protestant Churches that are already out there, but it seems abundantly clear that she, like Kennedy, is confused about her own religion, and is spreading falsehoods about what it means to be a Catholic. As Patheos blogger Marc Barnes wrote in reaction to Pesoli’s arguments: “To be a Catholic…is to believe in the teachings of the [one, holy, catholic, apostolic] Church.” If we reject one teaching of the Catholic Church, we simply “reject Catholicism” all together.
Though it’s unlikely Pesoli and Kennedy will stop preaching this false understanding of Catholicism, we can’t just give up on them. In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we are told that we must reach out to and correct, in a spirit of meekness, someone who has been overtaken by a fault, especially if they have the potential to lead others astray. Furthermore, as it is written in the Book of Revelation, we must not – like the church in Thyatira – merely tolerate those who mislead God’s servants. We have to, as it is written in the Gospel of Mark, shake off the dust from our feet when we leave the house of someone who refuses to hear the word of God. And as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, we must also be sure to “take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties.” For they “do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple minded.”
Stephen Kokx is an adjunct professor of political science. Follow him on twitter @StephenKokx