The Catholic hierarchy has been busy lately mixing religion and politics. The Catholic church has been very vocal in its opposition to gay marriage in the District of Columbia. And there was no secret about how much lobbying conservative Catholics did for an anti-choice amendment in the House health care bill.
And now there’s the debate between Rep Patrick Kennedy and his bishop. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island has publicly chastised Rep Kennedy for his support of abortion rights and has even asked him to stop receiving communion. But, can you disagree with the Catholic Church on this issue and still call yourself a Catholic…and, an even better question, why if you disagree with the church, would you want to remain a Catholic? That got us thinking back to some of the many liberal Catholics we have interviewed on the program, from Kerry Kennedy (cousin to Patrick) to best-selling author James Carroll. Although these interviews were recorded before the current controversies, these Catholic thinkers had some interesting insight into what it means for them to be Catholics.
Kerry Kennedy, author of Being Catholic Now: Prominent Talk About Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning, “One of the things I learned in writing this book is that everyone has an arguement with the [Catholic] church, that’s part of being Catholic. That’s what we are supposed to do…the message of the Gospel is if you have all these rules and you don’t have love then you have nothing. So, throw out the rules, leave them aside, just focus on love and if you get that, if you can get that straight, then you get the church, you get what Catholicism is all about.”
James Carroll, author of Practicing Catholic, “I am Catholic because this is my home, I love the Catholic church and I don’t think my dissenting on these matters [contraception] disqualifies me from being a Catholic, I am actually speaking out the heart of contemporary Catholic life. I am a Catholic like millions of Catholics, including some clergy and some bishops even.”
There’s also Daniel Maguire, author of Whose Church: A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicm, who points out that there was even a pro-choice Catholic saint, the 15th century archbishop of Florence, St. Antoninus.
All of these interviews serve as a powerful reminder of the diversity within the body of the Catholic Church regardless of the political fights being waged by church leadership. Take a listen back to some of these interviews and then tell us what YOU think.