Bonnie Erbe: Kennedy Townsend 'Crusader,' Modern-Day 'Joan of Arc'

Bonnie Erbe, US News and World ReportBonnie Erbe of U.S. News and Report praised Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s efforts to change the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching against abortion in a December 23, 2009 blog entry, calling her a “modern-day Crusader of sorts” and outlandishly predicted that the Church would eventually “recognize the wisdom of...[her] approach.” Erbe would even go so far as to liken Townsend to St. Joan of Arc.

The left-wing contributing editor to U.S. News began her editorial with the “Crusader” label for the former Democratic lieutenant governor of Maryland, even going so far as to quote from the early 20th century Catholic Encyclopedia: “Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is a modern-day Crusader of sorts. As defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia, crusade means, ‘all wars undertaken in pursuance of a vow, and directed against infidels.’ I use the term Crusader figuratively, not literally, as she’s speaking out publicly, she’s not leading a war. She’s trying to change the minds of her own church leaders—she’s not directing her rhetoric toward infidels. Nonetheless she’s leading a crusade for her church that many clergymen see as blasphemous.”

After boldly predicting that “Townsend may one day be rewarded for her efforts by church leaders, but not today and not anytime soon,” Erbe outlined that the Democrat’s “crusade” was being fought on two fronts: “Townsend is pressing her political party not to cede the religious vote to the GOP and at the same time trying to prevent the church from using its considerable clout to write its morality into federal law.”

As you might expect, Erbe is championing Townsend because, like most other members of the Kennedy clan, she has taken an outspoken pro-abortion stance, and is challenging the Catholic Church to change its longstanding position against this murderous procedure. Predictably, the U.S. News editor repeated leftist talking points about the Catholic bishops supposedly violating the separation of church and state with their involvement in the health care “reform” debate, and played the standard Galileo card against the Church:
She [Townsend] is urging progressive Catholics to reject an aggressive power grab by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The conference is vehemently opposed to healthcare reform unless the final version contains a considerable expansion of anti-abortion verbiage. The group has lobbied heavily for an amendment to force private insurers to stop providing coverage for abortions if they want to participate in government plans. Versions are contained in the package approved by the full House and the one headed to a Senate floor vote on Christmas Eve.

As Peggy Simpson writes at the Women’s Media Center, Townsend considers it “crucial for progressives from within religious groups who had fought for women’s rights and gay rights to be ‘more articulate’ about their faith.” She quotes Townsend as saying, “We progressive religious people have our backs against the wall. We allowed it to happen.”

She has a point. The bishops in recent years have been extremely vocal in their campaign against Catholic politicians who cross the church’s party line on abortion. Most recently, Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, one of Townsend’s cousins, was asked by Most Rev. Thomas Tobin, Roman Catholic bishop of Providence, not to take communion due to Kennedy’s pro-choice vote on healthcare reform.

As Simpson points out: The bishops . . . threatened to defeat the overall healthcare bill unless the amendment was adopted to replace what had been seen as compromise language on abortion coverage....If that’s not a meteor-sized hole in the wall between church and state, or what little is left of it, what is?

Considering how its positions waver depending on who’s in power, my guess is some day the church might modify its anti-abortion stance. After all, this is an institution that took a mere half-millennium to recognize that Galileo was right and the Earth really did revolve around the sun and not vice versa.
Erbe concluded her editorial by repeating her earlier prediction about a future vindication of Townsend’s pro-abortion position inside the Catholic Church, and invoked the name of the celebrated French saint: “The Inquisition is over and ecclesiastic courts no longer order heretics burned at the stake. Lucky for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, she will not meet the same fate as poor Joan of Arc. But just as church elders later rescinded Joan’s excommunication, some day they might recognize the wisdom of Townsend’s approach. Not in my lifetime, but maybe some day.”

What’s bizarre about Erbe’s comparison is the fact that it was a Catholic pope, Callixtus III, who authorized a posthumous retrial of St. Joan, which cleared her of any wrongdoing. Then again, this is the same woman who declared that the current pope, Benedict XVI, was “horrifically ignorant” on the spread of AIDS in Africa.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center