Imagine a generally conservative evangelical figure switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic because in his view the 2012 Republican Convention's array of speakers and the party's platform convinced him that he could no longer in good conscience be affiliated with a political party which he believed steadfastly aligned itself with sinful positions on say care for the poor or immigration reform. Network news media would surely fall all over themselves to book that preacher on their morning and Sunday shows and print publications would scramble to get an exclusive interview.
Well, that sort of treatment has not greeted the Most Reverend Thomas Tobin, the bishop who oversees the Catholic diocese of Providence in Rhode Island. At a Young Republicans event last Tuesday, Tobin noted he joined the Democratic Party in 1969, but can no longer remain one, not after the 2012 Democratic convention's war-on-women/abortion-heavy confab. Providence TV station WPRI broke the story on August 13 (emphasis mine):
Bonnie 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.”
Apparently MSNBC's Chris Matthews doesn't want Catholics involved in the political process at all - especially when it comes to abortion. Earlier this month the "Hardball" host declared "The clergy should stay off Capitol Hill." Last night, he accused Thomas Tobin, bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, of "telling public officials how to set public policy," "stepping beyond moral teaching," and "basically assuming an authority" because the bishop requested that Rhode Island Democrat Rep. Patrick Kennedy not take communion due to his support for abortion.
Matthews' based his accusations on a portion of a speech on religion delivered by then Sen. John F. Kennedy in which he stated:
I believe in an America that is official neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish, where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source, where no religious body seeks to impose its will, directly or indirectly, upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.
Bishop Tobin briefly responded that the Church does not want to "dictate what the public policy should be in the United States from a purely Catholic doctrinal point of view," but "what [it] is trying to do, most of all, is instill good human values but also have Catholics who are in political office be faithful to the dictates of the Church and the dictates of their conscience and the teachings of the Church."
On today's Morning Joe, Larry O'Donnell called the Roman Catholic bishop who barred Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) from taking communion a "political hack."
Interestingly, Mika Brzezinski had a totally different take, arguing the controversy was not about the Church but about Kennedy publicizing the matter in a play to his base. Though Bishop Thomas Tobin sent his letter to Kennedy more than two years ago, its contents didn't come to light until Kennedy recently revealed them to a Rhode Island newspaper.