I am not Catholic, so I have only an outsider’s understanding of what partaking in the Roman Catholic Church’s sacraments mean to members of the Church. I believe strongly that I should be answerable to the country’s laws, and not subject to any Church’s idea of morality.
Bishop Tobin has seen fit to excommunicate Patrick Kennedy from Catholic practice. Given the hierarchical nature of the RCC, I assume this action has the approval of Tobin’s Cardinal and the Pope. I can only imagine this causes Kennedy spiritual pain and confusion, and applies pressure to Kennedy to vote in the way the Catholic Church commands.
As I recall, fear of this pressure was exactly what was used to drum up anti-Catholic sentiment against the election of Patrick’s uncle John F. Kennedy. These fears were assuaged by JFK’s declaration “I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.”
The problem now is, the Church is demanding to speak for (some) Catholic politicians, under pains of excommunication.
So now comes this primary to determine the Democratic nominee to succeed Ted Kennedy. Two (or maybe three) of the candidates are Catholic. (Pagliuca and Khazei are. Coakley grew up Catholic, but it’s unclear whether she still practices.)
I feel like a bigot for even asking the question, but given Bishop Tobin’s actions, I think it must be asked – should I avoid voting for a Catholic to fill this seat?