Tobin and Kennedy – Who Is Welcome at the Table?

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November 28, 2009 by D Stack

The Last Supper

Then Satan entered into Judas, the one surnamed Iscariot, who was counted among the Twelve and he went to the chief priests and temple guards to discuss a plan for handing him over to them. They were pleased and agreed to pay him money. He accepted their offer and sought a favorable opportunity to hand him over to them in the absence of a crowd.

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you (that) from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.

While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”

– Luke 22:3-6, 17-20, 47-48, 54-61 (New American Bible Translation)

There’s disputing accounts of what precisely has been going on in the dialogue (to use a generous term) between Bishop Thomas Tobin and Representative Patrick Kennedy, both of Rhode Island. Apparently in 2007 Bishop Tobin instructed Kennedy not to receive Communion at mass, primarily due to his support of abortion. Over the past week or so Kennedy has stated that Tobin has told all priests of the Rhode Island Diocese not to give him Communion.

My abortion views are painfully nuanced – I can’t really view abortion as a good thing. But over the years I’ve come to siding with former President Clinton’s statement on abortion to make it “safe, legal, and rare.” In 2005 his wife, then-Senator Hillary Clinton went further, stating:

There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances. I believe we can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.

Basically this view is that the culture needs to change. You need to re-frame the argument. There has to be a clear support network for those having a baby – whether as a teenager or as an adult. Whether that child is healthy or with a multitude of health issues. And you must provide some other way to avoid having pregnancies – effective and available contraception. She pointed out the two extremes one could go to, as seen in Romania (1966-19889) and China:

Once a month, Romanian women were rounded up … taken to a government-controlled health clinic, told to disrobe while they were standing in line … [and] examined by a government doctor with a government secret police officer watching. … In China, local government officials used to monitor women’s menstrual cycles and their use of contraceptives.

Romania forbade abortions. China can force them. In both cases extremely invasive policies were in place to enforce these laws. I don’t think anyone wants this

Does this relate to Tobin and Kennedy? I think it does. I believe it points out that there are more ways to reduce and hopefully eliminate abortion than the sledgehammer of legislation which will not stop abortions but just criminalize them. It is worth noting that during the Clinton presidency the abortion rate in the United States sharply decreased (Rachel K. Jones, Mia R. S. Zolna, Stanley K. Henshaw and Lawrence B. Finer, “Abortion in the United States: Incidence and Access to Services, 2005“, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2008, 40(1):6–16, doi: 10.1363/4000608)

Many of the Democratic party’s platforms involve social programs which provide far more support to mothers than equivalent Republican ones. So I disagree with Tobin’s use of Holy Communion as a bludgeon to achieve his goals. Moreover, I’m not certain how Christian an act that even is. Holy Communion is performed in memory of the Last Supper. At the table were Jesus and his twelve apostles. Twelve people who had or were about to betray him, in varying degrees. Judas had already made arrangements to betray Jesus. None of the twelve would stand by him, with Peter denouncing him dramatically. In the aftermath of this Peter dusted himself off and reconciled himself to Jesus whereas Judas couldn’t face what he did and killed himself. However, Jesus shared this meal with all twelve of these men. He did not exclude anyone, even Judas, who had already actively conspired against him.

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One thought on “Tobin and Kennedy – Who Is Welcome at the Table?

  1. johnnycrash77 says:

    Assuming any of that stuff in the New Testament actually even happened. A good read is Ehrman’s “Jesus Interrupted” for a light reading on some of the logistics involved in collecting and approving/barring books to be included into the bible. Its not the best book of its kind, but it is entertaining and lightweight. Catholicism’s ban on birth control is immoral as far as I’m concerned. Especially seeing as how so many impoverished in 3rd world countries are Catholic. Their stance on birth control leads to more misery, suffering, and damage in sheer numbers than does abortion. Add AIDs in Africa, teen pregnancies by a lack of prophylactic education (abstinence only education doesn’t work), and parents disowning their pregnant teens for making a mistake. Forget even trying to open a discourse on health related abortions or incest/rape created pregnancies. They’ll curse Michael J. Fox/stem cells, yet nobody notices when fertility clinics throw away unused fertilized eggs.

    thewhitebull/wordpress.com

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