Monday, November 23, 2009

An Open Letter to Patrick Kennedy

An Open Letter to Patrick Kennedy and Other Catholics
On the Occasion of his Excommunication

Dear Mr Kennedy et al,

According to news reports your bishop has asked you not to receive communion. I find that utterly amazing. I wouldn’t normally “but in” to a matter like this but Rome has taken it upon itself to invite Anglicans and Episcopalians to “come on over” if they find themselves uncomfortable with our stand on the ordination of women and gays within the church’s leadership. As a consequence we now find ourselves in the unpleasant posture of “butting” into each other’s pastoral bailiwick. Therefore I write to you as one parish priest from a small city in Massachusetts.

It seems to me that Jesus fed the 5000 on the hillsides of Galilee without checking anyone’s orthodoxy with regard to religious practice at the time. None of them were Catholics or even Episcopalians. Most were Jews, just like Jesus. There were very likely Samaritans and Gentiles among the crowd and Jesus did not seem to mind if all came to be fed by the bountiful Goodness of God. I cannot imagine that anyone would ask another person of faith to refrain from receiving of that very Goodness especially when trying your level best to care alike for rich and poor, black and white, male and female, gay and straight and all the other folk some will “categorize” into these convenient little pharisaical boxes. Jesus went out of his way; it seems to me, to seek out the very outcasts that “religious” folk sought to exclude.

On the matter of abortion, the Roman Church certainly has a right to maintain its point of view and to do so with all due diligence. But sincere people of faith may also find themselves differing on these matters. I, for instance, would be loathe to go back to the time when women found themselves seeking out dangerous, unclean and illicit procedures from shady characters as my mother did many years ago before this procedure became legal. Forcing women to carry children to full term is just another form of tyranny and oppression. I am told that the fellow in my mother’s case promised to love her on that night the two of them got frisky. He broke that promise when she reported to him that the proverbial rabbit died. He abandoned her. Many men do the same in similar situations today. I would speak vigorously for a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body particularly when so many seek to exploit and abuse women with impunity. We still refuse to guarantee equal pay for equal work. My mom worked in payroll back in the 50’s, and was distressed at pay inequities way back then. My dad was dead and she was our “breadwinner”. Things haven’t changed much for women since then. May God bless you for speaking up for these women and their families.

On another level, though, I am deeply concerned about Rome’s moral outrage over abortion when it does not seem to be matched by her moral outrage at the abuse of the children we already have on the planet. What of their medical needs; their hunger; their safety from the hands of those who would exploit them sexually and otherwise inside and outside the church? Where is the church’s moral outrage for the living breathing children we have right in front of our eyes. If you have to pick a single issue, why not pick advocacy on behalf of those children we need to love and care about NOW!!!

I am sorry that your bishop has asked you not to receive communion. I know that you are resourceful enough to find a priest who will be only too glad to minister to you of the Goodness of God without regard to the bishop’s directive. But now that Rome has dropped the gauntlet, allow me to simply say that EVERYONE is WELCOME at God’s table in the Episcopal Church. Period.

This comes to you with my sincerest prayers that your bishop and the bishop of Rome will rethink some of these matters. Women, gay folk and the rest of us are awaiting a “kinder, gentler” faith,

Father Paul B. Bresnahan,
Semi-retired Priest-in-Charge
St Gabriel's, Douglassville, PA

No comments: