When Bishop Thomas Tobin cracks his whip on Catholic politicians, it doesn’t serve his cause well. Remember when he manged to make a martyr out of even Congressman Patrick Kennedy?
Tobin hasn’t denied Democratic nominee Gina Raimondo communion, but the Republican bishop did offer a passive rebuke to the Catholic candidate for governor after she won the endorsement of Planned Parenthood. He didn’t mention her by name, but the timing left little doubt.
The very reason Catholics were distrusted in this country in the 1800s and the early 1900s is because Catholics were presumed to be anti-democratic in their allegiance to a foreign king (the Pope) and it was assumed that they would attempt to impose their Catholic values on everyone in the event that they achieved political power. As a result, Catholic politicians invariably hit a ceiling in their careers a few steps before the presidency, unable to convince a majority of Americans nation wide that they could be trusted.
It was John Kennedy who broke this trend, when he gave his famous speech to a meeting of Texas Baptists in which he said that his allegiance was to America, and that the wall of separation between church and state must be high and strong. In bucking the tradition established by JFK, Tobin seeks to take Catholicism back to a time when it was politically irrelevant.
We do not live in a Catholic theocratic state. Most Rhode Islanders, by a factor of 8 to 1, support a woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her reproductive health care, including abortion. Many religious traditions are not in agreement with the Catholic Church on reproductive rights issues. It would be unconstitutional for government to favor the Catholic heirarchy’s position on this issue, and foolish of us to pay Tobin’s declarations much mind when we can’t be sure if he is expressing himself religiously or politically.