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Why Bishop Tobin is Truly Wrong

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Bishop Tobin and Congressman Kennedy are engaged in an unseemly public spat. We now know that in 2007, the bishop of Providence told Kennedy that he should refrain from presenting himself for communion because of his pro-choice position on abortion. That edict was not publicized until now and Tobin says that he did not even share the information with any other pastors.

I cannot bring myself to defend Congressman Kennedy. I think his explanations for maintaining a pro-choice stance are among the worst I have ever heard, a tired re-hashing of arguments put forth better, but unconvincingly, by Governor Mario Cuomo in 1984. Even if a congressman or a governor thinks that representative democracy demands that they exercise their vote and their veto in a manner that accords with the wishes of their constituents, they have an obligation to raise their voice on behalf of the unborn and try and convince their constituents, and their fellow Democrats, that we got the abortion issue wrong in the 1970s.

On Tobin and Kennedy, the question isn't 'why' but 'why now'?

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tI suppose like other members of the Catholic chattering classes, I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the past 48 hours talking to TV and radio outlets about the news that back in 2007, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy advising him not to take communion because of his pro-choice views.

tI have no insider scoop to offer, but I can summarize here what I’ve been saying on-air: the most interesting question about the story isn’t so much “why,” but “why now”?

Genetic information protection now in force

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The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which was passed in May 2008, went into effect this past weekend. The law:

  • Prohibits employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information about an employee or an employee's family member.

  • Prohibits health insurers from requesting or requiring a person to take a genetic test.

  • Forbids the use of a person's genetic information by health insurance companies for determining eligibility or insurance premiums.

  • Does not interfere with health care workers' ability to request that a person or family member take a genetic test, or to provide patients with information on genetic tests that are available.

Here is some background and further information of the new law: The Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University

See also today's NPR story.

What Would Bernardin Say?

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U.S. bishops are obviously on the offensive, in part to recoup losses in status from the sex abuse scandals, etc.The surge relies on one main weapon, the attack on abortion, and a secondary but significant drive against gay marriage. And they raise the attention-getting question: who is a Catholic? The limited focus risks making them seem narrow. As a means of regaining prestige, it has little likelihood of success. How different might their chances be if they stood behind the "consistent ethic" umbrella proposed by the late Cardinal Bernardin. How much more credibility would they gain by upholding other "pro life" causes such as erasing poverty? On the other hand, the cardinal's proposal was defeated by those who chose the narrower way.

Yes, Virginia, there is a future for Anglican/Catholic ties

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tPope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, held a brief tête-à-tête in Rome on Saturday, amid the latest in a seemingly endless series of crises in relations between the Catholic church and the Anglican Communion. This time, the issue was the Vatican’s decision to create special structures for traditionalist Anglicans wishing to become Catholics.

tIn the main, both Benedict and Williams reaffirmed their commitment to good ties, even if Williams did gently chide the pontiff for what Williams saw as a failure to consult Anglican leaders more thoroughly in advance of the recent move. (In an address at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University, Williams also defended the ordination of women and suggested that differences over such matters “may not be as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume.”)

This weekend’s encounter provides an opportunity to step back and contemplate the state of things between Anglicans and Catholics. To be sure, Catholicism isn’t General Motors or Microsoft – but if it were, a bean-counter in Rome might put down his eyeshade to ask: Why do we bother?

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July 4-17, 2014

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