Lisa Fabrizio
Truth and heresy
By Lisa Fabrizio
July 23, 2009

What faithful, practicing Catholic does not cringe when he hears the Kennedys referred to as "one of the United States' most prominent Roman Catholic families?" Why not single out say, the family of U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a faithful Catholic with a brood of nine children, one of whom is a priest who, as his father quips, "took one for the team." Justice Scalia is a man who is not ashamed to defend his faith:

    To believe in traditional Christianity is something else. For the son of God to be born of a virgin? I mean, really. To believe that he rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven? How utterly ridiculous. To believe in miracles? Or that those who obey God will rise from the dead and those who do not will burn in hell? God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ... and he has not been disappointed. Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.

But the Kennedys? After all, it was their most favorite son, JFK who first suggested that political interests should come before Church teaching, when he famously said he would always act "in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates."

This feeling that "religious dictates" are outside a person rather than inside, sums up the plight of many American Catholics. They have lost the interior disposition necessary to properly practice the faith. The name Catholic is nothing more than a brand for these folks; in some ways a brand of dishonor, feeling as they do that it represents a repressive group of religious fanatics. But they can call themselves whatever they like; they certainly are not practicing Catholics.

And yet, it is this group that is always sought after by the media when they need quotes or polling data that contradicts Church teaching. And when the heretic bears the name of Kennedy, it doesn't get any better than that. So it was no surprise that Newsweek eagerly published a hit piece by the slain president's niece, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, in which she sees fit to lecture Mother Church in the person of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

As its title implies — "Without A Doubt: Why Barack Obama represents American Catholics better than the pope does" — it is a mostly rambling and predictable litany of the accusations against the Church by one who is obviously outside of it. So clueless in regards to Church teaching is Ms. Townsend, that she refers to those who actually follow it as "vocal bishops and pro-life activists."

But she does have a point. Those like her have created their own Church, one that blows with the winds of change and popular opinion. It is no surprise that a member of the most liberal family in America should choose to make her points by citing of polls of her like-minded "Catholics." Now polling is no way to run a country and it is most certainly not the way the Church operates. She may have missed this in Catechism class, but the Church derives its authority from its founder, Jesus Christ, who guaranteed that the Gates of Hell — let alone opinion polls — would not prevail against her.

Speaking on behalf of her fellows in heresy and citing their views on homosexuality and condom use, Townsend writes: "American Catholics do not want to be told by the Vatican how to think." No, one would assume they'd rather get their opinions right from the New York Times. She goes on to claim, "Meanwhile, against all scientific evidence and protestations from clergy on the ground, the pope claims that condoms aggravate the spread of AIDS." I don't know if a Kennedy recognizes a Harvard researcher's findings as "scientific evidence," but according to Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies:

    The pope is correct. Or to put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope's comments...I also noticed that the pope said 'monogamy' was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than 'abstinence.' The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates.

Then, in an incredible burst of unintentional self-incrimination, she writes that the Church cannot "acknowledge that the self-satisfied edifice constructed around sex and gender has been grievously wrong." Speaking for myself, I cannot imagine a more accurate indictment of the Democratic Party.

Near the end of her heretical piece, Ms. Townsend accuses the Vatican of employing "rhetoric" when speaking of love and truth. Now, I'm forced by her writing style to assume that she attaches the modern definition to the word, as to mean "insincere" or "pretentious." But were she employing the word as applied to Plato, Aristotle or St. Augustine, she and her true spiritual leader, Barack Obama, might learn something about truth and love as so beautifully laid out by Pope Benedict in his latest encyclical:

    Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word "love" is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite. Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. In the truth, charity reflects the personal yet public dimension of faith in the God of the Bible, who is both Agápe and Lógos: Charity and Truth, Love and Word.

© Lisa Fabrizio


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Lisa Fabrizio

Lisa Fabrizio is a freelance columnist from Stamford, Connecticut. You may write her at


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