By Scott Tibbs, December 7, 2009
Proverbs 24:11-12 - Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?
While I am not Catholic, I believe Protestants could learn a lot from the Catholic church on the subject of church discipline and pastoral authority, both in having the courage to exercise the authority granted by God and submission to that authority. An example of this is the controversy generated when Bishop Thomas Tobin asked Congressman Patrick Kennedy to abstain from taking communion due to Kennedy's support for legalized abortion, which has claimed 50 million lives since the Supreme Court threw out state bans on the barbaric procedure in 1973.
There have been church members who have grumbled to the media about Tobin's request, which was not (but should have been) an outright ban on Kennedy taking communion. Angel Madera, visiting the church, told MSNBC, "If they believe they're a true Catholic, who's to say that they're not?"
This is just a silly question. Part of the job of a faithful shepherd is to bring back sheep that have strayed from the fold, and sometimes that involves the exercise of church discipline. A faithful shepherd must also guard the rest of the congregation. What if Kennedy was kidnapping and murdering children from a local kindergarten, and refused to repent when challenged by church leaders while sitting in prison? Would Madera seriously argue that the Catholic church hierarchy was wrong to condemn or even excommunicate an unrepentant child murderer?
When you convert to a religion, it is not your role to try to change the fundamental tenets of that religion to suit your personal preferences, and then claim to be fully part of that religion. If that is the case, there is no purpose for the church to exist. Kennedy openly advocates that it should be legal to kill 1.2 million human beings every year. The Catholic Church is right to censure Kennedy for taking a position so contrary to Christian doctrine, and it is good to see church authority exercised in this manner. Obviously, the church should work to get Kennedy to repent, but he should not expect to do as he pleases without censure.