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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Politicians, religion clash”

A few weeks ago, Roman Catholic leader of Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin requested that Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy refrain from taking Holy Communion due to his pro-choice stance on abortion — even though prior to the recent death of Kennedy’s father, Sen. Edward “”Ted”” Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy’s political views had not prohibited his participation.

The Roman Catholic Church believes abortion demands the taking of an innocent life, so those in support of such a grave evil should not participate in the sacred sacrament of communion. But apparently no one felt the need to object when Ted Kennedy, known as “”the lion of the Senate,”” received communion.

The late Massachusetts senator shared liberal views with his son and was a prominent advocate of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. During his political reign, Ted Kennedy was one of only 14 senators to vote against the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which stated that no state is required to accept a relationship between a same-sex couple as a marriage, regardless of whether the relationship is considered a marriage in another state, and that the federal government defines marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman.

He was also a leading force pushing for the expansion of “”hate crimes”” legislation to incorporate special protection for homosexuals. Though gay marriage and abortion are rights the Catholic Church openly and adamantly oppose, Ted Kennedy was allowed to receive communion.

That being the case, one wonders what the requirements for being considered Catholic in the eyes of the Catholic Church truly entail — a question Sen. John Kerry, another supporter of abortion rights, surely pondered when he was refused communion by St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke during his 2004 presidential campaign.

While the Catholic Church opposes abortion, it supports a health care overhaul in hopes of creating a more equitable system. So if liberal politicians risk being denied communion based on their support of abortion, are those conservative politicians opposing the health care reform subject to the same threat? 

And for that matter, should the Catholic Church really be involving itself with matters of the state? Many Catholics argue that denying a Catholic communion involves the members of the Catholic community in political battles that have no place in Mass. Meanwhile, others believe the Catholic Church should deny all those who defy its teachings.

The Catholic Church has every right to make political statements and grant or deny communion to anyone it chooses, I suppose. But while the pope and bishops of the Church may be extremely knowledgeable regarding the New Testament and religious teachings, perhaps health-related issues shouldn’t be entirely entrusted to the judgment of unalterable texts written thousands of years ago.

For instance, Pope Benedict XVI claimed in March this year that the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa couldn’t be overcome by “”the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.””

“”The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS,”” the pope announced shortly after becoming pontiff in 2005 to his papal audience of bishops from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho.

In stark contrast to the assertions of the pope, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contends that “”if you are sexually active, latex condoms provide the best protection against HIV infection.””

According to a March guardian.co.uk article regarding the pope’s stance on condoms, “”Africa is the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic church, which competes with Islam and evangelical churches”” — providing the pope’s opinion with an intimidating degree of influence.

While his intentions are undoubtedly benevolent, the pope risks leading Africa deeper into its fatal calamity with the lethal combination of his increasingly vast population of faithful followers and his public caveat against the use of condoms.

The Roman Catholic Church is a matchless power of religious knowledge and moral prowess. But with all due respect, religion has no place in politics or medicine.

Regardless of whether you’re pro-choice, pro-life or simply impartial, the question is whether religious leaders should be utilizing their religious control to influence their followers politically and deny politicians access to religious traditions.

Politicians should feel free to support and oppose issues based on their personal assessments, free of an underlying fear of religious repercussions. Devout religious followers across the world should not jeopardize their lives and well-being with blind faith in their religious leaders.

Our politics, our lives and our futures are simply too important to be handed off to opposing faiths.

— Rachel Leavitt is a creative writing sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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