Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s recent Newsweek editorial claiming President Barack Obama represents U.S. Catholics better than Pope Benedict XVI has been attacked by one Catholic critic as “bogus and embarrassing.”
Townsend, the eldest child of Robert F. Kennedy, in a July 9 Newsweek column claimed that the Catholic hierarchy ignores women’s equality and “gays’ cry for justice” because they cannot admit they are wrong.
She endorsed dissent from Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which upheld traditional Christian teaching on the immorality of contraception. She then promoted President Obama and attacked Church authority.
“American Catholics do not want to be told by the Vatican how to think,” she said, citing opinion polls on homosexuality and condom use.
She also cited Pope Benedict’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” about institutional charity, claiming that this was the Church opening up to “roles that for too long have been neglected.” Obama as a former community organizer “could teach the Pope a lot about politics – and what a Catholic approach to politics could entail.”
Predicting the interaction between President Obama and Pope Benedict at their meeting last Friday, Townsend said: “they'll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won't care, because they know Obama's on their side. In fact, Obama's agenda is closer to their views than even the Pope's.”
Catholic commentator Deal Hudson said Townsend’s column was arrogant and ignorant of American Catholics. He suggested she was self-contradictory in citing the authority of Pope Benedict to confirm President Obama as the more Catholic of the two.
He also insisted that her claim to represent the Catholic Church in the political arena is “bogus and embarrassing in its disregard for the truth as taught by the Church.” He characterized Townsend as a member of the Catholic family who has “done more to promote abortion” than any other.”
“Townsend and other Obama Catholics have tended to disregard the ‘Veritas’ side of the ‘Charity in Truth’ encyclical,” Hudson wrote, using the Latin word for “truth.”
Hudson also denied the accuracy of Townsend’s poll sources. He said the claim that American Catholics don’t want to listen to the Vatican is the equivalent of saying “American Catholics don’t want to be Catholic.”
Even when President Obama’s opinions match the views of dissenting Catholics, Hudson said that doesn't mean that the Pope should change the Church's teachings but rather that the Church “should do a better job of teaching and evangelization so that the pervasive dissent on issues like contraception and gay marriage is effectively addressed.”