Mixing God and Politics

By Helen Brinich

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was the featured speaker at FutureChurch’s 18th annual fund raising banquet held in Cleveland on September 18th.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is greeted by
FutureChurch board member Bill Wisniewski and program member, Al Klonowski.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is greeted by FutureChurch board member Bill Wisniewski (center) and program member, Al Klonowski.

Kathleen is the oldest daughter of Robert Kennedy and served two terms as lieutenant governor of Maryland. Her warm and relational style was well received as she shared some of the main themes of her recent book, Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches are Mixing God and Politics and Losing Their Way.

She grew up in a large Catholic family where religion was part of life. The family said morning and evening prayers together. In the summertime, while their friends were sleeping late, their mother, Ethel, piled her brood into the family van and took them to early Mass every day. They prayed to the saints for special causes. Catholic spirituality permeated their lives.

Kennedy Townsend first got into trouble with the Church when she wrote her senior college thesis on the history of Catholic teaching about abortion. She found that the Church’s position was not always the same as it is now. At the same time she was impressed by the important roles that women played in the early Church in contrast to how they have been treated since then.

Benefit co-chair, Rebecca Rocco and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Benefit co-chair, Rebecca Rocco (left) and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

When she ran for Congress in 1986, Kennedy Townsend was condemned by her parish priest and barred from speaking at Catholic events. She acknowledges being deeply hurt by such treatment. She finds it significant that the hierarchy has focused on the one sin that only women can commit and points out that although the Republican party has used abortion as a political issue, abortion rates go down during Democratic administrations, when there are more social supports in place to help needy women.

While some women who are called to the priesthood have left the Catholic Church and become ministers in other Christian churches, Kennedy Townsend asserts that she will stay and fight. She recommends that we do the same and make our voices heard by the hierarchy, just as Catherine of Siena did. Since money is power, she advocates for lay people to sit on boards which manage the money, demand accountability and transparency.

Bad things and good things have happened in the Church during its 2000 year history. Kennedy Townsend recognizes that it has never been and never will be perfect. She affirms the changes that are happening in the present Church and encourages our hope and faith in going forward.

FutureChurch board member Bill Appleton helps enthusastic raffle sellers Kathleen Thomas and Matt Nocella.
FutureChurch board member Bill Appleton (right) helps enthusastic raffle sellers Kathleen Thomas and Matt Nocella.

Helen Brinich is a long time FutureChurch member and volunteer.

 

Focus on FutureChurch

Fall 2008

 

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