|Commentary: Bainbridge: The Bully and the Bishop|
(From The Observer - The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Rockford -
“Life Lines” - December 4, 2009)
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
The Bully and the Bishop
Whenever I see Chris Matthews on MSNBC, I am annoyed by his “interviewing” style. He calls the show “Hardball,” but he plays softball as he gushes and fawns over those guests who hold to his progressive opinions.
He plays hardball only with guests who disagree with his views and then he is loud, abrupt, boisterous, arrogant, and rude. He is so over-the-top that Saturday Night Live has a parody of “Hardball.”
Obviously, Matthews has a right to do whatever he wants on his show, but when he—claiming to be Catholic—invites a Catholic Bishop on the show and then bullies and lectures him, I think Matthews has gone too far. That is exactly what he did to Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence on November 23, 2009.
The mainstream media has been reporting —albeit not always accurately—on the recent “communications” between Bishop Tobin and Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) regarding Kennedy’s very public pro-abortion advocacy.
Our Bishop Thomas Doran requested that the most talked about letter from Bishop Tobin to Kennedy be published in its entirety in the November 20, 2009 issue of The Observer. This letter was a response to one Kennedy had written to Bishop Tobin on October 29th in which Kennedy claimed, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues [abortion, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual “marriage,” contraception] does not make me any less of a Catholic.”
Bishop Tobin’s letter was a valiant attempt to catechize Kennedy on what it means to be Catholic. It was kind, but firm. The Bishop made it clear to Kennedy his position on abortion is “unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.”
Canon lawyer Edward Peters, writes: “Kennedy should thank the Good God that He sent him a bishop who cares enough about him to challenge him the way Tobin did. And if Kennedy (who must be stunned to have gotten such a serious reply to his shallow political cant) is not able to bring himself to thank God for Bp. Tobin quite yet, the rest of us certainly should. Bp. Tobin's letter is clear, compassionate, and compelling.”
Abortion apologist Chris Matthews, of course, doesn’t view it that way. He invited Bishop Tobin to the show to teach him a few things. During the interview, in a failed attempt to convince viewers that he respected the Bishop, he referred to him as “your Excellency” 11 times. His attitude toward the Bishop, however, was anything but respectful as he scolded and spoke in a condescending manner to the good Bishop.
In one of his diatribes, Matthews spoke 290 words without letting the Bishop say one. Setting up a straw man, Matthews insisted that Bishop Tobin was trying to tell “Congressman Kennedy how to write the law.” Matthews then berated the Bishop by saying, “You say you don’t know how to do it [write law]. Well, you ought to try before you tell him what he’s doing wrong.”
Matthews avoided the real issue. The point the Bishop was making is that Catholic politicians cannot vote for pro-abortion laws and claim they are good Catholics.
Matthews ended the interview with his final chastisement of Bishop Tobin: “I would urge you to consider the possibility of error here, because in getting into telling public officials how to set public policy, you’re stepping beyond moral teaching, and you’re basically assuming an authority, which I don’t think is yours.”
Bishop Tobin does have the authority to spell out exactly what it means to be Catholic. Matthews and Kennedy appear to be assuming authority that is not theirs. Their words imply they know more than the faithful Bishops and the Magisterium.
Matthews wants to paint the discussion as a political issue when, in reality it is a grave moral issue. It’s about what it means to be Catholic. As Bishop Tobin clearly stated, to be Catholic “means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals . . . ”
Let’s pray Matthews (and Kennedy) come to an understanding of that truth.