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The Kennedy Legacy Continues

Senator Ted Kennedy may be dead and buried, but the family legacy lives on.

This generation’s torchbearer of the former Camelot clan comes by way of Teddy’s son, Patrick Kennedy, who is currently serving as a U.S. congressman for the state of Rhode Island. A graduate of the Dominican-run Providence College, he’s the latest Kennedy to claim — with a flourish of trumpets — that he is both Catholic (all the Kennedys are, don’t you know) and happily pro-abortion. And you guessed it: Like his father before him, he sees no discrepancy in his viewpoint, has no compunction about it, and obviously understands well that it is much easier to profess his faith than it is to actually practice it.

Vis-a-vis the Catholic Church, however, Patrick has turned onto the kind of bumpy road that Teddy never really had to traverse. Patrick’s bishop, the Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, has openly challenged his behavior as a public political figure masquerading as a Catholic. For that, Bishop Tobin earns well-deserved kudos from this corner. Unlike Sean Cardinal O’Malley, his clerical confrere in Boston, Bishop Tobin has not come under the spell of the influential first family of New England politics. Whereas O’Malley has bent over backwards to honor and praise Ted Kennedy even in death (see our New Oxford Note “Ignoratio Elenchi,” Nov.), Bishop Tobin is cut from a different cloth.

In November Bishop Tobin questioned publicly whether Kennedy can call himself a Catholic, given that in the healthcare-reform debate the congressman voted against tighter restrictions on abortion. Kennedy was none too happy to have his Catholic faith called into question. A victim of wounded pride, Kennedy then issued a series of knee-jerk reactions. First, he maintained that his faith was private, a matter of his personal conscience, and that he was only looking out for the welfare of his constituents. He then asserted that his disagreement with the hierarchy “on some issues,” including abortion, did not diminish his status as a Catholic.

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