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Claire McCaskill could possibly join John Kerry and Patrick Kennedy as a victim of heavy-handed efforts at intimidation by Church functionaries. Anti-abortion fanatic Randall Terry’s Operation Rescue, recently renamed Insurrecta Nex, held a press conference in St. Louis today calling for Archbishop Carlson to deny communion to McCaskill if she “defies” the Catholic Church with her vote on health care:

Archbishop Carlson should publicly warn Senator McCaskill that if she votes for healthcare reform that includes one penny towards child-killing by abortion that she will be denied communion in every parish in this diocese.

According to a radio report, Carlson is out of town and unable to comment. McCaskill responded to the attempt at extortion by pointing out that the issue is moot since she has not taken communion since her divorce.

While it may be an act of conscience for a priest to privately deny communion to an individual for violating church teachings, a public announcement of such an action, with the intention of influencing a politician’s vote, constitutes an overt attempt on the part of the Church to control our political life. Consequently, it will be interesting to see how or if Carlson responds to this public call.

When I was a child, I remember a teacher I had who said that it was too risky to vote for John Kennedy, because, if he were a good man and a good Catholic, he would always be susceptible to Church control, an intolerable situation for a diverse American citizenry. Kennedy’s devotion to constitutional values proved her wrong – but the recent actions of the American Catholic hierarchy may, unfortunately, relegitimize such concerns.  

UPDATE: More of McCaskill’s response over the fold (via the Springfield News-Leader):

Just in case you have forgotten how good McCaskill can be when she is in good form:

She said when she entered the church as an adult and had a candid conversation with the then-bishop of Kansas City, he told her that these matters were “between you and God.”

She said she will pray about it, and vote her conscience, adding that she is “not looking for a confrontation on this issue.”

“I pray that the Catholic bishops will focus on the millions of people who are ill and hurting that need our help,” she said. “That was a very clear message from the Gospel. Jesus spent more time talking about the poor and the sick than many of the issues the bishops seem to focus on these days. I pray they will focus on those issues as we move forward in this debate.”