Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin has publicly asked Rep. Patrick Kennedy to stop taking communion with the Catholic Church due to his support for abortion, confirming that he asked Kennedy to refrain from communion in a private discussion in 2007. The confrontation became public after Kennedy revealed the 2007 conversation. The move could embolden other bishops in barring public officials from the sacrament, particularly in light of the health bill’s protection of abortion services.
Kennedy touched off the public spat in an interview with the Providence Journal when he revealed Tobin’s ban due “the positions that I’ve taken as a public official.” Tobin was clearly upset about the disclosure, stating that it was “pastoral and confidential.” He stated “I am disappointed that the congressman would make public my request of nearly three years ago that sought to provide solely for his spiritual well-being.” While Tobin may feel that he has caused to ban Kennedy, I find it a bit curious that he would first ban a man for his public positions and then be angry that Kennedy publicly discussed the ban with his voters. If the cause for the ban was Kennedy’s public work, he was more than within his rights to raise it with his voters and fellow Catholics.
The bishop is promising more public exchanges if Kennedy continues to speak out: “I have no desire to continue the discussion of Congressman Kennedy’s spiritual life in public. At the same time, I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever he attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the church or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry.”
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