Patrick Kennedy Swings Back at Catholic Bishop Tobin Over Abortion Rebuke

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 11, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Patrick Kennedy Swings Back at Catholic Bishop Tobin Over Abortion Rebuke

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 11
, 2009

Providence, RI ( — Rep. Patrick Kennedy is swinging back at his Catholic bishop, who rebuked him for comments he made saying the Catholic Church is not pro-life because it opposes the health care bills over abortion funding. Bishop Thomas Tobin also criticized Kennedy for canceling a meeting to discuss the situation.

When Kennedy canceled, Bishop Tobin decided to write a letter for the local Catholic newspaper saying Kennedy’s pro-abortion stance puts him at odds with the Catholic Church.

Kennedy said he was "not going to dignify with an answer" Tobin’s assessment that Kennedy could not be a good Catholic and still support abortion.

In remarks to the Providence Journal newspaper, he called those comments "unfortunate," and said, "I’m not going to engage [in] this anymore."

He also said he found it "very disconcerting" that Bishop Tobin would not meet with him to have a private discussion of his pro-abortion views and Catholic faith, even though it appears Kennedy is the one to have postponed their planned meeting.

Kennedy tells the newspaper that he canceled the meeting because Tobin would not promise to keep any discussion of his views private.

"I had initially agreed to a meeting with him [Thursday], provided we would not debate this in public in terms of my personal faith, but unfortunately, he hasn’t kept to that agreement, and that’s very disconcerting to me," the congressman claimed.

Michael Guilfoyle, spokesman for the diocese, told the Journal that the meeting was postponed "by mutual agreement," but said Bishop Tobin would still welcome Kennedy.

"The bishop’s schedule is still free on Thursday if the congressman would like to have that personal and pastoral meeting," he said.

Guilfoyle also indicated that Bishop Tobin would keep the conversation private but still had an obligation to respond for the church on Kennedy’s public comments attacking it for opposing the pro-abortion health care bill and questioning its pro-life credentials.

"The contents between any personal conversation between the bishop and the congressman could certainly remain private. However, the congressman has made this a very public debate, and the bishop is responding to his public comments," he said.

Kennedy would not talk about whether Bishop Tobin had denied him communion or said he should refrain from receiving it.

Kennedy said, "Those are all a subject the bishop and I will discuss, and ideally, hopefully, we will keep it between us."

Guilfoyle told the Journal that any discussion of communion would have to be referred to Bishop Tobin.

Kennedy ultimately voted against the Stupak amendment to remove the abortion funding from the health care bill and subsequently voted for the bill.

As has reported, Kennedy told CNS News the Catholic Church is fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” by taking the position that it opposed the health care bills in Congress because of their abortion funding.

"You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they were pro-life?” he said.

Tobin called on Kennedy to issue an apology and said he is a "disappointment" because of his pro-abortion voting record.

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