Catholic Bishop: Patrick Kennedy Misrepresenting Letter on Communion, Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishop: Patrick Kennedy Misrepresenting Letter on Communion, Abortion

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 23
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a pro-abortion member from Rhode Island, says Bishop Thomas Tobin has asked him to stop receiving communion because of his pro-abortion views. However, Tobin says the demand was merely a voluntary request that was issued two years ago and meant to be private.

“The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion,” Kennedy told the Providence Journal newspaper on Saturday.

Kennedy said the bishop explained to him “that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official,” in support of abortion.

He would not say when Tobin made the decision or whether he has followed the instruction not to receive communion but added that he has “personal feelings of disappointment” about the decision.

On Sunday, Tobin disputed that Kennedy was told not to receive communion but said the pro-abortion congressman was asked if he would agree to voluntarily stop receiving it because of his pro-abortion views.

Tobin also revealed that the request was not a recent one but came in the form of a letter to Kennedy back in 2007.

In comments to the Journal, Tobin called the letter a “pastoral” message and said it was “absolutely inaccurate” for Kennedy to say that he told priests in the diocese to not allow him to receive the sacrament.

“If I had told 300 priests of the diocese in any format not to give Communion to Kennedy or anybody else, you think that would have remained confidential?” Bishop Tobin asked.

“If he took it as an instruction, so be it, but it was really a request,” Bishop Tobin said, releasing part of the February 2007 letter he wrote.

Tobin said he was disappointed Kennedy decided "to break open" what was a private letter.

“My correspondence with him was nearly three years ago — and I think it’s important to stress that — [and] was intended to be personal and confidential and pastoral,” the bishop said. “It was never intended for the public domain.”

“I’m not picking on Patrick Kennedy,” Tobin added. “I’m responding to things Patrick Kennedy has said. In each case, he has started the dialogue and in each case I have responded to him.”

Tobin said he “presumed” that Kennedy had voluntarily stopped receiving communion but he had no way of verifying that. Kennedy has said he continues to receive the sacrament but did not provide details to the newspaper.

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.

Tobin also criticized Kennedy for canceling a meeting to discuss the situation and 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 returned the exchange saying 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 at the time, he called those comments "unfortunate," and said, "I’m not going to engage [in] this anymore."

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