Rep. Patrick Kennedy chooses abortion over Communion…

Sunday, Solemnity of Christ the King…

From the Providence Journal:

WASHINGTON — Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has forbidden Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy to receive the Roman Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion because of his advocacy of abortion rights, the Rhode Island Democrat said Friday.

“The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion,” Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty by telling him “that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official,” particularly on abortion. He declined to say when or how Bishop Tobin told him not to take the sacrament. And he declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop’s injunction.

Bishop Tobin, through a spokesman, declined to address the question of whether he had told Kennedy not to receive Communion. But the bishop’s office moved quickly to cast doubt on Kennedy’s related assertion about instructions to the priests of Rhode Island.

“Bishop Tobin has never addressed matters relative to public officials receiving Holy Communion with pastors of the diocese,” spokesman Michael K. Guilfoyle said in an e-mailed statement.

This latest exchange between Bishop Tobin and Kennedy, the only remaining public official in the nation’s most prominent Catholic family, escalates their heated public debate over how the eight-term congressman’s work for abortion rights bears on his standing in the church.

Their dispute comes against the backdrop of the national debate about whether U.S. taxpayers should subsidize abortions in the new health-care system that President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress have labored for months to create.

The episode adds another volatile element to a highly emotional dispute that has complicated Mr. Obama’s pursuit of his top legislative priority.

For Catholics, the debate could scarcely be more visceral. The church holds that abortion is a taking of human life that is intrinsically evil. Exclusion from the Holy Eucharist — bread that the faithful believe to have been transformed into the body of Christ — is a rare and serious penalty to impose on any Catholic.

Over the past few weeks, Kennedy and Bishop Tobin have shown glimpses of their dealings in piecemeal fashion, revealing only a sketchy picture of the congressman’s status as a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

In an October interview about the opposition of the nation’s bishops to any health-care overhaul that did not include a strict ban on federal subsidies for abortion, Kennedy called into question the “pro-life” credentials of the churchmen. Health care for millions of uninsured is at stake, he said. Bishop Tobin shot back with a sharply worded statement, noting that the bishops are staunch and longtime supporters of reforming the health-care system. He said, however, that the bishops will not support a health-care bill that fails to include a ban on taxpayer subsidy of the procedure.

The exchange, via open letters and interviews, has continued, with Bishop Tobin pointedly suggesting that “obstinate” opposition to church doctrine on abortion should cause a Catholic public official to reconsider his membership in the church.

On Friday, in response to questions from a reporter, Kennedy asserted that Bishop Tobin had told him not to receive Communion. But like the bishop, Kennedy withheld key details about their discussions.

Asked how he reacted as a Catholic, Kennedy would say only that he has “personal feelings of disappointment” about the matter, but he declined to elaborate.

For his part, the bishop declined to be interviewed. Spokesman Guilfoyle said in an e-mail: “Bishop Tobin has nothing more to add to the current discussion for the time being. Any previous correspondence or conversations between the Bishop and the congressman is still considered private at this time.”

While the teachings of the church and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are clear on abortion, there is much disagreement on the issue of whether Catholic legislators should be penalized for action contrary to the doctrine.

“The vast majority of bishops don’t want people denied Communion” over the abortion issue, said Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit scholar at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington. “But the problem is, every time an individual bishop does it — especially if the public official has a high-profile name like Kennedy — it’s going to make headlines across the country and every bishop is going to suffer because of it,” Father Reese said.

Because every bishop has wide latitude in his own diocese, the controversy between Kennedy and Bishop Tobin is likely to be greeted with silence from other bishops — even if most would disagree with action to deny Communion to a Catholic legislator, according to Father Reese.

“We don’t comment on the individual actions of bishops because they are authoritative in their own dioceses,” said Deirdre McQuade, of the bishops conference, when asked about the exchanges between Kennedy and Bishop Tobin.

For the policy of the bishops conference, McQuade referred to a 2006 writing on how a Catholic maintains his or her worthiness to take Communion. If a Catholic were “knowingly and obstinately to repudiate … definitive teaching on moral issues,” the document says in part, then receiving Communion “would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.”

Orders by bishops to deny Communion to Catholic public officials are very unusual but not unprecedented. In 2003, another prominent Catholic Democrat with a mixed voting record on abortion, Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, was admonished not to take Communion in his congressional district by Bishop Raymond Burke of LaCrosse.

Spokeswoman McQuade said the bishops conference could not give a count of how many times bishops have actually denied Communion to government officials. But a review of news accounts of the past two decades suggests that public impositions of the penalty are very uncommon. These are among the high-profile instances in contemporaneous news stories: a Sacramento bishop told Gray Davis not to take Communion when he was Democratic governor of California in 2003; in 2004, then-Gov. James McGreevey, of New Jersey, complied with the admonitions of three of the state’s bishops that he not take Communion.

Scholar Reese said the bishops have debated in previous years the issue of whether they should step beyond such appeals to the individual Catholic’s conscience. The context for the debate was the 2004 presidential candidacy of Sen. John F. Kerry, a Catholic Democrat from Massachusetts who supports abortion rights. Father Reese said fewer than 20 bishops supported a policy of denying Communion to such officials.

Early in that presidential campaign, Burke, who had become archbishop of St. Louis, told reporters that if Kerry were to approach him at a Mass in Missouri, “I would have to admonish him not to present himself for Communion.”

Last month, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Burke to the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops, a powerful body that helps the pontiff to select the world’s bishops. He also sits on the highest court of Catholic canon law.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, once urged Catholic officials who support abortion rights to refrain from Communion. But the newspaper said Cardinal O’Malley did not order Boston priests to deny them the sacrament. Kerry and the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Patrick Kennedy’s father and another supporter of abortion rights) both received Communion at Cardinal O’Malley’s installation as archbishop in 2003.

In 2004, a large majority of bishops “tried to persuade the minority not to do this — using Communion as a weapon,” Father Reese said, but the conference could not come to a consensus view on the issue.

Father Reese stressed that withholding Communion is not as grave a penalty as excommunication, which separates a Catholic from all the sacraments. If a bishop denies Communion to a Catholic, he or she “is still a Catholic,” Father Reese said. Indeed, he said “it would take a canon lawyer” to say whether a Catholic denied Communion in his own diocese would be free to receive Communion elsewhere.

With reports from Journal Staff Writer Karen Lee Ziner.


8 thoughts on “Rep. Patrick Kennedy chooses abortion over Communion…”

    1. Stillhere4u, It seems to me, neither you nor the post you reccomended,have a good understanding of Church Teaching. Those who receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, while promoting what is intrinsically evil, bring condemnation upon themselves. By asking known abortion promoters not to come to receive Jesus, is asking them not to add one sin upon another; it is pastoral compassion. SIN is one thing we do not talk much about today. By receiving what is Holy, Jesus, while choosing to say Yes to killing the children the Father of Jesus created, is incompatible with the teaching of Jesus and His Church.
      I do not look to the dissenting Fr. Thomas Reese nor National Catholic Reporter to find Catholic Truth. Fr. Reese was asked by the Vatican to leave as editor of America magazine because his views and that of the magazine were not in conformiity with Church teaching. I believe Fr. Reese understates the number of bishops who have talked with public officials. He has his own agenda me thinks.
      Because what Bishop Tobin says does not tickle the ears of Cafeteria Catholics, does not mean he should be discredited, but esteemed; he is following Canon Law. John the Baptist was beheaded because the Truth he spoke did not tickle the ears of Herods wife. Jesus was crucified because he followed the will of His Father speaking out against sin. He did not come to placate and please, but to speak Truth which many did not like. Those who speak up for Truth will be persecuted. Amen, Amen to Bishop Tobin, Archbishop Burke, and all Bishops not afraid to stand up for what Jesus and His Church teaches.

      1. “Those who receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, while promoting what is intrinsically evil, bring condemnation upon themselves.”

        I have to chuckle a little here. Bishop Toobin needs to look at him self. Last I checked it was a grave sin to alter early christian tradition which he condones by supporting his version of what the church teaches on abortion. And two it is also a grave sin to dicipline someone for show to force them to act as you want.

        Based on Toobin’s actions he should voluntarilly refuse communion to himself. So should Archbishop Burke and the rest.

        What the bishops are teaching is not what was written. First there are exceptions to abortion — which is why Kennedy was not excommunicated the exceptions apply. Second Humanae Vitae its self may be in error because it alters early christian tradition. Third no where does it say that that someone who neither performed an abortion nor recieved on nor suggested someone get one committed a grave sin.

        These bishops need to look at their own sins before trying to solve other people sin’s.

        1. The Bishops are teachers of the faith… And, in fact, according to succession, Apostles. Plus, you know full well that early Christians condemned abortion…

          As for the sin of omission:

          CCC 1853 Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man.”128 But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds.


    2. stillhere4u–

      The only conflict of interest is the destruction of flesh and blood (children) created in the image and likeness of God; It’s the responsibility of the earthly mediator (Bishop Tobin) to help Mr. Kennedy refocus his life on the higher purpose Who happens to be God Almighty, the Umpire, before PK is called out at the plate for all eternity… The Higher Purpose also says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And one of those, of course, is, “Thou Shall Not Kill.” As this post rightly claims, Mr. Kennedy has chosen abortion over Communion with God.

      Denial of Holy Communion is a foretaste of the horrifying prospect of supernatural separation from the Creator forever, and meant to help PK realize this most serious danger…

      The Bishop has banned PK from the Sacrament of Love temporarily on earth with the hope he repents from such mortal sin so as to enjoy Eternal Love forever… An act of justice espoused to mercy.

      Hope this helps.

  1. The politician and bishop are both in my prayers. I’m just glad I found a blog where there are some people making sense. Whoa, the anti-Catholicism is really coming out of the woodwork over this one.

    There are some really confused people who think the Church should change her teaching on abortion because we are a “tolerant” society. Hmm, killing unborn children is tolerant?

    I admire our Roman Catholic bishops for what they are doing. May God give them the strength and courage to continue.

  2. The official intent which has not been altered or declared in error is that abortion is a grave sin if you either provide directly or recieve directly an abortion. There have been many bishops that have been corrected by the vatican when the actually excommunicate instead of refuse communion when there was no direct involvement. To add to the confusion there are exceptions to the rule if the following are met(comes from the princple of double effect applies to all sin even abortion):

    1) That the negative effects are not sought, and all reasonable efforts are made to avoid them.
    2) That the direct effect is positive.
    3) That the negative effect is not made a means to obtain the positive effect.
    4) That the positive effect is at least as important as the negative effect.

    Most D&C proceedures hit these four. Especially an abortion for an etopic pregancy.

    Because of this I’m inclined to believe Kennedy has done nothing wrong. The idea that one committs a grave sin if he/she supports the idea of choice is not what is written.
    Now if there was proof that he gave an abortion or directly counciled someone to have one thats different — and its not what he was acused of.

    There is a definate difference between what Toobin and Burke teach and what the bible, the catechism, the canon, and the encyclials say. You could go further that by not telling woman about the exceptons to abortion that Toobin nd Burke potentially can sin gravely if any woman dies from not getting an abortion when a D&C would have saved her life.

    I urge all catholics to look this stuff up instead of just repeating what their priest or bishop said. What is said is not always church teaching.

    And I pray that you publish this comment. Unpublishing it or deleting it does not remove its truth.

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