The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Kennedy says he is barred from receiving communion — UPDATED

One of the most publicized standoffs in what’s been dubbed the “wafer wars” has reportedly escalated:

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.

There’s more at the link.

UPDATE: There’s more (or maybe less) to this. Bishop Tobin has just released a statement in response to Kennedy’s interview.

To wit:

I am disappointed and really surprised that Congressman Patrick Kennedy has chosen to reopen the public discussion about his practice of the faith and his reception of Holy Communion. This comes almost two weeks after the Congressman indicated to local media that he would no longer comment publicly on his faith or his relationship with the Catholic Church. The Congressman’s public comments require me to reply.

On February 21, 2007, I wrote to Congressman Kennedy stating: “In light of the Church’s clear teaching, and your consistent actions, therefore, I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.” My request came in light of the new statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that said, “If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definite teachings on moral issues, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.” (Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper, December, 2006)

In the same letter I wrote to Congressman Kennedy, “I am writing to you personally and confidentially as a pastor addressing a member of his flock … At the present time I have no need or intention to make this a public issue.” I also indicated, “I am available to discuss this matter with you in person at any mutually convenient time and place. I would welcome the opportunity to do so.”

On February 28, 2007, the Congressman responded to me, “I have the utmost respect for the work you do on behalf of the Catholic community in Rhode Island. . . I understand your pastoral advice was confidential in nature and given with the best intentions for my personal spiritual welfare.”

I am disappointed that the Congressman would make public my pastoral and confidential request of nearly three years ago that sought to provide solely for his spiritual well-being.

And that’s just for starters. There’s more of the statement at the link.

Comments read comments(29)
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posted November 22, 2009 at 9:15 am

feed the world; sell the Vatican

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R. W.

posted November 22, 2009 at 9:16 am

Reason enough to have the church lose tax exempt status. One more proof that there needs to be maintained a church-state barrier as noted in the constitution.

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kenneth earley

posted November 22, 2009 at 9:19 am

kennedy should know better, i praise the bishop’s decision!

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kenneth earley

posted November 22, 2009 at 9:28 am

feed the world with the billion;s of dollars spent on abortion’s!

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Rob the Rev

posted November 22, 2009 at 10:56 am

Why should he care? Roman Catholic mass is all a bunch of hocus-pocus transubstantiation superstition. Roman Catholics need to rise up against their autocratic hierarchical priesthood and stop supporting these parasites with their offerings, walk away from their church and let them play church with each other.
I heard Robert Kennedy Jr. this past Thursday evening at Central Michigan University who spoke to a packed crowd in Placta auditorium. He spoke against the federally subsidized and polluting-poisonous oil and coal industries that are bad for our environment and economy and for the green solar, wind, and geo-thermal energy technologies of the future that are good for our environment and economy. He also spoke against the industrial-farming corporations and for organic and free-range family farm. This is what spirituality is all about.

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Your Name

posted November 22, 2009 at 1:01 pm

R. W. writes: “Reason enough to have the church lose tax exempt status. One more proof that there needs to be maintained a church-state barrier . . .”
Are you kidding? A bishop instructs and admonishes an adherent in the tenets of his faith and it’s a violation of the First Amendment? Please tell us you’re kidding. Rep. Kennedy can worship abortion all he wants; he just can’t do it and say he is Catholic.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 1:32 pm

How arrogant the Roman Catholic Church has grown since 1960. When Jack Kennedy was campaigning aganist Nixon for the Presidency he was questioned by the citizens how he would lead the U.S. as a Catholic. He said, “I am not the Catholic for President, I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters—and the Catholic Church does not speak for me”.
Well now the R.C. speaks for a new Kennedy and they think for the entire United States of Americas citizens. At least Tobin does, and probably will be upheld by the Vatican Country in Europe. It has to stop and if it continues they will haave to take a back seat in some of the Charities, etc. they’ve received govenment monies to continue these Charities. They should also lose their tax exempt status.

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Chris Sullivan

posted November 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm

As much as I support the bishops’ concerns about the voting record of certain politicians, my problem with banning sinners from receiving Holy Communion is that it is not what Jesus did.
In fact, it is the opposite of what Jesus did.
Even though he knew that Judas had already agreed to betray him, Jesus invited Judas to the last supper where, according to Jesus’ quoting of the psalm “you who ate my bread”, Judas received Holy Communion. This is the interpretation of St Augustine and many others.
According to the missal, the words of Jesus were
“Take this, ALL OF YOU (ie including Judas), and eat of this for this is my body whch will be given for YOU (including Judas).”
“Take this, ALL OF YOU, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood do the new and eternal covenant, which will be pored out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
We should stick to the way of Jesus, which really does involve loving our enemies and feeding the hungry.
God Bless

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posted November 22, 2009 at 2:04 pm

The bishop should take the log out of his own eye before trying to remove the speck from Pat Kennedy’s eye. I think I read that from somewhere.

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ron chandonia

posted November 22, 2009 at 3:22 pm

The misnamed BELIEFnet seems to draw a cross-section of the audience to which Kennedy was playing when he portrayed himself as a martyr at the hands of the evil fetus-lovers. I have no doubt Bishop Tobin’s actions will cause plenty of eyes to roll among the NPR crowd, and his thoughtful clarification (dating the whole affair back to 2007) will go quite unremarked.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 4:21 pm

There are plenty of liberal churches that will acept anything goes.
A Kennedy included.

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Meredith Gould

posted November 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm

As a convert from Judaism who was called to the Catholic Church during adulthood, with each passing day I grow more appalled by the presumptive arrogance of (some) U.S. Catholic bishops. On a good day, it makes me want to dig in my heels and stay. I pray for good days.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I agree with Chris Sullivan. Let’s hear more from Congressman Kennedy and less from the Roman Catholic church.
I am enjoying your fathers book, “True Compass”, Patrick!

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posted November 22, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Greg, I miss your old site.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Let us not forget that Congressman Kennedy threw the first stone and turned a private matter into a public spectacle. The bishop was attempting to charitably clarify erroneous statements about the faith. It is his pastoral duty to provide clear teaching for his flock, of whom the congressman is a member.
I am saddened that most of the above commentors accept the theological teaching of an opportunistic politician over a bishop who was willing to submit himself to public ridicule for the sake of truth.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted November 22, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Me, too. You, me and almost all of my longtime readers.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Now that the full story has now come out…one in which Kennedy promised to keep the matter confidential and then lies about what he was or was not denied, I believe it is time for those who have bashed Bishop Tobin to apologize.
I don’t expect it to happen but you know it is the right thing to do.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 7:20 pm

The bishop should look to the Gospels as an example for how he should settle the matter…
Jesus’ take on the matter…
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 7:52 pm

The Catholic Church needs many, many more bishops like Bishop Tobin.
A Former Catholic

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posted November 22, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Since someone else said it, I’ll say it too: When you moved over here to Beliefnet I thought to myself “kiss of death.” It hasn’t ended up good for anyone Catholic to do so. The end result can only end up being like a Rod Dreher nightmare. Too many anti-God, anti-Christian, anti-Catholic trolls.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 8:54 pm

So when is the bishop going to deny Communion to anyone who supports the death peanlty?

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted November 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm

You’re comparing apples and oranges.
The Church does not teach that the death penalty is always intrinsically evil. One can, in conscience, support the death penalty and still conform to the teachings of the Church.
That cannot be said about abortion.
Dcn. G.

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Catholic Greta

posted November 22, 2009 at 10:21 pm

A great many Catholics are sending email support to Bishop Tobin and hoping that many more bishops start teaching the full truth of the Catholic Church. By Canon Law and in the Cathechism, we are taught that you are not to approach the Eucharist in the state of serious sin. Nothing has changed with Vatican II or anything else as far as I know in this area. To recieve our Lord when in the state of serious sin in fact creates a greater sin to the soul. I would like a Catholic to quote me something in Canon Law or in Church teaching in our Cathechism that states anything to contradict this? If one dies in the state of moral sin, they go to hell as far as I am aware. Again, would love to see something contradicting this statement. Of course there is our hope as sinners for the grace and love of our Lord to forgive even the greatest of sin and we will never know for certain I guess, but isn’t hell part of the teaching of all Christian Churchs? We seem to go our way as if it does not exist even while supposedly claiming to be a Christian. If the Bishop has any responsibility in life, I would rate making sure that his flock is aware of a major threat to their very soul. Bishop Tobin is saying that if you in public life influence the holocaust of 50 million dead infants, you are certainly in very serious trouble and presenting yourself for the Eucharist is increasing the likelihood of your danger of eternal damnation. That is his job. Just because the bishop have errored in their main role in the Church does not make the sin any less on the person involved. The Pope has stated very plainly that supporting abortion or those candidates who support abortion places the soul in serious danger and it is a non negotiable position of the church. Now you can take whatever other issues you want to try and soothe the conscience, but to do so they must rise above the issue of 50 million murdered babies. feeding and caring for the poor are clearly no match as is any move to find a way to bring more people free healthcare. Many now believe we fought WWII because of the evil in the world in Japan and Germany. Japan had the rape of nanking and many other attrocities. German had the holocaust of an estimated 6 million people, mostly Jews. America has the holocaust of 50 million innocent babies which make both look pale in comparison. The democratic party has been the front to keep abortion mills legal and running in this country for over 40 years which has produced this holocaust. Bishops should have been doing what tobin is doing now decades ago.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Over the years I have known, and admired, faithful Catholics who have refrained from receiving Communion because of divorce/remarriage situations. These are people who have patiently gone through the annulment process, in good faith, and while waiting for the annulment decision, they have gone to Mass each week (sometimes each day) and not taken Communion. The ones who are parents have done their best to raise their children in the Catholic faith.
If these folks can refrain from receiving Communion while doing their very best to restore their standing of being “in Communion” with the Church, then these politicians who aren’t even trying certainly can, too.

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posted November 23, 2009 at 5:55 am

If a politician, as a matter of public policy, based on he law of the land, disagrees with pro-life issue #1 but supports #2-10, he should be denied communion, but if another politician supports pro-life issue #1, even if only in public, and disagress with church doctrine on #2-10, he not only get communion, but he gets a fee ride and the political support of the Catholic church?

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted November 23, 2009 at 6:46 am

Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, put it this way:
1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” nos. 81, 83).
2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a “grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. […] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’” (no. 73). Christians have a “grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. […] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it” (no. 74).
3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. [Emphasis mine — ed.] For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
There’s much more. You can read the rest here.
Dcn. G.

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Charley R

posted November 23, 2009 at 8:38 am

The Kennedy’s have long claimed to be Catholic…but are only Catholic in name. They divorce, murder Mary Jo, and even more devisive lead the country down a primrose rose path of socialism, that they won’t have to follow because of their wealth!
Money truly is the root of all evil! The Kennedy’s epitomize this
saying, “Do as I say…not as I do!”
Thankfully Teddy has finally cured his alcohalism!

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posted November 23, 2009 at 10:11 am

Since the earliest centuries of the Church (ie: St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology) the Church has invited to partake of Holy Communion only those who embrace what the Church teaches and live by it. The bishop is the pastor of his diocese, “Where the bishop is, there is the Catholic Church,” said St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107). It is not only the right, but the sacred duty of Bishop Tobin to counsel Mr. Kennedy regarding his erroneous “take” on Catholic faith (ie: his being just as Catholic as anyone regardless of his refusal to accept central articles of Catholic morality) and his position within the Catholic communion. Bishop Tobin has done this and, based on the correspondence that has been made public, has done so with admirable respect and restraint.
Mr. Kennedy is a public figure who has chosen to make public his disagreements with Bishop Tobin and to make public his own “take” on Catholicism. Because of his responsibilities to all of the faithful of his diocese, Bishop Tobin’s hand has been forced, and he has been required to respond publicly to Mr. Kennedy’s public statements, lest any Catholic be confused or be led into misunderstanding about the Church’s teachings on these critical matters.
The MSM’s reporting on this matter reflects the usual lack of sophistication and laziness of many journalists when it comes to reporting on religion. They often don’t have all of the facts, they often don’t understand the facts they do have, they avoid investigating such matters beyond a surface level, and they are of a mind to interpret everything, even spiritual matters, in political terms of right and left, conservative and liberal. Consequently, those who rely on the MSM for their information on things Catholic often see these sort of conflicts in just those terms.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 1:59 am

Deacon- I second Hootie’s point. The point is, Pope Benedict grew up in Western Europe. Pro life issues 2-10 have already been resolved there-universal health care, a strong social safety net, strong labor unions, no capital punishment. So, they can focus on abortion-which is still legal in most of Western Europe.
In the US, we still need to get to the church’s position on prolife issues 2-10.
We have created a culture of death-outrageous health care, child poverty, immigration, the gap between rich and poor, the Republicans war on Iraq, the list is long. But, these are all public policy areas. The bishops and the pope should be pushing our Congress to fix prolife issues 2-10.
Abortion, on the other hand, is a matter of private morality-no human law could end abortion. But human laws can create a culture of life, which would make abortion a much less attractive choice.
In the 36 years since the Roe decision, there has been no successful attempt to overturn it. No Congress since Carter’s administration has even offered a Constitutional Amendment.
So, Hootie, you are right that the institutional church is calling on politicians not to do something, but just to say Abortion should be illegal. It’s sad that the bishops are so easily manipulated.

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