Beliefnet
The Deacon's Bench

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.

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