Friday, November 13, 2009

Rep. Patrick Kennedy declines to respond to bishop on abortion issue

By Karen Lee Ziner

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy said he was “not going to dignify with an answer” Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s public comments that Kennedy could not be a good Catholic and still support abortion rights. Kennedy called those comments “unfortunate,” and said, “I’m not going to engage [in] this anymore...”

Kennedy said he also finds it “very disconcerting” that Bishop Tobin will not agree to keep private the discussion of Kennedy’s faith, and that is why his scheduled meeting with the bishop Thursday has been postponed.

In his letter, Bishop Tobin said he was not sure whether Kennedy fulfills “the basic requirements of being a Catholic,” and said that Catholicism involves much more than being baptized into the faith, family ties or cultural heritage. He called Kennedy’s “rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion … a deliberate and obstinate act of the will: a conscious decision that you’ve reaffirmed on many occasions,” and a position that is “unacceptable to the Church, and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.”

Bishop Tobin requested that Kennedy “enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance,” and offered to help Kennedy as he “travels the road of faith.”

Kennedy said yesterday that he has a pastor, and “I have my sacraments through that pastor. I have sought the sacraments of reconciliation and Communion and all the rest.” He said he preferred to keep his pastor’s name private...

Michael Guilfoyle, spokesman for the diocese, said the meeting was postponed “by mutual agreement,” but noted, “The bishop’s schedule is still free on Thursday if the congressman would like to have that personal and pastoral meeting. 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...”

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