Sunday, November 22, 2009

Report: Patrick Kennedy barred from communion by bishop

Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin, is...
Photo by AP (File)

Update [Bishop Tobin responds to Kennedy]: It appears that this happened in 2007, the original AP article from today didn't make that clear. The Bishop's response below:

Bishop Tobin responds to Kennedy

Dispute about receiving communion

Updated: Sunday, 22 Nov 2009, 10:57 AM EST
Published : Sunday, 22 Nov 2009, 10:41 AM EST

Stephanie Lane

Bishop Tobin says:

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..."

By Associated Press
Sunday, November 22, 2009

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rep. Patrick Kennedy says Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin has barred him from receiving communion because of his support of abortion rights.

The Providence Journal reports on its Web site Sunday that Kennedy said in an interview that Tobin issued the order during discussions with the Democratic lawmaker, further escalating a simmering ideological dispute between the two men.

Under church rules, Tobin can prevent Kennedy from receiving communion within his diocese, which covers Rhode Island. It’s unclear whether bishops outside Rhode Island will take the same path.

The dispute between the men began when Kennedy criticized the nation’s Catholic bishops for threatening to oppose an overhaul of the health care system unless it included tighter restrictions on publicly financed abortion. Tobin asked for an apology and questioned Kennedy’s faith.

Link 1, 2


Kennedy: Barred from Communion

“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....

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...


Card McCarrick Downplays Ratzinger Letter on Denying Holy Communion
Sept 12, 2004

Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick downplayed a letter to the U.S. Catholic bishops from the Vatican's chief doctrinal watchdog on whether priests should refuse Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians.

(The Washington Times, 7 July 2004) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent his letter in early June to Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the context of dealing with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic whose positions on several issues, including abortion, contradict church teachings.

But its full text, which was published Saturday in the Italian newspaper L'Expresso, contains much stronger language than Cardinal McCarrick used last month at a meeting of the country's Catholic bishops near Denver.

Cardinal McCarrick's nuanced speech during the meeting from June 14 to 19 paraphrased the Ratzinger letter to say that the Vatican had left the issue of Communion in the hands of the U.S. bishops.

As the chairman of a task force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, it was his job to convey what Vatican officials had told him during meetings in Rome.

"I would emphasize that Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders WHETHER to pursue this path" of denying Communion, Cardinal McCarrick told the bishops in his speech, the text of which is posted at the U.S. bishops' Web site, on

"The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent," the cardinal said.

As a result, bishops voted 183-6 on a compromise statement allowing each bishop to decide whether to give Communion to pro-choice politicians.

Before the meeting, 15 bishops had released statements suggesting that pro-choice politicians refrain from taking the Eucharist, and four bishops forbade such politicians from doing so.

However, the Ratzinger letter says that denial of Communion is obligatory "regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia."

Cardinal Ratzinger also says a priest should warn "the person in question" of the consequences, including the denial of Communion.

If "the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it," Cardinal Ratzinger wrote.

The letter's last paragraph also takes on Catholics who vote for candidates because of their pro-choice stance.

"If he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia," that Catholic too "would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion," it reads.

That statement supports Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan, who on May 1 sent out a letter to his diocese saying Catholics who vote for candidates who support abortion, stem-cell research or euthanasia also should not take Communion.

But Catholics who vote for that politician on other grounds should not be penalized, the Ratzinger letter adds.

"Ratzinger's letter was stronger and firmer than we were led to believe," said Michael Novak, a Catholic theologian and author of many books on the church, who is in Italy this week. "It's pretty dynamite stuff."

Before leaving for Italy, he had heard of "dissatisfaction" in Rome over how Cardinal McCarrick was representing the church's teachings.

"I had heard Rome was much tougher than Cardinal McCarrick was letting on," he said. "Some people in the Vatican were upset that McCarrick was putting on too kind a face on it."

Cardinal McCarrick was out of town yesterday, but a spokeswoman released a statement saying he had not read L'Expresso reporter Sandro Magister's report on the letter.

"From what I have heard, it may represent an incomplete and partial leak of a private communication from Cardinal Ratzinger, and it may not accurately reflect the full message I received," the cardinal said.

"Our task force's dialogue with the Holy See on these matters has been extensive, in person, by phone and in writing. I should note I was specifically requested by the cardinal not to publish his written materials, and I will honor that request."

Raymond Flynn, the ambassador to the Vatican from 1993 to 1997, said American prelates often downplay the Vatican's instructions.

"The American church has been reluctant to speak out forcefully on a lot of these issues, whereas Pope John Paul II has instructed the Catholic Church to be more assertive," said Mr. Flynn, a conservative Democrat and former mayor of Boston.

"A lot of these American bishops aren't willing to get involved because of the backlash, because it's not politically correct, and the criticism they will receive from the liberal media," he said.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Good for Bishop Tobin for standing up for The Faith. The Church ain't Burger King. You can't have it your way.