Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D, R.I.), Ted Kennedy’s son and a Roman Catholic, says Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin has instructed him not to take Holy Communion because Kennedy supports abortion rights in violation of church teachings. Bishop Tobin said he is “disappointed and really surprised” that Kennedy made the 2007 request public now. The spat is part of the Catholic bishops’ hardball lobbying on health care legislation. Is the Catholic Church getting too involved in politics? (Watch a local report about tension between Rep. Patrick Kennedy and the Catholic Church)
Rules are rules: As a cradle Catholic whose personal beliefs no longer line up with the church, says Marie Anne St. Jean in Associated Content, I say: Go Tobin. The Catholic Church says "abortion is murder, therefore a mortal sin." Patrick Kennedy can't support abortion and "claim to be a good, practicing Catholic.” “Kennedy denied Communion—Catholic Church takes a stand”
The church doesn't enforce all rules equally: Yes, "it’s their clubhouse and rules are rules," says Peter Scheer in TruthDig. But that only seems to apply to pro-choice Catholic politicians like Kennedy and John Kerry. Those who stray from the church by supporting the death penalty, cutting poverty programs, or by coveting "thy neighbors’ wives" are welcome to take Communion.
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This is part of a larger debate: The Kennedy-Tobin standoff is only the most “contentious” dispute arising from the Catholic bishops’ recent lobbying on health care, says Jeanne Cummings in Politico. And the church won this round—its “classic lobbying operation,” including paid lobbyists and outreach to the 30 percent of Congress that’s Catholic, resulted in restrictive abortion language in the House version of the bill already.
Everybody loses in the Kennedy-Tobin fight: The Catholic bishops’ “major victory” on abortion in the House bill, says Niall O’Dowd in Irish Central, is exactly why Tobin’s denying Kennedy Communion “is a step too far.” Dialogue, not confrontation, is the only way forward with this “complex and incredibly emotional issue.”
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