Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)… time to make a choice!

In an AP story we read about the next step in the Catholic Church’s reclamation of the public square.

We have read about Bp. Tobin of Providence and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) before.

My emphases and comments.

RI bishop asked Kennedy in 2007 to avoid Communion  

By RAY HENRY, Associated Press Writer Ray Henry, Associated Press Writer   – 46 mins ago

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Roman Catholic bishop of Rhode Island said Sunday that he asked Rep. Patrick Kennedy in a 2007 letter [!] to stop receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, because of the congressman’s public stance on moral issues.

Bishop Thomas Tobin divulged details of his confidential exchange with Kennedy after the Democratic lawmaker told The Providence Journal in a story published Sunday that Tobin had instructed him not to receive Communion. The two men have clashed repeatedly in the past few weeks over abortion.

Kennedy did not say where or how he received those instructions. He declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop’s request.

"The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion," Kennedy told the paper in an interview conducted Friday.  [Those are two very different things, though they are united in the same principle.  I heard Card. Arinze respond to a query about this matter during a press conference that "If Communion should not be received, it should not be given."  However, this is Kennedy saying that the priests were told not to give him Communion.  Read on!]

Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty [As far as we know, Kennedy has not been formally excommunicated.] 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.

Tobin said in a statement Sunday that he "has never addressed matters relative to public officials receiving Holy Communion with pastors of the diocese."  [So, Bp. Tobin says he didn’t instruct priests.  So, what happened here?  Is Kennedy just getting it wrong, or is is purposely getting it wrong?  You would think that if Communion was important to him, he would get the facts right.  Am I wrong?]

The outspoken prelate and Kennedy, a son of the nation’s most famous Roman Catholic family, have feuded since Kennedy in an interview last month criticized Roman Catholic church leaders for threatening to oppose an overhaul of the nation’s health care system unless it included tighter restrictions on abortion.

Kennedy voted against an amendment tightening abortion restrictions that was sought by the bishops. But he voted in favor of a health care plan that included the amendment he opposed.

Tobin urged Kennedy not to receive communion in a February 2007 letter, a portion of which was released publicly by Tobin’s office Sunday[Moving closer and closer…]

"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," Tobin wrote.

It was not immediately clear whether Tobin and Kennedy spoke further about the request. Kennedy spokeswoman Kerrie Bennett did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the letter.

Tobin, the spiritual leader of Roman Catholics in Rhode Island, the nation’s most heavily Catholic state, demanded an apology from Kennedy after the congressman criticized church leaders who opposed universal health care unless the plans included more restrictions on abortions. He also requested a meeting with Kennedy.

"While I greatly respect the Catholic Church and its leaders, like many Rhode Islanders, the fact that I disagree with the hierarchy of the church on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic," Kennedy wrote in a letter to Tobin, agreeing to a sitdown. "I embrace my faith which acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.[And that is supposed to win him points?]

Their meeting fell apart. While Tobin called it a mutual decision, Kennedy accused Tobin of failing to abide by an agreement to stop discussing the congressman’s faith publicly.

Tobin followed up with a biting public letter published in a diocesan newspaper.

"Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an ‘imperfect humanity.’ Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your Communion with the Church," Tobin wrote.

Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl said officials with the archdiocese didn’t know whether Kennedy attends Mass in the nation’s capital. Anyone who does not believe in core Catholic teachings would be asked not to come forward for Communion, she said. Church leaders continue teaching and counseling those individuals, Gibbs said.

As for Kennedy, Gibbs said "we have not barred anyone from receiving Communion[Yes, indeed… you haven’t.]

"We don’t know of his worship habits," she said. "Most legislators return home on the weekends."


Associated Press Writer Brett Zongker contributed to this report from Washington.

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  1. Kerry says:

    “…the nation’s most famous Roman Catholic (sic.?) family…” Heh. As reported upon by the nation’s most scrupulous, trustworthy, honest, integritous, fair minded, factual, unbiased news outfit, AP.(sick ’em!)

  2. The Egyptian says:

    Yes, Patrick, paybacks are HELL, way to bish, Bishop Tobin, keep it up and God Bless

  3. JohnMa says:

    The question is just when he will be excommunicated now, not if. I firmly believe Bishop Tobin is just laying the groundwork for such action. Seeing as how he started in 2007 excommunication can’t be too far off. Maybe a matter of months, if not weeks.

  4. Dan G. says:

    Don’t miss this statement from Bishop Tobin, which fills in a couple more holes in the story you posted:

  5. Jackie L says:

    I don’t think its any coincidence Kennedy waited until the anniversary of JFK’s death to go public with this. He’s up to something.

  6. ChristopherY says:

    In an earlier version of this article the AP described the Bishop as being “ultra-orthodox” as if it were a bad thing. Can you imagine if their bias were the other way around and Kennedy was a “lukewarm cafeteria-Catholic.” Well, I guess we have to pray for him.

  7. FrCharles says:

    Good for you, Excellency! I hope someone points out the many Catholics like us WDTPRSers who want to give bishops like Tobin every support and thank God for their good example. Bishop Tobin was the head of the apostolic visitation team that came to us at the former Weston Jesuit. He made a good impression then, as now.

  8. Father, are any of your readers finding this matter hard to follow? I am. Within the last few months, Patrick Kennedy’s father, Senator Ted Kennedy, was practically canonized by having TWO CARDINALS assist at his funeral: Cdl O’Malley was in attendance in the basilica in Massachusetts, and Cdl. McCarrick presided over the graveside services at Arlington National Cemetery. Yet his father voted consistently for pro-abortion legislation for YEARS as well as pro-sodomite “marriage”. Is Bishop Tobin in the same Church as Cdls O’Malley and McCarrick? Should these two Cdls. refrain from taking Holy Communion themselves? Does the Church provide an umpire or a referee to adjudicate these differences? Do you think that the New Mass Translations recently approved by the USCCB would be helpful. Please give me some direction. Thank you.

  9. rinkevichjm says:

    Maybe Catholics would start getting properly informed consciences if some of the so called Catholic leaders who support abortion were put under interdict. It might be worth a try…

  10. GordonB says:

    I really hope the next chapter in this saga is Kennedy’s announcement that he repudiates this support for abortion rights. Wouldn’t that be a joyful moment?

  11. Central Valley says:

    Thank God for bishop Tobin. Here in California we suffer, as to our knowledge no current California bishop has had the faith and the love to do this. Instead the Mohonys, Browns and Steinbocks continue as is and only to cause scandel in the pews.

  12. Central Valley says:

    This is a test of devotion to faith or devotion to party.

  13. Dr. Eric says:

    Winter is coming, will we see Rep. Kennedy standing barefoot in the snow outside the bishop’s window begging for forgiveness?

  14. marinaio says:

    When are the Bishops going to stop these games with these dissidents? Excommunicate them and restore some respect to the Church in America. If they ever decide to become true Catholics we will all be delighted to welcome them back.

  15. wmeyer says:

    Of course, it’s a bit of hypocrisy asking the Bishop not to publicly discuss his faith, when Kennedy makes use of it for political capital.

  16. Roland de Chanson says:

    What Bishop Tobin is apparently doing is creating a new penalty in canon law called “excommunication lite.” As the penalty’s effect is confined to the geographically picayune and politically jejune state of Rhode Island, it is hard to see it as a clarion call for a mass crackdown on insubordinate Catholic solons. What does Tobin think to accomplish besides disenfranchising Catholic legislators?

    Will he bring his inquisitorial gavel down upon divorced and remarried Catholics, women who have had abortions and men who have procured them, perhaps even a few crypto-Montanists, who receive Communion of a sunny Sunday morning, with nary a squeak from him or any other prelate.

    Granted that the maladroit Kennedy should have kept his mouth shut and not picked a fight with the hierarchy. But cui bono this episcopal chest-thumping from the boondocks of Rhode Island when the vast majority of the nation’s episcopate refused to censure Notre Dame and its president for bestowing public honors on Obama, the ex officio arch-abortionist? Patches’ father received “canonization lite” from two cardinals of the Church, McCarrick and O’Malley, the latter holding his office because his predecessor was forced to resign his see in disgrace. (Disgrace? Only if the archpresbyterate of a papal basilica can be called a disgrace.)

    Tobin is attempting to play fast and loose with canon law. If he wants to excommunicate Kennedy, let him have the fortitude to do it. If not, well, the very public Kennedy-Tobin certamen micturitionis is amusing at best and unseemly at worst. Both should cease their shadow-boxing and retire to their respective corners. Leave the ring to more stalwart contenders. I’d pay to see a Pelosi-Niederauer bout.

  17. bookworm says:

    “Will he bring his inquisitorial gavel down upon divorced and remarried Catholics, women who have had abortions and men who have procured them… who receive communion of a sunny Sunday morning, with nary a squeak from him or any other prelate?”

    He doesn’t have to “squeak” about them. Adult Catholics (age 18 and older) who procure abortions are automatically excommunicated (latae sententiae). Besides, how on earth is the bishop supposed to know who has and has not had an abortion, since most people don’t publicize that fact?

    As for divorced and remarried Catholics, until about 30 years ago they were also automatically excommunicated according to canon law, but that is no longer the case. However, they are barred from receiving the sacraments in that state so the effect is basically the same. What he has done to Patrick Kennedy is an excommunication in all but name.

  18. bookworm says:

    Also, Bp. Tobin is not “disenfranchising a Catholic legislator.” Rep. Kennedy is still free to cast whatever votes he wishes on the abortion issue, and the voters of Rhode Island are free to reelect or defeat him as they wish. However, the Church is equally free to express its disapproval of those actions and not allow Rep. Kennedy to present himself as a good Catholic in communion with the Church when he clearly is not.

  19. jfk03 says:

    Bishop Tobin adheres to the Apostolic faith in Rhode Island.

    Yet Ms. Pelosi continues to receive Holy Communion in the Napa Valley, where she owns a winery and is defended by a prominent local monsignor and emboldened by her own Archbishop’s silence, leaving one with the impression that the Church here in California is the Democratic Party at prayer. Not a single California bishop has had the inclination or the guts to confront the Speaker of the House with her heretical views. She is not “personally opposed” as many Democratic pols claim to be; she is a fearsome advocate of abortion.

    One would think the California bishops were on a different planet! Where is the consistency of teaching? Where is the Faith handed down from the Apostles? Where is fear of the Last Judgment?

  20. William says:

    Excommunication = out of communion with. When any of us commits a mortal sin, we are out of communion with the rest of the Church and are incapable of receiving Sanctifying Grace–until we repent and are absolved in sacramental confession. But who is to know that we have committed mortal sin unless we go around telling people; and in that case, we would commit greater sin and give great scandal by going to Holy Communion un-shriven. Most of us, however, are not public figures who demonstrate sinfulness for all the world to see. Sure, Holy Church does formally “excommunicate” some of its members, but that’s simply a public acknowledgement of what has already taken place. But get this: excommunicated or not, our immortal souls remain under the purview and direction of Holy Church. Whether one is excommunicated privately or publicly and does not repent and seek forgiveness, the result is the same: his/her immortal soul is going to hell. How come we are never informed of this?

  21. ipadre says:

    Once again I can boast! God bless my Bishop!!!

    To clarify, I do not know anything of a communication from our bishop regarding Kennedy receiving Holy Communion. Maybe he is trying to make the situation worse. Better for him, if this whole time he kept his mouth closed. He would not have spoken so irresponsibly if his father were still alive! Although the late Senator was very wrong when it came to life issues, he never publicly attacked the Church (as far as I know).

    I pray that St. Patrick will wake up Patrick!

  22. Roland de Chanson says:

    bookworm: What he has done to Patrick Kennedy is an excommunication in all but name.

    Then we agree that you make my point? That he doesn’t have the temerity?

    If he were to excommunicate Kennedy, O’Malley would have to step up to the plate and excommunicate half the Massachusetts delegation. Fall River, Springfield and Worcester would have to follow their metropolitan. Thus this would then snowball. (As a closet Semipelagian, I am very afraid. Heresy will out, though all the world o’erwhelm it, to men’s snout. [I think I botched the quote. Oh well.])

    Pelosi will be left. Gloves on.

    Benedict may get his smaller Church a lot quicker than he thought. This is clearly something more than a bar brawl between a defender of the Faith and an alcohol and drug-addled intellectually and spiritually defunct twit. Stulti irruunt quo angeli incedere metuunt.

  23. EXCHIEF says:

    If the Bishops, singularly and collectively, are going to battle to the death over an issue they could not have picked a better one. Politicians, CINOs and otherwise, have drawn their line in the sand believing that their money, power and prestige will win out. Since most/many of them are not really religious people except to the extent necessary to get elected they have no comprehension of where they are headed.

    It was lost in the MSM but the Manhatten statement of last week was a multi-denomination statement and one which urges a series of actions including civil disobedience if necessary. If all true believing, orthodox Catholics joined by those of other faiths with the same beliefs (at least on certain issues) were to say “no” with their pocketbooks and even be willing to go to jail (a modern day form of martyrdom?) to make their point Congress would have to fold.

    The Church was lulled into long term submission by administration after administration which catered (with huge chunks of money) to the “social justice” priorities of the Church. Congress got to the point of thinking they had bought their way into Church support on any issue. Thank God there are still enough Catholics and other Christians who are so opposed to abortion and euthanasia that all the social justice spending in the world doesn’t trump those two issues.

    The Bp Tobins of this country will, of necessity, grow in number and God will grow them in strength to combat the enemy which resides in Washington DC.

  24. john 654 says:

    Why do the Bishops fail to officially excommunicate people? No wants anyone to be excommunicated but when politicians are perpetually obstinate and public I think it would do our faith some good to follow all of Catholic teachings including the ones that don’t feel good, like excommunication.

  25. adagio48 says:

    The Merciful Word…………..The Lord Jesus expressed most aptly when He said: from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks (Lk6:45) Truly perfect speech contains the truth, is uttered in love, and becomes a carrier of mercy shown by means of word, one finds: admonishing sinners, instructing the uniformed, counseling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful. Would not he act cruelly – writes St Augustine – who, seeing that a blind man approaches the edge of a precipice, would not cry out a word of caution so as to prevent the man from certain death?…………..from In Saint Faustina’s School of Mercy

  26. Rellis says:

    People are missing the comment that iPadre made here earlier. Kennedy is not being truthful when he said that +Bishop Tobin instructed pastors in the Diocese of Providence to withhold communion from Kennedy.

    iPadre is a pastor in Tiverton, RI. He was back in early 2007. He would know. This is a major news development.

    This means that Kennedy has been privately censured to abstain from receiving communion in the diocese. The fact he took this public is weird, but I’m grateful it’s serving as catechesis for the MSM and a backbone injection for the rest of the episcopate.

  27. nhaggin says:


    Committing a mortal sin is not equivalent to canonical excommunication, and as far as I know it never has been. To give but one example under the current Code, does a priest in mortal sin become unable “to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions whatsoever or to place acts of governance” (canon 1331, sec. 1, subsec. 3)? No, obviously not, and to argue otherwise places one on the path to a Donatist conception of the sacraments. Excommunication implies immediate juridical consequences that mortal sin alone does not.

    One should neither commit mortal sin nor incur excommunication, but let’s be sure we understand what each means.

  28. ipadre says:

    Rellis & all – Whispers In the Loggia picked up another news item that I did not yet see: “The bishop said he would probably not personally give Kennedy Communion and might have “a little conversation” with any priest who gave Kennedy the sacrament.”

    Note: When the Bishop speaks, we priests should also follow his example!

  29. William says:

    nhaggin, you are right, of course, and I should have been clearer, and more precise. Thank you. Yes, Holy Mass (and Sacraments) celebrated by a priest in mortal sin is still valid, but the priest, himself, is not eligible for Sanctifying Grace. Mention, too, should have been made that lifting of certain excommunications is reserved to the Bishop (Pope?) only.

  30. irishgirl says:

    Good for Bishop Tobin!

    I wish Catholics would say ‘receive Communion’ instead of ‘taking Communion’. “Taking” is the Protestant terminology. Sheesh!

    Give Patrick Kennedy a ‘Becket’, Your Excellency!

  31. Grabski says:

    That is one dumb Kennedy. Perhaps redundant.

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