It's hard to know what Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island needs most, a press agent or a catechist. His puzzling public statement yesterday that his bishop banned him from receiving Holy Communion gave the clear impression that the bishop's action was recent and probably in response to Kennedy's position on the Health Care Reform bill now in the Senate.
Kennedy will soon learn he cannot make public statements which misrepresent Church teachings or his bishop's actions without swift and accurate correction. Bishop Tobin confirmed that in a private, written communication in 2007 (!), he asked Kennedy to refrain from taking communion due to his advocacy for abortion rights.
Knowing that the bishop had already privately rebuked Kennedy for his public advocacy of abortion rights, Kennedy's interview of Oct. 22, 2009 is even more off base than it appears on its own:
“I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person--that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured. You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they were pro-life?” said Kennedy. “If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it’s going to provide health care that are going to keep people alive. So this is an absolute red herring and I don’t think that it does anything but to fan the flames of dissent and discord and I don’t think it’s productive at all." Watch the interview
The "Catholic Church" denying health care? In New Jersey in 2003, Catholic hospitals provided over 22 million dollars in unreimbursed Medicaid costs, and 23% of New Jersey's documented charity care ($33 million unreimbursed care). The bishops have spoken out clearly in favor of health care reform, just not health care reform that kills unborn babies. Budget Committee Hearings 2005
By speaking publicly and distorting the US bishops' views, while at the same time not even addressing their chief concern, Kennedy creates a public record that needs correction. It is certain that bishops have had private communication with Catholic politicians in their dioceses regarding the reception of Holy Communion whenever that would give scandal. That Mr. Kennedy has chosen to make Bishop Tobin's communication public was his own choice. That his facts were inaccurate became Bishop Tobin's responsibility to correct. Bishop Tobin and Representative Kennedy had been scheduled to meet privately but this meeting has been postponed. Bishop Tobin has made it clear that his door is always open. It would be good if that meeting took place.