Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Matt C. Abbott: "Priest-canonist supports Bishop Tobin in Kennedy flap"

Matt C. Abbott column
Priest-canonist supports Bishop Tobin in Kennedy flap

Matt C. Abbott
Matt C. Abbott
November 25, 2009

First, a background of the story, courtesy of (excerpt; click here for the full article):

    'U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) said in an interview Sunday that Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has instructed him to refrain from Communion because of his pro-abortion political position. In response to Kennedy's statement, Bishop Tobin has clarified that his request was issued in 2007 and was not the result of the recent highly public exchange between Kennedy and himself.

    ''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 Providence Journal.

    'The admission comes after a verbal fight between Kennedy and Bishop Tobin, sparked by Kennedy's saying that the Church was fanning the 'flames of dissent and discord' by opposing the health care bill then in the House, which would have brought about federally-funded abortions. Kennedy also questioned whether or not the bishops were really 'pro-life' based upon their opposition to the health bill.

    'Bishop Tobin responded by calling Kennedy a 'disappointment to the Catholic Church and the citizens of Rhode Island.'

    'The most recent exchange between the two is the first since Kennedy said that he wanted to cease discussing his faith in public, after a projected meeting between Kennedy and Tobin fell through about two weeks ago.

    'In a response to Kennedy's latest statement, Bishop Tobin said he was 'disappointed and really surprised that Congressman Patrick Kennedy has chosen to re-open the public discussion about his practice of the faith and his reception of Holy Communion.'

    'He continued by pointing out that he had in fact asked Kennedy to refrain from Communion approximately three years ago, in light of Kennedy's consistent opposition to Church teaching. '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,'' said Tobin.

    'Kennedy had declined to say when or how Bishop Tobin had told him not to receive Communion. He has also said that he has since received Communion....'

I asked canon lawyer Father Vincent E. Bertrand to comment on the controversy. Father Bertrand was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in 1987, received his licentiate in canon law in 1996 and is currently director of Marian Advocates for Life.

Father Bertrand's slightly edited response is as follows:

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management from Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He has worked in the right-to-life movement and is a published writer focused on Catholic and social issues. He can be reached at