In the News 2009

Pat Kennedy Flap Puts Church in Health-care Ring


U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s public feud with Rhode Island’s top bishop over abortion rights comes as the nation’s Catholic parishes have received marching orders to use bulletins and Mass announcements to inform parishioners about church positions on health-care reform.

Terrence Donilon, spokesman for Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, said local dioceses have followed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops directive to “educate parishioners” on health-care reform.

Donilon said that O’Malley “favors discourse that is engaged in respectfully by all.”

Trinity College religion professor Mark Silk said, “(Church leaders) have become more conservative, and health-care reform gives them an opening to insert themselves. It’s part of an effort for the conservative wing of bishops to push more strongly for Catholic politicians to be in line with Catholic teachings.”

The Herald reported yesterday that Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin said he would pray for Kennedy’s “conversion and repentance” following the duo’s public fight over health-care reform provisions that ban federal funding for abortions.

On Friday, the pro-choice Rhode Island Democrat acknowledged in an interview with the Providence Journal that Tobin asked him to refrain from receiving Communion in 2007.

Catholics for Choice issued a statement yesterday that called Kennedy “courageous” and accused Tobin of being among a minority of bishops who “use the sacraments as political weapons.”

The article originally appeared in the Boston Herald.

Catholics for Choice