Catholic Bishop Calls on Patrick Kennedy to Apologize to the Church

October 23, 2009 - 4:02 PM
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) should apologize to the Catholic Church his remarks attacking the church for its opposition to a health care bill that does not prohibit federal funding of abortion, said Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, bishop of the diocese of Providence, R.I.

Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, R.I.

(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) “is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts” about the Catholic Church’s views on health care reform and “continues to be a disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the State of Rhode Island,” said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the diocese of Providence in a statement released Friday in response to an interview CNSNews.com conducted with Kennedy.
 
In the interview on Wednesday, Oct. 21, Kennedy said the Catholic Church was only fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” by taking the position that it will oppose the health care reform bill under consideration in Congress unless it is amended to explicitly prohibit funding of abortion.
 
“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,” Kennedy told CNSNews.com.
 
In his Friday statement, Bishop Tobin said:  “Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts. But the Congressman is correct in stating that 'he can’t understand.' He got that part right.
 
“As I wrote to Congressman Kennedy and other members of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation recently, the Bishops of the United States are indeed in favor of comprehensive health care reform and have been for many years. But we are adamantly opposed to health care legislation that threatens the life of unborn children, requires taxpayers to pay for abortion, rations health care, or compromises the conscience of individuals.
 
“Congressman Kennedy continues to be a disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the State of Rhode Island. I believe the Congressman owes us an apology for his irresponsible comments. It is my fervent hope and prayer that he will find a way to provide more effective and morally responsible leadership for our state.”
 
When asked on Wednesday whether he agreed with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which sent a letter to members of Congress on Oct. 8 stating that the Catholic bishops would "vigorously" oppose the health care bill unless it was amended to include language explicitly prohibiting federal funding of abortion, Kennedy told CNSNews.com the following:

"
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?” said Kennedy. “I thought they were pro-life. 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.”
 
Inquiries by CNSNews.com to Rep. Kennedy’s press secretary for response to the bishop’s statement, were not returned before this story was filed.
 
Video of the Oct. 21 interview below: 
 


 

Here is the complete text of the statement about Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.) released by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, R.I.:

Statement of Bishop Tobin in Response to Congressman Kennedy’s Attack on Catholic Church
 
(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) -The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, today issued the following statement in response to a Cybercast News Service article that reported: Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I) told CNSNews.com that the Catholic Church is doing nothing but fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” by taking the position that it will oppose the health-care reform bill under consideration in Congress unless it is amended to explicitly prohibit funding of abortion.
 
“Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts. But the Congressman is correct in stating that ‘he can’t understand.’  He got that part right.
 
“As I wrote to Congressman Kennedy and other members of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation recently, the Bishops of the United States are indeed in favor of comprehensive health care reform and have been for many years. But we are adamantly opposed to health care legislation that threatens the life of unborn children, requires taxpayers to pay for abortion, rations health care, or compromises the conscience of individuals.
 
“Congressman Kennedy continues to be a disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the State of Rhode Island. I believe the Congressman owes us an apology for his irresponsible comments.  It is my fervent hope and prayer that he will find a way to provide more effective and morally responsible leadership for our state.”