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Kennedy Responds to Bishop's Critique

Representative Patrick Kennedy responded, today, to Bishop Thomas J. Tobin's critique of the legislator in the diocesan newspaper Rhode Island Catholic.

Tobin had questioned Kennedy's Catholicism in the wake of a nasty war of words over health care reform and abortion. Kennedy's reponse, via the ProJo:

The bishop asked in his letter if Kennedy supported the church's essential teachings on faith and morals, including abortion, if he belonged to a parish, attended Mass on Sundays and regularly received the sacraments.

Kennedy said Tuesday that he has a pastor, and "I have my sacraments through that pastor. I don't want anyone hounding my pastor. I have sought the sacraments of reconciliation and communion and all the rest."

When a reporter asked asked Kennedy: "Does all of this hurt you? Do you feel wounded?" Kennedy responded: "I think it's unfortunate. I'm not going to engage this anymore."

But when asked if he had been threatened with denial of communion or other sanctions, Kennedy said those were subjects he planned to discuss with the bishop. "Ideally, he will keep it between us."

Kennedy said he initiially criticized the U.S. Catholic bishops because they said that they would oppose the health-care reform bills pending in Congress if they did not explicitly deny federal funding for abortion.

"What I disagreed with them is that if they didn't get their they, weren't going to support overall health-care reform," he said. "That's something I felt very strongly was destructive to the process."

Kennedy would be wise to stick to his pronouncement that he will not "engage this anymore." The tete-a-tete will probably not do any lasting political damage - Kennedy has clashed with the church before and is in a safe seat. But the battle is distracting from what should be a proud family moment: the realization of Senator Ted Kennedy's long quest for health care reform. 

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