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Kennedy-Tobin, In Context

And the fight goes on. 

Patrick Kennedy inexplicably kept his feud with Bishop Tobin alive this weekend in a ProJo interview, claiming that the bishop forbade him from receiving communion because of his stand on abortion.

The bishop, who has proven skillful - if a bit chippy - in the row, lashed back. He said he asked Kennedy, in a private communication in 2007, to skip communion. He did not order it.

This latest chapter gives the bishop a chance to say that Kennedy has cast the spotlight on a private communication between the prelate and the Congressman. That gives him a bit of the high ground back after he arguably crossed the line with an open letter to Kennedy questioning his faith - making an ostensobly political fight explicitly personal.

As the fight spins further out of control, an interesting bit of context in the Boston Globe this weekend in a story headlined "Catholic Church Pushes, And Some Push Back."

Some lawmakers see the church’s Capitol Hill maneuvering over the health care bill as part of a broader activist push, which some welcome and others find worrisome.

But Don Clemmer, a spokesman for the bishops conference, said the church is merely stating its long-held views on issues at the core of its mission. He said the church’s advocacy over abortion on Capitol Hill is getting more attention now because health care is such a prominent national issue.

The aftershocks from the abortion collision are being felt well beyond the halls of Congress. The restrictions in the House-passed bill have emerged as a major issue in the Democratic Senate race in Massachusetts, with Attorney General Martha Coakley, Representative Michael Capuano, and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen G. Pagliuca sparring over whether they would vote against the entire bill because of the abortion language.

And some see signs of a new church activism in other recent controversies. Representative Patrick Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island, has become a recent target of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin because of the Catholic congressman’s views on abortion. In the District of Columbia, the Catholic Archdiocese has threatened to end some of its charitable services if the City Council passes a gay-marriage provision that the archdiocese fears will force it to provide housing, health care, education, and other services to same-sex couples.

Some lawmakers are pushing back.

“I absolutely think they’re being more present’’ in politics, said Representative Lynn Woolsey, a California Democrat. “I think they overstepped their influence.’’

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