The Washington Times - November 23, 2009, 12:00PM

An ongoing ideological battle between the nation’s Roman Catholic Church and Representative Patrick Kennedy, D-RI, continues to push national headlines. The latest flare up occurred Sunday when Rep. Kennedy announced Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin told him “not to take communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me communion.” 

The feud between Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and Kennedy centers around the Representative’s stance on abortion and its placement in healthcare reform legislation.  Kennedy is the son of the late Ted Kennedy.

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From The New York Times:

“The announcement by Mr. Kennedy, a Democrat in his eighth term, is the most recent escalation in an unusually personal dispute between the men that became public after Mr. Kennedy criticized the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops for threatening to oppose an overhaul of the health care system unless it tightened restrictions on publicly-financed abortion.”

Since Rep. Kennedy’s initial criticism of the Church in October, he and Tobin have repeatedly swapped barbs.

Rhode Island bloggers comment on the latest dispute and offer context to the disagreement:

Anchor Rising: Diocesan Priests Ordered to Deny Communion? Congressman Kennedy Says Yes, Bishop Tobin Says No.

“As Congressman Kennedy is the only source making public the details of what the Bishop obviously considers to be a personal conversation, there is a reasonable possibility that what Bishop said is not being relayed accurately, not because of intentional dishonesty, but because the original message was not fully understood.”

Providence Daily Dose: Tough Test For Patrick Kennedy.

“Kennedy told the Providence Sunday Journal that Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has ‘explained the penalty by telling him that ‘I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official’’. This of course refers to his stance on abortion rights, in particular his recent statements regarding Tobin’s resistance to health care reform, which Kennedy (correctly in my opinion) has identified as one of the greatest human rights issues of our time.”

Rhode Island’s Future: Take this host and shove it.

“Of course, this follows Tobin’s previous statement that Rep. Kennedy is ‘a disappointment’ to the Church because, apparently, he thinks for himself and considers himself a servant to the people who elected him instead of the Vatican. Just what the Bishop is trying to prove — beyond making headlines for attacking a vocal proponent of affordable health care (and a recovering addict who has fought his battles in the public eye) — is quite beyond my understanding.”

Anchor Rising: Kennedy’s Church of Personal Influence

“Clearly, Kennedy sees this as a political problem, and the bishop as a constituent whom he was willing to indulge if it would make the problem go away. (Doesn’t this guy realize I’m a Kennedy?) Read the above in the context of the bishop’s revelation, on Dan Yorke’s show, that Kennedy had requested that their ‘private’ meeting be held in a prominent public place during the lunch hour.”

The Providence Phoenix: Bishops’ influence on health care.

“The clash between Patrick Kennedy and Bishop Thomas J. Tobin is but the most public flare-up in a broader effort by the church to build abortion restrictions into health care reform. The Associated Press has a good overview.”

The Providence Phoenix: Kennedy responds to bishop’s critique.

“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.”

Projo 7 to 7 News Blog: Tobin, Kennedy delay meeting on abortion.

The Providence Phoenix: Tobin Questions Patrick Kennedy’s Catholicism

Rhode Island’s Future: Stick to your guns Patrick Kenndy.

Anchor Rising: Error and redundancy.

The Providence Phoenix: Catholic Church Responds to Kennedy’s Criticism.

“Bishop Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has lashed back at Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who decried the church’s opposition to any health care reform package that does not include an explicit ban on federal funding for abortion.”

Anchor Rising: Kennedy’s Got a Friend at the Projo.