- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It’s a dark scandal in American politics that so many Catholic politicians promote abortion and same-sex “marriage.” Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin is trying to turn the tide by holding Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat, accountable for supporting abortion on demand. Dissenting from Catholic teaching is a Kennedy family tradition. It’s about time somebody did something about it.

According to the congressman, the bishop asked him to refrain from receiving Holy Communion. In 2007, His Excellency made a similar request, to no avail. This week’s controversy arose because Mr. Kennedy attacked the church’s position against taxpayer funding of abortion that’s included in Democratic plans for government health care. “And that required that I respond,” Bishop Tobin said.

With the congressman being from the state with the highest percentage of Catholics (if not necessarily the most observant ones), it’s hardly surprising that this is not his first run-in with church leadership. In 1990, a Catholic high school canceled an appearance by Mr. Kennedy. “I felt it would be inappropriate that he speak,” said Brother Daniel F. Casey, diocesan school superintendent. “His position runs opposite to what the school is teaching,” he told the Post Tribune. Mr. Kennedy’s late father, Edward M. Kennedy - the liberal lion of the Senate and one of this nation’s most prominent bad Catholics - had a similar experience in the Ocean State a year earlier when he was disinvited to an event hosted by the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The young Mr. Kennedy bucks the Catholic Church on more than just abortion. He spoke out against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, saying, “It is not right for Congress to step in and intrude into the private relationships and the most personal decisions of [people].” In 1998, he said an amendment prohibiting federal money to implement a “gay rights” ordinance in San Francisco was “mean-spirited - bigoted.”

The current pope, Benedict XVI, has taken strides to shore up respect for Catholic doctrine on social issues among Catholics in the pews. He also is appointing much more traditional bishops than his predecessor, John Paul II, who attracted conservatives to the priesthood but appointed lots of heterodox liberals to the episcopate and cardinalate.

Still, all is not well in the ancient Roman church. The pope’s strict stand on moral issues was undermined by cardinals and bishops tripping over one another to attend the August funeral and burial of Sen. Kennedy, who was one of the most obstinately vocal Catholic dissenters on abortion and marriage. And in Scranton, Pa., Bishop Joseph F. Martino announced he would not give Communion to pro-abortion Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who grew up in that diocese. Unfortunately, shortly after his heroic stand, Bishop Martino retired at 63 years of age for vague health reasons. It’s typical for Catholic bishops to serve their flocks into their 70s.

More bishops need to defend their church’s moral teachings during this age when the value of human life is under assault. But there are risks. If Bishop Tobin isn’t careful, he might suddenly find himself retired for health reasons he didn’t know existed.