You might recall back in late October that Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) said, "the Catholic Church is fanning ‘flames of dissent and discord’ by opposing health bill over abortion funding" in a video interview with Cybercast News Service.
Bishop Tobin, Kennedy's ordinary, didn't waste any time rebuking him over the matter and demanding an apology for his distorted attack (see same link above).
On October 29th, Kennedy said, ""The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic."
Again, Bishop Tobin responded promptly with a strong open letter in the diocesan paper explaining what it means to be Catholic, then asking whether Kennedy meets even the most basic requirements. The bishop concluded with an invitation (emphases mine in bold):
Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.
Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.
Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.
On November 2nd, Kennedy agreed to meet with the bishop on Thursday. The bishop's office announced on November 10th that the meeting was postponed indefinitely by mutual agreement.
I'm sure we have not heard the last on this.
One of the best opinions I've read on this whole affair is that of Canon Lawyer Ed Peters. Go read: Rep. Patrick Kennedy should thank God he has such a bishop...
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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!