Rep. Kennedy vs. the Church

Debate continues to rage over abortion coverage in all of the health-care reform bills. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has made it clear that they cannot and will not support any proposal that includes abortion coverage.

Responding to the bishops, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., recently slammed the Church, saying that it was fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” by opposing the health-care reform bills under consideration unless they are amended to explicity prohibit abortion funding.

“I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person — that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured,” Kennedy told “You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life-saving health care? I thought they were pro-life,” said Kennedy. “If the Church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health-care reform, because it’s going to provide health care that are going to keep people alive. So this is an absolute red herring, and I don’t think that it does anything but to fan the flames of dissent and discord; and I don’t think it’s productive at all.”

That provoked a response from his bishop, Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin.

“Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health-care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts,” said Bishop Tobin. “As I wrote to Congressman Kennedy and other members of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation recently, the bishops of the United States are indeed in favor of comprehensive health-care reform and have been for many years. But we are adamantly opposed to health-care legislation that threatens the life of unborn children, requires taxpayers to pay for abortion, rations health care, or compromises the conscience of individuals.”

“Congressman Kennedy continues to be a disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the state of Rhode Island. I believe the congressman owes us an apology for his irresponsible comments. It is my fervent hope and prayer that he will find a way to provide more effective and morally responsible leadership for our state,” Tobin added.