Representative Patrick Kennedy is in hot water with the Catholic Church, the latest politician to run afoul of the church in the health care overhaul debate.
The church, along with many Republicans, is pushing for the bills to explicitly outlaw the use of public money for abortions. The bill's supporters say it already includes such a ban, but abortion foes say that a public insurance plan could provide coverage that would include abortion services and that new federal subsidies to help poor people buy coverage from private plans could be spent on abortions.
Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, criticized the Catholic Church's stand on the health care bill.
"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 Catholic News Service in an article posted Thursday.
"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?” Kennedy added. “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 brought this rebuke today from the most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence: “Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts. 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.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.