The war of words between the Catholic bishop of Rhode Island and US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy escalated yesterday when Bishop Thomas J. Tobin criticized him for disclosing a confidential request the prelate made in 2007 to stop receiving Holy Communion because of his stand on moral issues.Tobin said he was disappointed the congressman had told a newspaper that he had been forbidden from receiving communion in Rhode Island because of Kennedy’s support of abortion rights. The bishop also accused the son of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy of prolonging their public feud. On the other hand, a few weeks ago in the diocesan newspaper, the Rhode Island Catholic, Bishop Tobin said this:
Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership. I'm genuinely confused here about something: the confidentiality question. On the one hand, the bishop says (rightly) that these kinds of discussions should be kept private--between a bishop and a member of his diocese about his reception of the sacrament. The Boston Herald said that Bishops Tobin "confirmed the order but fervently denied having discussed it with anyone other than Kennedy." On the other, he wrote a public letter in his own newspaper discussing these same issues. Clarifications welcome here.
James Martin, SJ