Kennedy tries to put controversy over Communion denial to rest

By David Abel
Globe Staff / December 1, 2009

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PROVIDENCE - In his first press conference since Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Catholic Diocese of Providence criticized him for disclosing a confidential request to stop receiving Holy Communion because of his stand on moral issues, US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy declined yesterday to comment on the controversy.

“These are personal issues of faith for me,’’ he said after a forum about health care at Brown University. “I’m not going to indulge in this debate anymore. It’s really for me about what my constituents are most interested in now, and that is getting a health care bill passed that helps improve their lives.’’

He reiterated the comments he made during the forum about the importance of expanding access to health care and reducing the costs of the system.

Police removed one person from the small gathering after he heckled the congressman about his position in favor of abortion rights.

“Outside of the one outburst, everyone was most interested in the issues that affect everybody, and the issues that haven’t gotten near the kinds of coverage that this one issue has,’’ he said. “I think at the end of the day the American people are exhausted by the debate, by the extremes. They want to know about what meets their needs and addresses their issues and concerns.’’

Last month, Tobin said he was disappointed that the congressman had revealed to The Providence Journal that he had been forbidden from receiving Communion in Rhode Island because of Kennedy’s support of abortion rights.

The bishop also said the son of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy had prolonged their public feud.

The bishop told reporters he wrote to Kennedy on Feb. 21, 2007, but intended for it to remain confidential because it “sought to provide solely for his spiritual well-being.’’