Catholic bishop says no communion for Kennedy over health reform

Catholic bishop says no communion for Kennedy over health reform Washington  - A spat between Congressman Patrick Kennedy and a Catholic bishop over health care reform boiled up again on Sunday after revelations that the bishop had instructed priests not to give him communion.

Kennedy, whose father, Senator Ted Kennedy, died in August, made the revelation in an interview with the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal.

Kennedy said that Bishop Thomas Tobin had instructed him three years ago "not to take communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me communion," Kennedy was quoted as saying.

Tobin had told him he was "not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I've taken as a public official," particularly on abortion, Kennedy told the newspaper.

The Catholic church has put full pressure on members of Congress as they seek to overhaul the nation's health insurance system in order to include 31 million uninsured Americans.

In response to the pressure, the House of Representatives, where Kennedy holds a seat, passed a bill that would virtually ban use of new insurance exchanges to pay for abortions. But the Senate version about to be debated has more leeway on abortion.

In October, Kennedy lashed out at the Catholic church in an interview with Cybercast News Service, expressing frustration that the church was fanning "the flames of dissent and discord" by insisting that health reform not include abortion funding.

"I thought they were pro-life. If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it's going to provide health care that is going to keep people alive," Kennedy was quoted as saying by the National Catholic Reporter.

Tobin, who is bishop of Providence, called Kennedy's October comments "irresponsible and ignorant of the facts." He said the bishops were only asking that the "helpless baby in the womb" be protected as much as immigrants and other uninsured, and that health care professionals be allowed to follow their conscience.

According to CNN, Bishop Tobin issued a statement Sunday saying he was "disappointed" that Kennedy would make public his "confidential request" of three years ago that he not take Holy Communion. (IANS)