Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bishop of the Week: Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence

There have been several Bishops in the news that I've wanted to feature in this section this week, but an article I spotted on the yahoo news section helped me make my decision as I clicked over to see what the Associated Press had to say about Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence Rhode Island. Here are a few highlights:

"Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin has banned Rep. Patrick Kennedy from receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, in Rhode Island because of the congressman's support for abortion rights, Kennedy said in a newspaper interview published Sunday. The decision by the outspoken prelate, reported on The Providence Journal's Web site, significantly escalates a bitter dispute between Tobin, an ultra orthodox bishop, and Kennedy, a son of the nation's most famous Roman Catholic family."

It seems these days that standing up for key Church teachings that are quite literally matters of life and death make the good Bishop "ultra orthodox."

The article goes on to say that while Bishop Tobin is in compliance with Church Law in his decision, a "church observer" and author Michael Sean Winters states that:
"It's really bad theology. You're turning the altar rail into a battle field, a political battlefield no less, and it does a disservice to the Eucharist."

Really Mr. Winters? I would say that allowing prominent politicians that lead others into sin and encourage murder would be a "greater disservice" to the Eucharist. Representative Kennedy is fighting, quite publicly, to allow women to kill their unborn child. He is working to preserve the "right" of women to commit an incredibly grave sin. The entire world can see that there is no way he is fit to receive the Eucharist and I am personally grateful that there are still bishops out there who have the courage to stand up and do what is right.

I should add that the article does state that the Bishop's office will not confirm the order but does say that the Bishop has not discussed the matter of public officials receiving communion with pastors of the diocese as Kennedy claims.

Kennedy's response earlier in his argument with Tobin included this statement:

"While I greatly respect the Catholic Church and its leaders, like many Rhode Islanders, the fact that I disagree with the hierarchy of the church on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic. I embrace my faith which acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity."

This portion of Bishop Tobin's response, which was plucked out by the AP for the article sums up a part of the response pretty well:
"Sorry, you can't chalk it up to an 'imperfect humanity.' Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your Communion with the Church."

Read the entire letter here. Or learn more about the Bishop at the diocese website.

Thank heaven that we have good bishops like Bishop Tobin standing up for the rights of the unborn in this country!

Update: The letter that Representative Kennedy was talking about was sent in 2007 (funny he brings it up now when so many reporters are slamming the bishops for standing up about abortion not being a part of federally funded health care) and did not demand that he stop receiving communion but merely requested that he not receive it. To read a less biased account than much of what's being written these days, click here.

I'm still glad there are bishops who don't remain silent about this and who let their views be known!

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