pkennedyA new row has flared in the Catholic ranks of the U.S. abortion wars, this one involving a member of America’s most famous Catholic political family and a bishop.  Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has claimed that Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin has slapped a communion ban on him for his support for abortion rights. (PHOTO: Patrick Kennedy speaks at funeral of his father, Senator Edward Kennedy, 29 Aug 2009/Brian Snyder)

The bishop instructed me not to take communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me communion,” the Rhode Island Democrat was quoted as saying this week in the Providence Journal.

On the pages of the same paper the bishop fired back, asserting that it was a “request,” not an instruction.  “If he took it as an instruction, so be it, but it was really a request,”  the bishop was quoted as saying.

The request was apparently made back in 2007 but the trigger for the most recent twist in the saga seems to have been Kennedy’s comments to in October that the Catholic Church was fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” by insisting that healthcare reform legislation include explicit bans on funding for abortion.

kerry-communionSuch a provision was included in the House version of the bill that narrowly passed but not in the one under consideration in the Senate. The stakes could hardly be higher as an overhaul of America’s healthcare system is President Barack Obama’s top domestic agenda.