Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) has been barred from taking Communion in his home state because of his support for abortion rights.

Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), told the Providence Journal that Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has instructed Kennedy's diocese to not give him Communion and forbade Kennedy to take Communion.

Kennedy told the Journal that the bishop justified the decision to him by saying "that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official,” particularly on abortion. He declined to say when or how Bishop Tobin told him not to take the sacrament. And he declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop’s injunction.

Here is more from the Journal:


Bishop Tobin, through a spokesman, declined to address the question of whether he had told Kennedy not to receive Communion. But the bishop’s office moved quickly to cast doubt on Kennedy’s related assertion about instructions to the priests of Rhode Island.

“Bishop Tobin has never addressed matters relative to public officials receiving Holy Communion with pastors of the diocese,” spokesman Michael K. Guilfoyle said in an e-mailed statement.

This latest exchange between Bishop Tobin and Kennedy, the only remaining public official in the nation’s most prominent Catholic family, escalates their heated public debate over how the eight-term congressman’s work for abortion rights bears on his standing in the church.

Their dispute comes against the backdrop of the national debate about whether U.S. taxpayers should subsidize abortions in the new health-care system that President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress have labored for months to create.

The episode adds another volatile element to a highly emotional dispute that has complicated Mr. Obama’s pursuit of his top legislative priority.

For Catholics, the debate could scarcely be more visceral. The church holds that abortion is a taking of human life that is intrinsically evil. Exclusion from the Holy Eucharist — bread that the faithful believe to have been transformed into the body of Christ — is a rare and serious penalty to impose on any Catholic.

Over the past few weeks, Kennedy and Bishop Tobin have shown glimpses of their dealings in piecemeal fashion, revealing only a sketchy picture of the congressman’s status as a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

In an October interview about the opposition of the nation’s bishops to any health-care overhaul that did not include a strict ban on federal subsidies for abortion, Kennedy called into question the “pro-life” credentials of the churchmen. Health care for millions of uninsured is at stake, he said. Bishop Tobin shot back with a sharply worded statement, noting that the bishops are staunch and longtime supporters of reforming the health-care system. He said, however, that the bishops will not support a health-care bill that fails to include a ban on taxpayer subsidy of the procedure.

The exchange, via open letters and interviews, has continued, with Bishop Tobin pointedly suggesting that “obstinate” opposition to church doctrine on abortion should cause a Catholic public official to reconsider his membership in the church.