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Kennedy attacks Church efforts to protect, defend life
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BY LAURA KILGUS, Staff Reporter

PROVIDENCE— Following a press conference in Washington D.C., Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy yesterday attacked the Catholic Church's support of health care reform provisions that would prohibit taxpayers funds from being used for abortions.

The Catholic Church today forcefully responded to comments by Catholic Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy that the Church is ”fanning the flames of dissent and discord” after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said that they would oppose a health-care reform bill that did not fully protect the dignity of human-life.

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Congressman Kennedy told Cybercast News Service on Thursday, Oct. 22, that, "I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person – that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured.”

“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 are going to keep people alive. So this is an absolute red herring and I don’t think that it does anything but to fan the flames of dissent and discord and I don’t think it’s productive at all.”

In an October 8 letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to Congress, the bishops said that they would have to “vigorously” oppose a final health care bill unless it would not require the use taxpayer money for abortions.

“Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity,” the bishops said in their letter. “Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin responded to Congressman Kennedy’s attack on Catholic Church by saying, “Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts. But the Congressman is correct in stating that ‘he can’t understand.’ He got that part right.”

Bishop Tobin added that he had recently written to Congressman Kennedy and other members of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation that the Bishops of the United States are “indeed in favor of comprehensive health care reform and have been for many years. But we are adamantly opposed to health care legislation that threatens the life of unborn children, requires taxpayers to pay for abortion, rations health care, or compromises the conscience of individuals.”

The Bishop added that the congressman continues to be a “disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the State of Rhode Island.”

“I believe the Congressman owes us an apology for his irresponsible comments,” said Bishop Tobin. “It is my fervent hope and prayer that he will find a way to provide more effective and morally responsible leadership for our state.”

Kennedy’s office did not return a call seeking comment.

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