Patrick Kennedy Accuses Church of Fanning “Flames of Dissent and Discord”

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, is accusing the Catholic Church of fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” by stating its opposition to health care reform unless it is amended to explicitly prohibit abortion funding.

“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,” Kennedy told when asked about the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The USCCB sent several letters to lawmakers over the past six months expressing their concern over current health care reform bills that provide abortion funding and inadequate conscience protections.

Their most recent letter, sent on Oct. 8 to all 535 members of Congress, said U.S. bishops would “vigorously” oppose any health care fill that does not specifically prohibit taxpayer funds for abortions.

This letter also points out that the USCCB has advocated for health care reform for decades. “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity,” the letter states. “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.”

Kennedy, who is pro-choice, sees things differently. “You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they were pro-life?” said Kennedy. “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.”

The Church remains unequivocal in its position. “If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill,” the bishops said in their letter.

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