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Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island

Like father, like son? Kennedy Jr. takes on Catholic Church

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Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island

 His late Dad may have made a peace of sorts with his beloved Catholic Church by admitting to Pope Benedict XVI that "I am not a perfect man," but Sen. Edward Kennedy's youngest son is beating the war drums.

The Lion of the Senate passed away peacefully just two months ago, but it didn't even take that long for Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island to take on the Church — in particular, Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin. The issue? President Obama's sweeping health care plans, of which the junior Kennedy is a very strong supporter, even if it includes public funding for abortion services.

Needless to say, the Church is not on board with that clause, and the rhetoric is now red-hot.

Tobin fired a broadside at Kennedy late this week for what he termed the Congressman's incendiary remarks in an interview about abortion. Kennedy told the Catholic News Service he found it odd that  that the Church would oppose Obama's health insurance plan.

 "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 said.

"You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life-saving health care? I thought they were prolife? If the church is prolife, 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."

Although Tobin, like the Church, supports a universal health care plan, he believes it must outlaw the use of public money for abortions.

Tobin previously told the Rhode Island congressional delegation that he could not support any health care plan "that diminishes human dignity or threatens the right to life."

But on Friday the cardinal took no prisoners, saying that Kennedy’s comments were "irresponsible and ignorant of the facts."

"Congressman Kennedy continues to be a disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the state of Rhode Island," the bishop said. "I believe the congressman owes us an apology for his irresponsible comments. It is my fervent hope and prayer that he will find a way to provide morally responsible leadership for our state.’"

The volley was the latest joust between the Catholic Church and the Kennedys. Ted Kennedy came under constant attack for his stand on issues that countered Catholic beliefs, such as abortion rights.

The differences seemed to be mended at the Senator’s funeral, when it was revealed that Pope Benedict XVI bestowed an "apostolic blessing" on the elder Kennedy.

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