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Kennedy flap reveals old Catholic divide

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
The news of Rep. Patrick Kennedy's Communion flap with Rhode Island's hard-line bishop is yet another chapter in the long history of the divide between Kennedy social justice Catholics and more hard-line conservatives, whose overarching issue is abortion.

Remember that the St. Louis Archbishop said he http://www.kxnet.com/News/168117.asp" target="_blank">would deny Rudy Giuliani and John Kerry communion. Kerry was also rebuked by the Boston Archbishop, who stopped short of calling for him to not receive the eucharist.

Kerry, Giuliani and Patrick Kennedy may be the most recent but they are two in a long line of politicians who have clashed with the church over their views on abortion. New York Democrats Mario Cuomo and Geraldine Ferraro, for example, have drawn the church's ire for their public views on abortion.

Disapproval of Catholic politicians, who are pro-abortion rights, has gone as high as the Vatican -- and even the current Pope.

"Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal co-operation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his pastor should meet with him, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist," wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict in 2004.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Pope Benedict earlier this year, the Pope issued a thinly veiled political statement after their visit, which we reported on in First Read.

The vatican statement read: "His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development." 

In 2004, when Kerry was the Democratic presidential nominee, any time he received Communion -- despite the Church's objections -- it made headlines.

In many instances, the Church seemed to take contradictory stances.

At one Massachusetts church, leaders said they gave Kerry communion after the Archdiocese instructed them not to deny anyone Communion, and that it was up to the individual to decide if, in good conscience, they should receive the Eucharist, USA Today wrote.

The New York Times, on April 12, 2004 noted that this was such an issue that in November of that year, "the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops organized a task force headed by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, to study how the church should treat Catholic politicians like Mr. Kerry, who say they are personally opposed to abortion, for example, but support abortion rights legislatively. ... The task force has not issued specific recommendations, but some members have discussed a range of penalties, from withholding communion to excommunication.

" 'I think there are many of us who would feel that there are certain restrictions that we might put on people, that there are certain sanctions that we may put on people,' he told 'Fox News Sunday.' 'But I think many of us would not like to use the Eucharist as part of the sanctions.'"