Washington (CNN) - A dispute over abortion between the only remaining Kennedy in Congress and his Roman Catholic bishop has highlighted the political volatility of the issue and the challenge it presents to the nation's Catholics.
"How can you claim to be a Catholic and also support abortion?" Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, asked Monday on CNN, discussing his request that Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, stop receiving Holy Communion because of his pro-choice politics.
Kennedy went public Sunday about Tobin's request, originally made in a private letter to Kennedy in 2007. Tobin responded with a statement Sunday followed by his television appearance Monday, in which he acknowledged holding Kennedy to a higher standard than an ordinary parishioner because of the congressman's position as a legislator who can shape abortion laws and policy.
The issue is considered much broader than a public rift between the two men. A sweeping health care bill in Congress could get derailed by conflicts over abortion language, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last week criticizing a Senate version of the measure for lacking the tougher language adopted earlier by the House.
Washington (CNN) - Rhode Island's top Roman Catholic leader has asked state congressman Patrick Kennedy to stop taking communion over his support for abortion rights, the diocese said Sunday.
In a statement issued Sunday, Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin said he told Kennedy in February 2007 that it would be "inappropriate" for him to continue receiving the fundamental Catholic sacrament, "and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so."
Kennedy is the son of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and scion of the most prominent Catholic family in modern U.S. politics.
The Roman Catholic church strongly opposes abortion, which has been legal across the United States since 1973. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lobbied for tight restrictions on federal funding of abortion in the health-care bill the House of Representatives passed earlier this month.
Updated: 2:01 p.m.
(CNN) - Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the Rhode Island Democrat who in 2006 checked into a rehabilitation center for drug addiction following a car accident on Capitol Hill, is again seeking medical treatment.
In a statement issued by his office Friday, the son of Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy said, "I have always said that recovery is a life-long process and that I will do whatever it takes to preserve my health."
"In consultation with my doctors, I have decided to temporarily step away from my normal routine to ensure that I am being as vigilant as possible in my recovery," he said. "I hope that in some small way my decision to be proactive and public in my efforts to remain healthy can help remove the stigma that has served as a barrier for many Americans reluctant to get the help they need."
The Providence Journal reported Friday Kennedy has "entered an undisclosed medical facility for treatment."
After crashing his car into a Capitol Hill barricade in 2006, Kennedy admitted to an addiction to prescription medication and spent a month in a rehabilitation center in Minnesota.
- CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report