A request by a Roman Catholic bishop that Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) not take Holy Communion because of his pro-abortion stance has sparked a heated debate about the boundaries between church and state.
Among the critics of the move by Bishop Tobin of Providence, R.I., was Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy, who is also a pro-abortion Catholic and who said that "we don’t legislate at the orders of the Vatican" but based on what is good for the country.
Similarly, the group Catholics for Choice expressed support of the Rhode Island representative, saying "he is one of many Catholic politicians who stand by both the courage of their convictions and their consciences to support women’s reproductive choices."
However, Peter Roff, a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty, has defended the decision in an opinion piece published on the website of Fox News in which he stated that in the church there is no place for free thinking about doctrinal issues "and not all things are relative or left to the discretion of the believer."
According to RTE News, the conversation took place in 2007, but it came into the spotlight recently as Kennedy criticized the church for threatening to oppose the healthcare reform unless it included tighter restrictions on abortion.