Almost two years ago Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island privately asked Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island not to take communion because of Kennedy’s support for abortion rights. Kennedy has chosen to make this request public, and Tobin has responded.
What Tobin did was not exactly an excommunication, I would guess (does an excommunication require a formal decree?), but Kennedy has chosen to portray it as such.
The bishops are discovering that it is a lot easier to loosen disciple than tighten it. Any teacher who has taught middle school could tell them that. For over a generation a Catholic layman or priest could do anything from supporting abortion to raping children and it would have no effect on his standing in the Church.
A pro-life official whom I know once asked an archbishop to at least publicly criticize a strongly pro-abortion Catholic senator. The archbishop replied that he couldn’t do such a thing – why, the local newspaper would crucify him. Not the stuff of which martyrs are made, I thought.