Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Diocese of Providence and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D, RI) have postponed a scheduled face-to-face meeting after the prelate stepped up the pressure on the congressman over his rejection of church teaching on abortion. Bishop Tobin’s open letter to Rep. Kennedy can be read at the diocese’s website and the story is covered by the Providence Journal.

Bishop Tobin says to Kennedy:

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

I would guess that this question could be posed to about half of all Catholic politicians.