As if he doesn’t have enough trouble, eyewitnesses say Rep. Jim Moran
(D-Va.) got into a nasty battle with the Rev. Michael Dobbins, a Roman Catholic priest, at the Congressman’s parish of Blessed Sacrament in Alexandria, Va., this past Sunday.
A red-faced Moran was spotted after the 9 a.m. Mass exchanging heated words with Dobbins. “Moran was screaming and pointing his finger at him,”
said one parishioner who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He went ballistic.”
“The Congressman was not yelling at Father Dobbins,” Moran spokesman Dan Drummond insisted to HOH. “The Congressman was not the instigator. It was more of a mutual discussion.”
Drummond proceeded to charge that it was “unethical” and possibly “illegal” for Dobbins to use the pulpit to slam Democrats during the Mass. “The priest inappropriately starting talking about how Democrats had abandoned Catholics and how the Republican Party was the party Catholics could rely on,” said Drummond.
Dobbins did not return several phone messages left at the parish Tuesday, but a close friend called HOH to speak on the priest’s behalf. “They are lying,” the friend said of Moran’s account. “That is a flat-out lie.”
In fact, the Rev. Bryan Belli delivered the sermon at Mass, so Dobbins said nothing that could have offended Moran. Drummond later acknowledged that he was mistaken and that Belli did deliver the sermon.
Belli did speak about “life” issues in his sermon but did not make a political speech, according to some parishioners supportive of Dobbins. But Claudia Waller, a parishioner of 35 years who sings in the choir and is friendly with Moran, insisted the sermon was filled with references to Tuesday’s race for mayor of Alexandria.
The controversy centered on the fact that Moran was attending Mass with City Councilman Bill Euille and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine. The Congressman felt that the comments about issues such as abortion and stem-cell research during the sermon were an unfair attempt to damage Euille, the Democratic candidate for mayor, just two days before the election (Roll Call went to press before the results were finalized).
But the Dobbins friend charged that Moran was merely upset that the parish had rebuffed a request that Euille be recognized by one of the priests during the Mass. The friend argued that it was actually Moran who was inappropriately trying to inject politics into the Mass by trying to round up votes for Euille, who is not Catholic.
Regardless of what provided the spark, all sides confirm that Moran and Dobbins mixed it up after Mass. “It was somewhat intense — they were probably two inches apart,” said Waller, who stressed that Moran acted properly. “If anyone had body language that was out of line, it was Dobbins.”
According to the Dobbins friend, the priest responded to Moran’s anger by saying, “How can you reconcile yourself as a Catholic with your views on abortion?”
Moran’s camp agrees this was not a good way to break the ice. “The Congressman responded in kind that he’s not changing his position,” said Drummond.
But the Dobbins friend insists it did not end there. “Moran went off the wall,” he said. “He started screaming at him. The nostrils were flaring. He said, ‘You priests don’t know anything about abortion!’”
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