Skip to comments.Begging for Rebuke: John Kerry’s dubious Catholicism
Posted on 04/07/2004 6:02:26 AM PDT by SJackson
Some have advanced the theory that John Kerry's alleged Catholicism will hurt his prospects in the general election. The idea is not that he will lose the votes of non-Catholics concerned about his possible "allegiance to a foreign power." Rather, it is thought that he might lose the votes of Catholics turned off by their "fellow Catholic's" public flouting of their church's teachings on abortion.
Of course, many Catholic voters are generally with Kerry (half of them voted for Gore in 2004) and the Democratic party; a split by Catholics is not likely to be immediate or direct. This, however, is the concern: If Kerry campaigns, as he has been, as pro-abortion, on one hand, and as Catholic, on the other, won't the American bishops or at least some of them feel compelled to state unequivocally that Kerry has no right to consider himself, or to present himself, as a Catholic? And won't this public rebuke do something to sway some moderate Catholic voters against Kerry?
This is not to say that an episcopal rebuke would detach from Kerry those voters who claim to be Catholic but who are nonetheless ardently pro-choice. Such people obviously do not take Church authority seriously in any case. There may be, however, considerable numbers of ordinary Catholics who are vaguely pro-life, but who do not think much about it, and who are captivated by some other issue on Kerry's plate. Such people might be moved by bishops pointing out that some of Kerry's policy positions are incompatible with his claims of Catholicism.
Kerry made this potential problem even worse by his comments reported in the New York Times on Tuesday. Matt Drudge had some fun at Kerry's expense by linking to the story with the headline, "Kerry in Pope Confusion." Kerry asked for it, though; he referred to Pope Pius XXIII, apparently conflating Pius XII with his successor, John XXIII.
Kerry's real problem, of course, arises not from his papal-name problem, but his outright misrepresentation of Catholic teaching. When told that some conservatives were criticizing him for claiming to be Catholic and still supporting abortion and same-sex unions, Kerry became, according to the Times, "combative." "'Who are they?' he demanded of his questioner. 'Name them. Are they the same legislators who vote for the death penalty, which is in contravention of Catholic teaching?'" Kerry continued: "My oath is to uphold the Constitution of the United States in my public life. My oath privately between me and God was defined in the Catholic church by Pius XXIII and Pope Paul VI in the Vatican II, which allows for freedom of conscience for Catholics with respect to these choices, and that is exactly where I am."
Kerry, in the first place, mischaracterizes his Church's understanding of the death penalty. Since the current pope has criticized it as unjustified in most modern circumstances, it seems that he holds to the traditional teaching that some circumstances could justify it. Kerry, however, would be hard-pressed to show any Catholic document that suggests that any circumstances could justify abortion. Indeed, the Church seems to suggest that a direct attack on the life of a human fetus is evil in itself and never permissible.
More serious, perhaps, is Kerry's claim that the Second Vatican Council teaches that "choices" such as abortion are purely in a realm of "freedom of conscience for Catholics" as if the Council held that Catholics might remain good Catholics even while they choose to support what the Church has clearly taught is evil. Of course, the Catholic Church does teach that Catholics have an obligation to follow their consciences, but it equally teaches that they have an obligation to form their consciences according to the mind of the Church. Kerry's remark, therefore, seems to go beyond an attack on some particular teaching and to become a repudiation of the teaching authority of the Church itself. Kerry also, however, distorts the Church's teaching when he suggests that his unorthodox understanding is somehow a tenet of Vatican II, which, of course, it is not.
Prior to these remarks, the question confronting the bishops was this: "Can a man who runs for president claiming to be Catholic while rejecting key Catholic moral teachings be ignored?" Now they confront a different question: "Can a man who runs for president, claiming to be a Catholic , rejecting key Catholic moral teachings, and insisting that the Church says that this is all O.K. be ignored?" That is, can they fail publicly to correct a prominent Catholic who not only rejects but also actively mischaracterizes Church teaching? Kerry evidently does not want his Catholicism questioned, but he has just made it much more difficult for the bishops not to question it perhaps to his electoral disadvantage.
Carson Holloway teaches political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is the author of All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics.
The teaching of the Church is quite clear, Carson. No "seems" about it.
From the Catechism:
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.
I hope this is brought up, and there is a confrontation.
Kerry needs to decide on whether he is going to serve himself, or God. It's that simple.
Excuses that he's upholding the Constitution doesn't hold water. Either he practices the faith, or he continues to serve himself.
I can't imagine the mindset where following the church's teaching, and in effect God's teaching, doesn't supercede everything else.
Even some of my democratic friends, who profess a belief in God, can't articulate logically why they support it, other than its their party line.
I don't get it.
Enabling a person to procure an abortion, which would apply to politicians, would surely be grave matter, but there is no church law covering such according to my understanding. It is too bad the church didn't address the problem more definitively.
Capital punishment clearly doesn't always involve innocent life like abortion does, so they should not be lumped together.
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