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Friday, January 17, 2003

Turn Up the Hair Dryer to "High," Senator.

That way I won't have to listen to USDA Certified, Grade A BS like this from folks like the elegantly-coiffed Senator from Massachusetts. Yet another nominally Catholic politician explains why his faith never manages to leave the church with him on Sundays. Do these guys get talking points memos on how to neutralize their Catholicism? It sure seems like it's coming from the same playbook:

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry says that "as a Catholic" he has "enormous respect for the words and teachings of the Vatican." But Kerry says that to "represent all the people" he can't be bound by church doctrine. Kerry's statement says that's part of President Kennedy's "lasting legacy."

Let's consider each statement in turn.

1. "'[A]s a Catholic...'"
Defined how? No, seriously. When is someone going to call these guys on this: how can you call yourself Catholic when you reject so many vital Church teachings? Anyone in the media? Anyone?

2. "[H]e has 'enormous respect for the words and teachings of the Vatican.'"
At the outset, note the artful use of the term "Vatican" instead of "Church." Very well done--less off-putting to Catholics who profess to love the "Church" but despise its teaching authority. Carroll, McBrien, Steinfels, Maguire & Co. surely are applauding that. But see No. 1 above.

Next, could you give us an example of "words and teachings" that you have actually followed in your public life? Or at least one time when you have said that "As a Catholic, I must/must not do _____", and it actually correlated with a teaching of the Church? Cue Jeopardy theme.

3. "Kerry says that to 'represent all the people' he can't be bound by church doctrine."
First of all, the Republicans and Libertarians in Massachusetts will be delighted with your declared commitment to represent them. Ditto the anti-war types you brushed off in approving force against Iraq. Ditto everyone in Massachusetts who is on the opposite side of one of your votes in the Senate chamber. All will be pleased to hear of your resolve to henceforth "represent all the people." Good luck in your efforts.

Secondly, if you can't at least occasionally adhere to Catholic moral doctrine while representing the second most Catholic state in the nation, when are you going to do it?

4. By JFK's "legacy," Kerry probably means Kennedy's Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association regarding the separation of church and state. Kennedy's speech is a mixed bag, as the following paragraphs indicate:

Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come--and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible--when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith--nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.


Whatever else it said, Kennedy's speech to the Protestant pastors made no promise that he would abandon basic Catholic morality upon being elected President. There were many problems the observant Protestant elites had with Catholicism, but generally speaking, the stern morality preached by the Church was not on the list. Rather, the speech was intended to reassure twitchy Protestants who assumed Catholics scanned the skies for the Pope Signal, or awaited their nightly drop of subversive orders from the Jesuits, that such was not the case. Note the reference to "outside pressures," for example.

Consequently, I can tell the Senator's JFK invocation from Shinola. The major problem with Kerry's interpretation is obvious: it permanently concedes the right of a Catholic politician--and only a Catholic politician--to be guided by the teachings of the Church to the amorphous "duty" to "represent all the people." Instead of leading, a Catholic representative must forever be lead on issues that affect morality.

Why only Catholics? Well, consider a recent example: the enthusiasm of Mormon politicians for stem-cell research. As the article indicates, this enthusiasm is entirely a product of Mormon theology. But in John Kerry's World, while a Mormon Senator is fully welcome to base policy decisions on his church's theology, a Catholic must demur--"foreign potentates," and all that. Got it.

It's getting tiring, but it looks like the only way these nominal Catholic politicos are ever going to be stopped is when the faithful organize and are instrumental in defeating one at the polls. "Defeat" and "loss of power" are truly the only "words and teachings" these Catholic representatives are going to listen to.

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