May 8, 2004
Should John Kerry Be Denied Communion?
December, Rep. David Obey, a 25-year House member, received a letter from
his Catholic Bishop, Raymond Burke of La Crosse, Wis., stating that he
should no longer present himself for communion. In a public statement Burke
Catholic legislators "who are members of the faithful of the diocese...and
who continue to support procured abortion or euthanasia may not present
themselves to receive holy Communion." Further, "They are not to be admitted
to holy Communion should they present themselves, until such time as they
publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices."
Rep. Obey was outraged: "Bishop Burke has a right to instruct me on matters
of faith and morals in my private life and - like any other citizen - to try
by persuasion, not dictation, to affect my vote on any public matter. But
when he attempts to use his ecclesiastical position to dictate to American
public officials how the power of law should be brought to bear against
Americans who do not necessarily share our religious beliefs, on abortion or
any other public issue, he crosses the line into unacceptable territory," he
told The National Catholic Reporter.
"The U.S. Constitution, which I have taken a sacred oath to defend, is
designed to protect American citizens from just such authoritarian demands."
That stinging response had no impact on Burke, who was promoted to
Archbishop of St. Louis. On Feb. 1, he told reporters that if Sen. John
Kerry, a candidate in the Missouri presidential primary, approached him for
Communion, "I would have to admonish him not to present himself for
Ironically, Obey's record on abortion is far more moderate than that of
Kerry. Obey supported the ban on "partial birth abortion." According to
Carol Tobias of National Right to Life, "John Kerry is the most aggressively
radical pro-abortion candidate that has ever run for President. In his
announcement speech, he said he would only nominate judges that support
On the other hand, Kerry will be the first Catholic to be nominated for
President since John Kennedy. He knows how important the Catholic vote is
in Presidential elections. And it is a swing vote. Catholics put John
Kennedy in the White House, winning 83 percent of their vote in a race that
Kennedy edged Nixon by only 100,000 votes.
However, a majority of Catholics voted for Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan
won 15 million Catholic votes. But Catholics help put Jimmy Carter and Bill
Clinton in the White House. On the other hand, the percentage of Catholics
who call themselves "Democrats" has fallen from 67 to 41 percent.
Therefore, the attitude of Catholic bishops toward militant pro-abortion
candidates like Kerry is important. Generally, Catholic bishops have
refrained from partisan politics. Instead, they have articulated their
positions on substantive issues, some of which favor Democratic candidates:
opposition to the Iraqi war and support of programs to aid the poor and the
environment. Their opposition to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage
supports Republican candidates.
However, some Catholic bishops are becoming more militant on abortion. The
day before his installation as Archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley
announced: "A Catholic politician who holds a public, pro-choice position
should not be receiving Communion and should on their own volition, refrain
from doing so." But he would not "deny Communion" to anyone.
In Rome Cardinal Francis Arinze made headlines recently when he said that
Catholic politicians who were unambiguously pro-abortion should not be given
Princeton Prof. Robert George applauded: "Abortion is the unjust taking of
human life. It is not just something that is wrong like contraception,
fornication or adultery. It is a profound, deep injustice to deny to an
entire class of people the protection of the law."
Sen. Kerry met privately with Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Last
week McCarrick also saw Arinze in Rome, and later told the Catholic News
Service, life issues such as abortion come first because "without life, you
cannot have any other human values."
However, he added that the church is not a single-issue institution: "There
are many issues that have to be considered." He felt that bishops should
not give "anybody direction on how they should vote." Nor would he deny
Communion to anyone.
Prof. Michael Horan, a Catholic theologian at Loyala Marymount University,
agrees with McCarrick: "Once you begin to deny any public figure Communion
based on their public stance on one criteria, you open the door to
chaos...Communion is not a right. It is a gift."
To date, most bishops agree.
30+ Years / 1700+ Columns
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Cohabitation: A Growing Problem - Part I
Texting While Driving - A Killer
Why Have "Religious Nones" Tripled?
Norma McCorvey Roe of Roe v. Wade
The Worst Valentine: Cohabitation
Pornography: A Public Health Hazard
Christianity Gives Women Equal Opportunity
Sextortion Kills Teens
Assisted Suicide Is Growing
same sex marriage,
abortion and infanticide,