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August 21, 2004
Column #1,199 

                The Faith & Politics of Presidential Candidates
                                 (Second of a two part series)
                                                    
     Only 7 percent of voters described John Kerry as a "man of strong faith." John Kerry has always attended Mass. Even at prep school where there were few Catholics, he took a cab to church and attended during his years at Yale.

     How has his faith influenced his politics? Kerry has said little about it. At the Democratic convention, he artfully commented, "I don't wear my faith on my sleeve." That was partly fact and partly putdown of George Bush, who does. "But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day from Sunday to Sunday."

     Belief.net editor Steven Waldman commented that Kerry was saying that "His faith is battle-tested and deep" and that he is a regular churchgoer.

     That's an important message to America's 65 million Catholics, 27 percent of voters who tend to vote at a higher percentage than Protestants. They are also swing voters. Since 1972, no Presidential candidate has won the popular vote without winning the Catholic vote.

     However, a new book "Unfit for Command," questions Kerry's accounts of his heroism there. For example, his first Purple Heart was given despite a commander's refusal to award it. Kerry apparently shot a grenade that hit a rock, resulting in a tiny piece of  shrapnel stuck in his arm. The doctor used tweezers to pull it out and put on a band-aid. Kerry asked Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard, his superior officer, for a Purple Heart recommendation.

     Hibbard recalls that Kerry said, "'I got wounded,' and everybody else, the
crew that were present were saying, 'We didn't get any fire. We don't know how he got his scratch.' The scratch didn't look like much to me. I've seen worse injuries from a rose thorn....The injury was self-inflicted...I told Kerry to forget it." Hibbard does not know how he got the Purple Heart.

     Kerry ignored the commandment: "You shall not bear false witness."

     In his autobiography, "A Call to Service," Kerry said that "being an American Catholic has three particular implications...The first two follow directly from the two great commandments set forth in the Scriptures: our obligations to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The first commandment means we must believe that there are absolute standards of right and wrong...It is our duty to honor them as best we can.

     "The second commandment means that our commitment to equal rights and social justice, here and around the world, is not simply a mater of political fashion or economic and social theory, but a direct command from God." That leads him to support a higher minimum wage.

     The Catholic Church has an absolute standard on abortion, which is always wrong and on marriage, which is always between a man and a woman. Kerry honors neither position.

     "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception," states the "Catechism of the Catholic Church." It quotes Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you."

     Yet Kerry even voted against banning "partial birth abortion" which former Sen. Pat Moynihan, a Catholic supporter of abortion rights, called "infanticide."

      St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke cites a church law requiring that those who
"obstinately" persevere "in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion." Most Catholic bishops disagree, and simply say such people should not come for Communion.

     Kerry was one of only 16 Senators voting against the Defense of Marriage Act which states that marriage is only between a man and a woman. In a column published by "The Advocate," a gay magazine, Kerry wrote in 1996 the law calls "for a caste system for marriage." Now he says marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but he and Sen. Edwards, his Vice Presidential nominee, were the only two senators who didn't vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment.

     That angers weekly Catholic church goers, who support President Bush by a
52 percent to 42 for Kerry, reports the Gallup Poll. However, they are only a third of Catholics. Of those who attend less often, a quarter of Catholics, Kerry leads Bush by 50 to 45 percent. Among the 40 percent of Catholics who attend seldom or never, Kerry has a large 57 to 39 percent lead.

     Kerry is not following Catholic teaching, but it doesn't seem to matter to most Catholics.

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