August 21, 2004
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
Kerry is not following Catholic teaching, but it
doesn't seem to matter to most Catholics.
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