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 John Kerry’s Religion 

September 28, 2004 
In his convention acceptance speech, John Kerry made a brief, vague reference to his “faith” and skipped over the subject even more quickly than he did his political career. Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.A few months ago, it appeared that Kerry might have trouble with some Catholic bishops if he tried to take Communion, because of his consistent advocacy of abortion.

But Kerry and his defenders insisted that he was a Catholic in good standing, and the issue faded away. Still, there were unanswered questions about how seriously Kerry took his Catholicism. Had he gotten his first marriage annulled before marrying Teresa Heinz? Why did he attend Protestant services instead of Catholic Mass, even taking communion in the Protestant rites — things Catholics have always been forbidden to do?

A long profile of Mrs. Kerry in The New Yorker casually answers some of these questions. Judith Thurman writes, “After a brief courtship, a short period of cohabitation, and the signing of a prenuptial agreement, the Kerrys were married in a civil ceremony on Nantucket in 1995.”

There is a world of meaning here for Catholics, and for anyone who takes Kerry’s professions of faith seriously. He and his wife, both baptized Catholics, are living together in defiance of Catholic teaching. In the eyes of the Church, their marriage is invalid: Catholics may not marry outside the Church. The issue of abortion aside, the Kerrys are both ineligible to receive Communion.

Catholic rules on this are ancient and firm. They are no longer firmly enforced, since the Second Vatican Council has created (or been used to spread) the false impression that the “old rules” have somehow lapsed. In fact, annulments are now scandalously easy to obtain. It’s become common for long-married couples with several children to get rulings that their marriage never existed. Annulments, once rare, have become the Catholic answer to no-fault divorce.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that Kerry didn't bother to wait for an annulment (which he claims to have belatedly applied for recently) before marrying the widowed Teresa Heinz. This confirms the suspicion that Kerry is, in fact, a thoroughly secularized man, whose regard for Catholicism is minimal.

[Breaker quote: Catholicism Lite?]And if Kerry takes Communion in Catholic churches, he is, in Catholic eyes, committing the grave sin of sacrilege — receiving the Body of Christ unworthily, as St. Paul puts it. This would also make him a hypocrite.

Some Catholic moral theologians argue that a prenuptial agreement makes a marriage invalid as well, since it shows that the parties are already contemplating divorce. They are supposed to be committing themselves to an indissoluble union. Nor may they cohabit before marrying.

To Catholics, all this is far more significant than the details of Kerry’s war record. He has tried to represent himself as a faithful Catholic, when he simply is not, and he knows it. His long record of promoting abortion is only part of the picture.

Kerry has belatedly scrambled to say he disapproves of abortion, but nothing in his record gives the slightest hint of moral reservations about killing the unborn. This is simply the pro forma “personally opposed” gesture of nominally Catholic liberal politicians, as familiar as it is empty. Kerry in fact has favored even grisly late-term abortions, which the late Senator Patrick Moynihan, otherwise another pro-abortion Catholic, bluntly called “infanticide.” The crushing of an infant’s skull in the birth canal, with the extraction of its brain, isn’t something to which you should merely be “personally opposed”; it’s something that should make you sick.

But what else should we expect of a liberal Massachusetts Democrat who has always idolized the Kennedys? In 1960, when John Kennedy became the first Catholic to be elected president of the United States, some people worried that he would act as a tool of the Vatican. Nobody need have the least worry that President John Kerry would let his Catholicism slow him down. Neither did President Kennedy, but we would learn that only much later.

Kerry’s religious ambiguity is one large reason he seems so hard to pin down. What does he really believe, and what difference does it make? He hasn’t been pressed on his religious views as he has been on his Vietnam days, but he has featured his religion too as a key part of his makeup. It would be no intrusion on his privacy to ask him, politely, how his voting record would be different if he were non-Catholic — or, for that matter, anti-Catholic.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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