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April 12, 2004
Faith and Politics

On Foxnews.com, Analysts: Faith Less of a Factor for Kerry

No kidding.

John Kerry is only the third Catholic candidate this close to getting all the way to the White House, but whether he can win over the Catholic vote in November could depend on his skill in separating his religious and political beliefs.
In other words, how well he can pay lip service to his alleged faith while telling the lies he thinks will win him the White House.
"He's in opposition to the Catholic Church on essential church teaching. He has the most radical stand one could have on the subject [of abortion]," said William Donahue, president of the Catholic League. "There's a serious question here that he's so out of sync with the church's teachings on the life issues that it's going to be a problem."
Indeed... But if he's so out of sync, why does anyone bother calling him a Catholic? Doesn't the Catholic church have rules about who can be a member?
"To ask each communicant if they are pro-choice or pro-life is impractical," said former California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, who argued that Kerry should not be judged by his faith any more than any other individual.
Agreed. At the same time, however, it is perfectly legitimate for him to be judged by how well he holds to the principles to which he, as a Catholic, is supposed to hold.
Kerry's Web site touts the presumptive Democratic candidate as a committed adherent to the Catholic faith, similar to earlier Democratic nominees John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Alfred E. Smith in 1928.

"John Kerry was raised in the Catholic faith and continues to be an active member of the Catholic church," it reads.

Active... how? Does he show up for every Bingo night? Or is he just one of those people who thinks he can throw his wife's money into the poor box and consider his obligation fulfilled?
The Massachusetts senator agrees with the church on social justice issues, including immigration, poverty, health care and the death penalty, and he did seek an annulment from the church after his first marriage. But Kerry holds different opinions from church doctrine on such issues as abortion and same-sex unions, both of which he supports.
The Catholic church is not a Chinese restaurant, and the catechism is not a menu. You're not allowed to choose three items from column A and two from column B. It's supposed to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
Kerry has argued that he is a politician and not a cleric, and should be judged not on his adherence to his faith, but on his commitment to the U.S. Constitution (search).
John, John, John... if you aren't willing to adhere to the tenets of your faith, how can anyone believe that you would adhere to the U.S. Constitution?
But whether or not his faith matters remains to be seen.
It may matter to him, but less than the White House does.
Catholics, who are 65-million strong in the United States, make up one-fourth of the electorate and traditionally lean Democratic. Republicans have chipped away at that advantage over the years. No presidential candidate since 1980, save Al Gore in the 2000 race, has won the Catholic vote and lost the White House.

But Catholic Democrats disproportionately backed Kerry over his opponents during primary season, and a Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll taken earlier this week shows that of 269 registered Catholic voters polled, 47 percent supported Kerry while 41 percent preferred President Bush. Catholics also have a favorability rating of Kerry of 48 percent, while the general public has a rate of 43 percent. The margin of error was 6 percent.

Small poll sample size... big margin of error... I'd call that poll statistically worthless.
The numbers have led some analysts to question whether Kerry's departures from Catholic doctrine will have any impact at all.
Well, if the bishops took things seriously, they'd take Kerry to task for his lapses. They, after all, have the authority to say who is and is not Catholic.
"The church can make its own rules, but it is also between the person and God," said radio talk show host and Fox News contributor Ellen Ratner.
Indeed. But if you stray from Catholic doctrine as far as Kerry does, you really don't have the right to call yourself Catholic. Hence we have Lutherans, Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians....
"I'd like to think that religion is not a big factor these days. I think people will say whatever religion he has, that’s his," said Rev. Robert F. Drinan, a Catholic priest and former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts.

Drinan, now a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said Kerry's faith may even help pick up Catholic Republicans, adding that a GOP attack on Kerry's observance "could boomerang badly."

Priest... former Donk congressman... from Massachussets... you think he's not going to back Kerry to the hilt?

Kerry could sacrifice a virgin to Satan on the pitcher's mound at Fenway, in front of 50,000 witnesses and on national TV, and the Massachussets Democrat machine would continue to push his candidacy. No doubt accompanied by claims of a GOP smear campaign....

While Kerry does not adhere to all the strictures of the faith, Bush may not be any better a choice for Catholics, added Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (search).

"There is no candidate that is in agreement with the church on all issues," she said.

If I were Catholic, I'd rather have an honest Methodist in the White House than a hypocritical alleged-Catholic.
Still, church decisions could play a central role in swaying Catholic voters. In January 2003, prompted by international debate on stem cell research and human cloning, the Vatican released a "doctrinal note." Among other things, it said that "a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."
Indeed, anyone who votes against or campaigns on a platform that contradicts the fundamental contents of their faith and morals is nothing more or less than a whore.
In February, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis advised Kerry not to "present himself for communion" at any church in the city. Earlier in the year, Burke had cited support for abortion and euthanasia as issues he could not reconcile with political candidates.
Brave man. Expect a Thomas á Becket moment in his future.
In Kerry's Boston diocese, Archbishop Sean O'Malley has instructed Catholic politicians who back abortion rights to abstain from communion. But, unlike Burke, O'Malley has not suggested that priests refuse communion if politicians like Kerry present themselves. Kerry is expected to receive the sacrament on Easter Sunday at his church in Boston.
Kerry, in a not unexpected move, ignored the archbishop. How, exactly, is is this consistent with Catholicism?
Donahue said that not only will many Catholics reject Kerry's commitment to his religion, but he may also expect a backlash among non-Catholics.

"One more time, is he speaking out of both sides of his mouth? It's adding to the profile that he seems to be everything to everybody. That is something he is going to have to answer when it comes to the subject of religion," he said.

Preach it, brother Father.

"It's not going to be whether there's an animus against Catholics, but is he a Catholic in good standing," Donahue said.

Exactly. I'm not Catholic myself, though could I be if it weren't for a couple of doctrinal issues on which I am at variance with Rome. But I still respect the church. Kerry, on the other hand, wants to have his cake and eat it too by claiming to be one thing and acting like another.

Added American Enterprise Institute Research Associate John Fortier, questions of Kerry's faith demonstrate just how much the country has changed since 1960, when anti-Catholic bias arose in questions about whether Kennedy would be more committed to his church than his state.

"The fact that really very few people have even noticed [Kerry's religion] shows that we're largely beyond it. I don’t think were going to face much talk about whether his loyalty is to the U.S. or the pope as we did with Kennedy," Fortier said.

Again we come to the idea that it is not the specific religion that is so important in American politics, but rather whether or not a candidate can actually keep the promises, vows, or commitments he has made.

On this score, Kerry fails the test.

Posted by Russ at 03:31 PM, April 12, 2004 in Politics

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That's some news flash about Kerry's faith, isn't it?

Posted by: La Shawn Barber at April 13, 2004 09:11 AM

Not really much of a surprise, no.

Posted by: Russ at April 13, 2004 09:51 AM

That was a very entertaining fisking. Also; very truthful. I personally do not even feel the Catholic Church to be a Christian chuch at all much less a Christian faith. I do not mean to offend good Catholics; its just that so many of it's tenants and policies are not found in scripture that I have a problem calling practicing Catholics Christians. Kerry however; is neither in my book. Christian or Catholic.

Posted by: John K at April 13, 2004 04:46 PM

Kerry could sacrifice a virgin to Satan on the pitcher's mound at Fenway, in front of 50,000 witnesses and on national TV, and the Massachussets Democrat machine would continue to push his candidacy. No doubt accompanied by claims of a GOP smear campaign....

They actually have virgins in Massachussets? The Kennedy Cousins missed one?

And John K, don't lump decent practicing Catholics in the same boat as the "Cafeteria Catholics" exemplified by most of the folks you see supporting Kerry, Kennedy, et al. That would be a lot like me calling into question the beliefs of non-Catholic Christians because of a few evangelicals like Tilton, Baker, Robertson, Hinn, Swaggert and others who live in opulence while collecting millions from gullible old ladies trying to purchase "indulgences" and prayer-hankies.

Remember, the history of every western Christian religion includes the total history of the Catholic church. The Methodists (just a convenient example, no offense) didn't spring forth from the forehead of God one morning, untainted or unsullied by the total history or activities of those who professed a belief in Christ before them.

Excellent post, Russ. Good read.

Posted by: Mamamontezz at April 14, 2004 11:47 AM

I am a lifelong Evangelical, have never attended a Catholic service, but I am inclined to agree with Mamamontezz on this one.

While there are probably many "Catholics" who know nothing about their faith, and many who do not believe a word in the bible, but call themselves Castholic out of tradition, the fact is, speaking from a theologically conservative POV, there are specific tenets of the Christian Faith that must be adhered to -- re: The Nicene or Apostle's Creeds. Without these, what we believe is a nice philosophy, but not Christianity. These are the beliefs that are required for salvation. If a Catholic believes them, I must view him/her as a Brother/Sister in the Lord. Any extranneous beliefs they may hold, I might be inclined to view as spiritually unhealthy, but not grounds for exclusion from the Body.

Posted by: Brian B at April 14, 2004 05:48 PM

I stand corrected by a brother in Christ. I admit I did not think through the comment above. It was just an emotional thought I guess. I appologize to anyone whom I might have offended.

Posted by: John K at April 15, 2004 09:26 AM

Graciously put, John.

Posted by: Brian B at April 15, 2004 11:45 AM