What would JFK do? Round II

textWill he or won’t he? Will they or won’t they?

Will Sen. John Kerry allow himself to be photographed taking Holy Communion in a Roman Catholic Church in the coming months?

Will any bishops make a point of this? Will his own archbishop call him out?

What this is all about, of course, is that Kerry is both the first post-Roe Catholic presidential candidate and the first since the Vatican clarified how the Church views politicians who actively support abortion rights. Steven Waldman is asking these timely questions at Slate.com. And he is right to see that this could turn into a major story — even a dangerous photo-op in reverse.

Will America’s Catholic bishops actually do anything about Kerry’s disregard of key church teachings? At minimum, they’ll complain, as will many conservative Catholic and pro-life groups. One of the biggest guns in their arsenal, spiritually speaking, is the refusal of communion. Most Catholics consider receiving the Eucharist to be at the heart of their faith and its most vivid expression. Pro-choice and pro-gay Catholics are still allowed to call themselves Catholic but, according to David Early, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, being recommended not to take Communion means that the church believes “there is something defective about that person’s practice of the Catholic faith.”

The person in the real hot throne, of course, is the still relatively new leader of the Church in Boston, Archbishop Sean O’Malley. It should, however, be noted that he already has a communicant named Ted Kennedy. At the same time, the very national nature of this issue means that other Roman Catholic prelates — perhaps even Rome itself — may be tempted to speak out, risking the wrath of the New York Times editorial page and God only knows who else.

O’Malley has already had this to say, noting that Kerry is not alone in the pews:

“These politicians should know that if they’re not voting correctly on these life issues that they shouldn’t dare come to communion,” the Archbishop told LifeSiteNews.com.

Archbishop O’Malley noted that beyond pro-abortion politicians, that reception of Holy Communion by those not in a state of grace is sadly commonplace. “I think it’s in the context of a greater problem – Catholics feel that everyone is entitled to go to communion all the time. That has to be addressed. You know if a (pro-abortion) politician asked me I would say you shouldn’t go to communion, I wouldn’t go to communion. They don’t understand why.” He explained, “At a funeral sometimes they will announce that communion is for Catholics and people get all offended, so we’ve lost the notion of the sacredness of communion and the kind of disposition we need to have.”

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jim

    Kennedy and Kerry are already deeply involved in political life, of course. They’re both U.S. Senators. Do they present themselves for communion now? Does the Church deny them communion when they do? If the Church has turned a blind eye to communion-taking pro-choice Catholic politicians all these years– other than issuing the occasional toothless public admonishment–it’s not going to look very good if it now starts to get tough on them, especially if it’s very selective in its enforcement.

    I just can’t imagine that this matter poses any real risk to Kerry. Most American Catholics do not seem to see any real conflict between disobeying the Church and taking communion. And Catholics who do take the rules seriously probably aren’t going to vote for Kerry anyway, given his position on abortion.

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