April 6, 2004

Kerry’s Catholicism

Category: Politics :: Permalink

Today, in the College library, I glanced through the April 5 issue of Time and came upon an article by Karen Tumulty and Perry Bacon entitled “A Test of Kerry’s Faith.”

I confess that I really have little interest in American politics, but I do have a growing interest in political theology and especially the political character of the church, an interest fostered most recently by William Cavanaugh’s fascinating Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ, about which I’ll say more later.

For now, let me just mention that Cavanaugh is quite critical of the view that the church’s role is “religious,” while the state takes care of “politics.” The church, therefore, isn’t competent to address political issues, but should leave them to the experts.

Interestingly enough, that very issue is what this Time article addresses. In the article, an official at the Vatican is quoted as saying:

People in Rome are becoming more and more aware that there’s a problem with John Kerry, and a potential scandal with his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of his stances, particularly abortion.

The Archbishop of Boston, where Kerry is from, apparently believes that the church does have authority to discipline members who use their office to promote things the church is opposed to, though it appears that, at this point, he may be leaving it to the politicians’ own consciences:

O’Malley has said that Catholic politicians who do not vote in line with church theology “shouldn’t dare come to Communion.”

And Kerry’s own response?

I don’t tell church officials what to do, and church officials shouldn’t tell American politicians what to do in the context of our public life.

The church deals with “religion,” apparently, and politicians deal with “public life,” which suggests that the church has nothing to say about the way people behave in their public lives.

But that answer, even though it may have the support of men such as Jacques Maritain, is itself an attack on the church and on her God-given authority.

The question is not whether the church ought to rule the country. The question is whether the church is itself a social body, a body with the power to excommunicate, a body authorized by God to declare who is a member and who is not according to the Word of God, who doesn’t turn a blind eye to sins one commits in connection with “public life”?

It will be interesting to see what happens, if anything, in the case of John Kerry.

Posted by John Barach @ 6:20 pm | Discuss (0)

Leave a Reply