Senator Kerry’s “I Do Believe That Life Begins at Conception, But My Conscience Tells Me To Support Legalized Abortion And Lets Me Receive Communion Too” Defense to Marc Balestrieri’s Heresy Charge Against Him Ultimately Will Be Rejected
Abraham Lincoln astutely asserted: “It is true that you can fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
Senator Kerry’s election strategy is to fool enough of the people to be elected President of the United States this year. He is particularly trying to fool enough Catholics, disposed favorably toward him by common religion, into believing that he is a good Catholic worthy of their votes and to combine their votes with the votes of his pro-abortion supporters to win.
This strategy is plausible. John F. Kennedy, the only baptized Catholic to become President of the United States, won 80% of the votes of his fellow Catholics while winning by the narrowest margin in history in 1960.
In his first Senate speech nineteen years ago, Senator Kerry expressed his firm support for abortion “rights.” He has been consistent in supporting abortion and is now campaigning for President with the endorsements of NARAL and Planned Parenthood, pledging that any replacement for a Supreme Court Justice will be pro-abortion if he does the nominating.
But, on June 14, 2004 Marc Balestrieri filed a “denunciation” with the ecclesiastical court in the Boston archdiocese, seeking to have Senator Kerry declared to have excommunicated himself by supporting legalized abortion.
Mr. Balestrieri’s unprecedented, albeit not widely reported, filing surely has complicated Senator Kerry’s presidential campaign and prompted Senator Kerry to placate the Roman Catholic Church without upsetting his pro-abortion supporters.
Even though the Boston archdiocese had not decided whether to accept or to reject the filing, Senator Kerry needed to defend himself as best he could and block acceptance of the filing, if possible. The acceptance of the filing in itself would undermine his claim to be a good practicing Catholic and attract great public attention.
So, to the surprise of his own spokesperson, Senator Kerry volunteered during an interview he gave to an Iowa newspaper, "I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception."
Senator Kerry’s spokesperson commented that although Senator Kerry had often said abortion should be "safe, legal and rare," and that his religion shapes that view, she could not recall him ever publicly discussing when life begins.
A few days later, on July 8, 2004, Larry King interviewed Senator Kerry, the presumptive Democrat presidential candidate, and his wife under United States law (if not Church law), Teresa Heinz Kerry. The two of them assured King that they were Catholics. Senator Kerry solemnly said that his Catholic faith “guides” him and described it as his “rock… the bedrock of [his] sense of place, of where it all fits.” Teresa also assured King that she was “absolutely” Catholic, referring to “[n]uns, convents, from five to 18.” She did not explain why she had married Senator Kerry while he was still married to his first wife in the eyes of their Church. Nor did Senator Kerry mention that he had ignored his “rock” by entering into a civil marriage with the older, vastly wealthy widow, or that she had agreed to the civil marriage only after Senator Kerry agreed to sign a prenuptual agreement.
With respect to abortion, Senator Kerry declared not only that he would “protect that right of choice,” but also that: “I think it's far more complicated than public life allows the discussion for. I mean, being for choice does not mean you are for abortion. Neither Teresa nor I are for abortion. Abortion should be rare, but safe and legal, as President Clinton said so often, and I think appropriately.”
Senator Kerry’s position was that he was for pregnant women having a legal right to abort their unborn babies, for any reason or no reason, and he would not force his professed personal opposition to abortion upon them.
That seemingly tolerant position is theological nonsense for a Roman Catholic.
Where natural law obtains, the only legitimate choice is to obey it.
Bishop Thomas Wenski, in his homily during the annual Red Mass in connection with the opening of a session of the Florida Legislature on March 3, 2004, pointed out without mentioning them by name that “Catholic” politicians like Senator Kerry were using Pontius Pilot as their role model
“If St. Thomas More, martyred for his uncompromising devotion to his conscience informed by faith, is the role model of a politician who seeks to integrate his religious values with his commitment to public service, then today’s self described Catholic politician who in making a false distinction between his “private” beliefs and his public responsibilities votes pro-abortion can take as his patron, Pontius Pilate. He was personally opposed to the execution of Jesus but could not see himself imposing his morality on the mob. At least, though he washed his hands, Pilate did not dare to take communion.”
Senator Kerry actually dares to take Communion.
As Father James Poumade put it in a homily delivered on May 30, 2004:
“Pontius Pilate was personally opposed to executing Jesus, and may even have come to believe in Him, but didn’t wish to impose his belief on the crowd. He knew what his decision meant.It is inconsistent to claim that one can reject the faith publicly and still be Catholic. Those who try to do so are the only ones truly guilty of mixing politics and religion. Being a practicing Catholic means following the will of God as revealed to us through Scripture and Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church.”
The "separation between faith and life" that Kerry has artfully advanced was condemned by the Second Vatican Council as “among the more serious errors of our age."
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life. It stressed that “[t]here cannot be two parallel lives ... the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and... the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.”
The Doctrinal Note emphasized that lay Catholics, in fulfilling civic duties, are to be “‘guided by a Christian conscience,’ in conformity with its values,” and that “their proper task [is] infusing the temporal order with Christian values, all the while respecting the nature and rightful autonomy of that order, and cooperating with other citizens according to their particular competence and responsibility.”
The Doctrinal Note categorically rejected the claims that citizens have “complete autonomy with regard to their moral choices and lawmakersâ€¦are respecting this freedom of choice by enacting laws which ignore the principles of natural ethics and yield to ephemeral cultural and moral trends, as if every possible outlook on life were of equal value.”
The Doctrinal Note distinguished legitimate and illegitimate freedom. It explicitly respected “the legitimate freedom of Catholic citizens to choose among the various political opinions that are compatible with faith and the natural moral law
, and to select, according to their own criteria, what best corresponds to the needs of the common good.” (Emphasis added.)
“Political freedom is not - and cannot be - based upon the relativistic idea that all conceptions of the human person’s good have the same value and truth,” the Doctrinal Note warned.
The Doctrinal Note rejected moral relativism and related the essential basis of democracy in the clearest terms: “If Christians must ‘recognize the legitimacy of differing points of view about the organization of worldly affairs,’ they are also called to reject, as injurious to democratic life, a conception of pluralism that reflects moral relativism. Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society
.” (Emphasis added.)
With respect to abortion, the Doctrinal Note was categorical: “John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose’ any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them
.” (Emphasis added.)
Senator Kerry’s talismanic invocation of the words “separation of church and state” does not immunize him from responsibility for his heresy of promoting abortion in the eyes of God or the Church and should not be permitted to confuse his fellow Americans, especially the non-Catholics among them.
Senator Kerry assured King that he is given Communion, even though some bishops would deny that to him, because “that's not the position of the Church.”
As former President Bill Clinton might say, “That depends upon what “the Church” means.
If “the Church” means the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, then the position is that each bishop will decide for his diocese. Thus, the same person who is refused Communion in St. Louis or Colorado Springs may receive it in Washington, D.C. or Boston. As though Canon 915 is suggestive instead of mandatory and each bishop is akin to an independent warlord in his personal domain.
If “the Church” means the Vatican, then Pope John Paul II and Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of Sacraments, then the Church’s position is that “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” to “a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion” if “precautionary measures have not had their effector... were not possible” and that person, “with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist.” “Quoted Language taken from a memorandum provided by Cardinal Ratzinger as guidance to the President of the Conference and the head of the Conference’s task force on Catholics in Political Life, a memorandum that plainly should have been distributed to each bishop at the last meeting, but apparently was not.
It may well be that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not appreciate that it was separating itself from the Vatican when it issued its statement on Catholics in Political Life on June 18, 2004. Cardinal Ratzinger’s comprehensive and compelling memorandum on the subject used the word “must” instead of “may,” signifying that refusal under the specified circumstances was mandatory instead of discretionary, but that message was not conveyed at the meeting.
It would behoove all of the Catholic bishops of the United States to carefully study the carefully composed memorandum and then to clarify whether they are in agreement with or in rebellion against the Vatican.
Senator Kerry summarized his defense to the heresy charge against him while King interviewed him. He said that there is separation of Church and state in America and “[his] obligation as a Catholic is to examine my conscience, under the freedom of conscience under Vatican II, Pope John XXIII, and Pope Paul, and I do that.”
What that meant is that Senator Kerry is claiming that he is entitled to disregard Catholic doctrine when acting as a public person, such as United States Senator or President, because his conscience supposedly tells him to do so, and therefore he remains a faithful Catholic in a state of grace and in full communion with his Church and fit to receive Communion.
That is an unconscionable invocation of the actual right of conscience recognized during the Second Vatican Council.
Father Poumade exposed the fallacy of Senator Kerry’s superficially appealing right-of-conscience argument in readily understandable terms:
“What about the role of conscience? Doesn’t individual conscience affect this decision? In fact, some may say, didn’t Vatican II say that individual conscience had to be respected above all? The Second Vatican Council was, in fact, abundantly clear on this matter. The Council’s document Gaudium et Spes on the Church in the Modern World declares: “Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age. Long since, the Prophets of the Old Testament fought vehemently against this scandal and even more so did Jesus Christ Himself in the New Testament threaten it with grave punishments. Therefore, let there be no false opposition between professional and social activities on the one part, and religious life on the other... to the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls.”
“For this reason,” Father Poumade continued, “the Vatican has said plainly: ‘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.’
“Why? Because primacy of conscience and church-state separation do not and can not mean ‘anything goes.’ If that mistaken idea were so, then if one’s conscience said it was okay to hate Jews and blacks, you could do that and it would be just fine morally. But we can’t do that. It’s wrong. And if there were an election involving whether or not Jews and blacks should be treated as human beings, then such a misunderstanding of church-state separation and the freedom of conscience, would mean that the Church could not say anything about the dignity of Jewish and African-American people, simply because a politician had mentioned it, or our consciences did not feel guilty. The Civil War and the Second World War give us ample historical proof of the folly of such a line of thought. We can only follow our conscience if it is in line with truth, with moral truth. That moral truth is expressed by the formal teachings of the Church. If our consciences are opposed to that, then our consciences are stunted. Morality is not something debated and made up. It is conformity to the will of God for us and for society. God decides what is moral, not man. No election can determine what is right and wrong - only if we as a nation will choose to follow the right path - or the wrong one.”
Senator Kerry’s position on abortion plainly is heretical. Since it is manifest and he has obstinately persisted in it for many years, Canon 915 requires that he not be admitted to Communion.
Therefore, Mr. Balestrieri’s denunciation of Senator Kerry as a heretic is soundly based.
Senator Kerry’s best hope is that the merits will not be reached and no action will be taken on it based upon a procedural defect: lack of standing.
This is the same type of approach that a majority of the Justices of the United States Supreme Court took in the Pledge of Allegiance case to avoid reaching the question of whether the inclusion of the words “under God” in The Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional or not. There, it was ruled that the plaintiff lacked standing to challenge their inclusion, because the mother of his daughter was the only parent with that right under the circumstances of that case. That put of the decision on the merits for some time.
Last summer Archbishop O'Malley of Boston gave the faithful hope that the subordination of religious principal to lesser considerations that permitted the horrific clergy sex abuse scandal was over, at least in the Boston archdiocese.
He declared that pro-abortion nominally Catholic politicians "should not be receiving Communion and should refrain from doing so."
But, the Archbishop dashed that hope by disregarding Canon 915's clear mandate, as explained in detail by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and declaring that the policy in his archdiocese is not to deny Communion and instead to leave it to the individual to decide, as though each bishop may disobey canon law that might be problematic to enforce.
Therefore, it is possible, if not likely, that Archbishop O’Malley will choose to reject Balestrieri’s denunciation for lack of standing.
Let us pray that Archbishop O’Malley recognizes that Mr. Ballestrieri has standing and proceeds to upheld his denunciation on the merits, sparing himself the embarrassment of reversal on appeal to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (of which Cardinal Ratzinger has been Prefect since 1981).
There have been about 45 million abortions in the United States since Roe v. Wade was decided more than thirty years ago. That’s approaching eight times the number of Jews slaughtered during the Holocaust.
How many more unborn babies must die before the Roman Catholic Church in the United States demonstrates that it is serious about stopping the slaughter instead of sending out conflicting signals by simultaneously condemning it and giving Holy Communion to unrepentant, nominally Catholic pro-abortion politicians of both major parties?
Michael J. Gaynor
Greenlawn, New York