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John F. Kerry's catholic Problem

By: Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

Maybe you read the same article I did this past week? It was entitled "Abortion Issue has little effect on Catholic Vote" and it was written by Andrew Greeley, a Catholic priest, sociologist and author of borderline (you know the type, not quite pornographic but close) popular books. It first appeared in the Los Angeles Times and was picked up in syndication across the country. I read it in my local newspaper, The Virginian Pilot.

Father Greeley is on the staff of the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago. After the expected flurry of sociological analysis to prove his "bona fides", this article simply restated the obvious, that there really has not been a decidedly "Catholic vote", at least in the sense of Catholics refusing to vote for a candidate who supports the taking of innocent human life in the first home of the human race, the mothers womb.

Earth to Father Greeley, we all knew that already!

Many of us are saddened by it, and, at least some of us are working hard to change that without any help from folks like you who use your considerable intelligence to muddy what should be a very clear application of our duty as Catholic citizens to vote in a manner that is consistent with the truth. Which truth? That every human person from conception to natural death has a right to life and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade was wrong, period. That is the only proper position for a faithful Catholic. That includes you Father Greeley!

However, what Fr. Greeley and all the pundits fail to see is that this Presidential election is very different than any we have had in many years. John F. Kerry is trying to run as a "Catholic candidate" when his position on this fundamental human rights issue is absolutely at odds with his claim. Furthermore, the right to life and the freedom to be born are not the only issues that he has chosen to take a position that is at odds with the truth. For example, he is very weak in his feigned opposition to the efforts to redefine marriage by judicial fiat.

I am not numbered among those who think that God tells anyone how political elections will turn out. I also acknowledge, up front, that I want to see John F. Kerry's campaign fail. In fact, Fr. Greeley could restore at least a modicum of his lost credibility if he would acknowledge in his pieces that he wants the Kerry candidacy to succeed.

I have had serious disagreements with the current administration on some vital issues. For example, I have consistently written that the use of a notion of "pre-emptive war" to justify the Iraq War simply did not comport with any licit reading of the just war analysis in the Catholic tradition, no matter what some Catholic apologists for the current administration tried to argue. I also expressed my opinion, at the beginning of the Iraq war, that sending one of the leaders of the neo-conservative movement among Catholics to Rome to try to change the analysis of the Holy See on this subject revealed an arrogance of perceived power within the ranks of the whole so called "neo-conservative" movement. One has only to look at the web site "Catholic Just War" and read the "Open Letter from Lay Catholics to President Bush" to see how many Catholics in America were being recruited to a position on this war that simply does not comport with the clear analysis of the Holy See.

However, this issue has changed considerably now. In fact, the position of both major candidates, Bush and Kerry, are really not that different on the current challenges arising out of this war. We all hope for a peaceful transition of power in the coming week, an end to the violence and a truly just society for the people of Iraq.

I left the Democratic party years ago when it failed to hear the cry of those whom Mother Teresa rightly called the "poorest of the poor", children in the first home of their mothers womb. I am very uncomfortable in the Republican Party. In one of my dream scenarios for this Presidential election, John F. Kerry loses by such a wide margin that the current cabal who have captured the Democratic party are run out of town, and we, her wandering sons and daughters, still pining for another Governor Bob Casey, come home and take back a once proud party for the people.

I know; it is a dream scenario.

It now looks like this election will be a real squeaker and, no matter who wins, the proponents of death on demand who control the Democratic Party will probably not lose their stranglehold for quite a while. Given the razor thin margins, I believe that Catholics will decide this election and that John F. Kerry has a "Catholic problem."

I am a faithful Roman Catholic Christian who seeks to inform my life, including my political participation, by my faith. I embrace the entirety of the social teaching of the Catholic Church and try to inform my participation in politics in accordance with its sage wisdom and the principles it offers to build a more just and human society and serve the common good. I do so in accordance with a hierarchy of values. I absolutely reject the subterfuge of some Catholics in public life, like John F. Kerry, who take positions diametrically at odds with the fundamental truth about life, taught clearly and infallibly their Church, and then try to use their identification as a Catholic to win votes.

Father Greeley's analysis is partially correct. There is no "Catholic Vote" in the sense of a bloc of Catholics who, like other interest groups, vote in one party or another. However, there is a growing body of Catholic voters, Democrat, Republican, Independent and non-aligned voters, who are politically active and will turn out in great numbers for this vital election to vote against John F. Kerry. Catholics do not identify as either "liberal" or "conservative", they are, however Catholic- and they are not going to be used by someone who claims to be one of their own for his own political gain. Simply put, he is a poser. The dictionary defines a poser as " a person who habitually pretends to be something he is not." We do not want a poser in the White House, we want a President.

In previous elections, most Catholics have voted for the Democratic candidate. I understand. I was raised in Boston, Massachusetts, in an Irish, French Catholic and Democratic household. Many of us have simply mistrusted the other party; concerned that Republicans did not have a genuine concern for the poor. Now, John Kerry is claiming to be a part of our community, one of us. If he is, why are Catholics not lining up behind him? The answer is because Catholics do not trust him.

Contrary to Father Greeley's assertion, I believe that Catholics will decide this election. I discern an amazing phenomenon brewing in the Catholic community. It is not that most Catholics are necessarily "pro-Bush", though some are. It is actually the reverse of what some pundits maintain will be the deciding factor in this election. You have heard some refer to a growing "anyone but Bush" sentiment in some political circles. I see the opposite among Catholics. There is a growing "anyone but Kerry" sentiment among Catholics.

Herein lies John F. Kerry's "Catholic Problem". Catholics will vote against him.

Why? Because we do not want to be used by an opportunistic candidate who professes to believe what our Church teaches about life and marriage but acts in a manner that is diametrically opposed to these positions. By doing so, Mr. Kerry not only puts his own soul at risk, but he has alienated scores of Catholics as a result and is going to lose the election because of it. There is an obvious irony here. This allegedly "Catholic candidate" will be kept out of office by Catholics. The Catholic community senses a fraud and will not be used in this way.

We would love to elect a faithful Catholic to the highest office of the land; one who recognizes that the first human right is the right to life; who knows that marriage and family are the first vital cell of society and serve the common good; one who truly cares about the poor and the needy and insists that the market economy be at the service of the person, the family and the common good; one who is dedicated to authentic social justice and peace and has a true commitment to the faith that he or she professes.

This kind of authentically Catholic candidate would know that Catholic social teaching is not "religious" in the sense that it is only for religious people. Rather, it contains the principles and wisdom needed in this desperate hour to build a more just society. Such a candidate could be part of the answer to the pressing needs of a Nation desperately in need of true leadership.

However, John F. Kerry is not that man. He will be kept out of office by Catholics who will not vote for President Bush as much as vote against John Kerry. I am numbered among them. We will be the political story of the 2004 election.

John F. Kerry has a "Catholic problem".


Rev. Mr. Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia and also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, The John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Long active at the intersection of Faith and Culture as a human rights lawyer and public policy activist, Deacon Fournier is the founder and Thomas More fellow of the Common Good Movement and Common Good Alliance and the editor of Catholic Way.


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