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October 31, 2004
Kerry's Profession Of Faith "Morally And Intellectually Incoherent"

In a book review of The American Catholic Voter: 200 Years of Political Impact, Philadelphia Inquirer editor Frank Wilson dissects John Kerry's repeated assertions of belief in Catholicism and his insistence that it informs his public life. In his analysis, Wilson correctly spotlights the hypocrisy and betrayal at the heart of Kerry's rhetoric:

In July, in an article in the Washington Post, Kerry was quoted as saying, "I oppose abortion... . I believe life does begin at conception." But, he added, "I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist."

That's morally and intellectually incoherent. "Every time you cast a vote on the floor of the United States Senate," Marlin says, "you're voting to impose your beliefs on somebody else. If you vote for higher taxes, you're voting to impose them."

He has a point. The Catholic view that life begins at conception is not put forward as a mere gynecological factoid. The church draws a moral conclusion from it: If human life begins at conception, then abortion - the direct and intentional termination of a fetus' life signs - amounts to the taking of innocent human life. It is hard to see how one could accept this as an article of religious faith, as Kerry says he does, and feel no obligation to act on it - in fact, to feel obliged not to.

Indeed, he seems to have done everything he could on behalf of those who espouse the opposite view. At this year's annual NARAL Pro-Choice America dinner, he pledged "no overturning Roe v. Wade, no packing of the courts with judges hostile to choice, no denial of choice to poor women." ... Kerry voted against the Partial Birth Abortion Act and has voted against bills requiring parental notification in the case of teens seeking abortion.

Most offensive to Catholics is Kerry's rationalization on his faith. He treats it like a tote board, justifying his blank-check support of abortion by pointing to his opposition to the death penalty and his anti-war activism. First, Catholicism doesn't work on a points system; you don't get merits and demerits. Second, the Catechism does not preclude either the death penalty or war, contrary to popular belief. In fact, the Church allows for both under very limited circumstances, a fact which a short perusal of the Catechism demonstrates. An entire philosophy exists within the Church on the nature of "just war", and execution can be supported if it surely saves other innocent lives. Abortion, on the other hand, is expressly called a "grave sin" in the Catechism and no mitigating circumstances are countenanced, either in the doctrine or the Magisterium, the two-millenia body of teaching and philosophy.

I point to this article because I had the privilege of corresponding with Frank Wilson and Father Gregory Lockwood (a CQ reader) while Frank researched this piece. I won't republish Frank's correspondence (because I haven't asked his permission), but I can report that this article must not have come easy from his pen. Frank has, as I also do, a strong libertarian streak which makes the abortion question difficult for him. I wrote this to Frank, and I used part of it in an earlier post:

It sounds like you are torn between a desire to be a good Catholic and some strong libertarian impulses -- a position for which I am very sympathetic. However, a preference for non-involvement on the part of the state is not a neutral position, it's at least a de facto legalization of abortion. There may be a good political argument for that, but I don't think it satisfies the responsibility that a Catholic politician would have to protect the life of the unborn (again, if one is concerned about being a "good Catholic" and a legislator concurrently). It's the Catholic definition of life that causes the intellectual hurdle.

Taking Kerry as an example, if he stated an ambivalence about the beginning of life or a clear belief that it doesn't start until birth, then votes to legalize abortion or take a laissez-faire approach to it would be consistent and understandable. It wouldn't be Catholic, but it would be logical. However, Kerry professes to believe that life begins at conception and that he is a faithful Catholic, a combination which would require him to use his votes to protect life. Refusing to do so is sinful, according to the Church, especially if one professes to believe in the Church.

Father Lockwood wrote in detail about the issues surrounding the abortion issue and Kerry's contradiction in his political standing. He not only addresses Kerry's hypocrisy on his faith and abortion, but also Kerry's demagoguery on embryonic stem-cell research:

It is manifestly unjust and never licit to intentionally kill the innocent, for whatever great end, and this applies also to other things such as the embryonic stem cell/cloning research phenomenon. The use of embryos for research, and possible production of treatments, could, potentially, dwarf the present death toll from abortion in this country. ...

A candidate who has shown himself in manifold ways over many years to support, and give material, legal support for the indefensible practice of killing children in utero (crowing about it during each successive speech to the Planned Parenthood/NARAL celebrations each year) is not eligible for the votes of faithful Catholics (my personal opinion, not stated this way anywhere in official church documents); his public record is clear, and consistent, on this matter, at least. I find it personally depressing that a Texas Methodist proudly holds moral positions on life issues in line with Catholic teachings, over against a Catholic who holds to a classic secularist morality that, in practice, would not differentiate him from most atheist thinkers on the left.

A voter who supports a candidate such as this for the reason of his pro-abortion stance would be providing immediate material cooperation for the sin of the politician (which is mortal sin). A voter who supports this same politician in spite of his views and support for abortion still provides at least remote material cooperation, which could be allowed in none-lethal situations, but could never be supported in the violation of one of the foundational issues of life, of which abortion is one, embryonic stem cell research/cloning another (this is my paraphrase of Ratzingers letter on the subject to the bishops this past summer). There are no circumstances in which it would be licit for a Catholic to support this politician (again, my own personal view, and Im not speaking for the church or the bishops).

It was my pleasure and honor to have these two men as correspondents the past couple of weeks. Be sure to read Frank Wilson's entire review in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and if you happen to be in Cincinatti, stop by and say hello to Father Lockwood.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 31, 2004 11:02 AM

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