Politics & Policy

Follow McGreevey’s Lead

John Kerry should be more like the outgoing New Jersey governor.

The recent news that New Jersey’s Democratic governor, James McGreevey, had a homosexual affair was a stunning revelation. We are not accustomed to this kind of thing in America. The British, at least, find it quite familiar: There, when a story breaks about a sexual scandal involving a male parliament minister, the first question often asked is, “Was it with another man?” That’s not a standard assumption in American politics.

But though he clearly has his failings, there’s something impressive about McGreevey: He has the integrity to discipline himself for moral misconduct; in this case, he is resigning (well, eventually). Yet one of the governor’s more impressive acts took place weeks ago, and went almost unreported outside New Jersey–possibly because sympathetic journalists in the national media feared its repercussions on John Kerry.

Governor McGreevey is a pro-choice Catholic, in stark opposition to Church teaching. In June, Archbishop John J. Myers of the Newark diocese released a five-page statement titled “A Time for Honesty,” in which he wrote that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not seek Communion. In response, New Jersey’s pro-choice governor said that he would respect the archbishop’s request and not seek the Eucharist at Mass. Oddly, McGreevey said he would accept Communion in private (whatever that means) but not in public, even though Myers made no distinction. Still, unlike most pro-choice politicians, he was willing to accept Church authority on an issue the Church understands as a matter of life and death.

McGreevey’s response begged the question, or at least should have begged the question, if anyone at The CBS Evening News or the New York Times had cared to ask: Would John Kerry do the same?

Kerry, also a Catholic, is not just passively pro-choice; he is a champion of the cause. At the 2003 NARAL Pro-Choice America Dinner, where he described pro-lifers as “the forces of intolerance,” Kerry boasted that his maiden speech as a freshman senator had been in support of Roe v. Wade. On the floor of the U.S. Senate on August 2, 1994, he staked a frightening position: “The right thing to do is to treat abortions as exactly what they are–a medical procedure that any doctor is free to provide and any pregnant woman free to obtain. Consequently, abortions should not have to be performed in tightly guarded clinics on the edge of town; they should be performed and obtained in the same locations as any other medical procedure…. [A]bortions need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice.”

Like Al Gore, John Kerry is one of those shameless (mostly Democratic) politicians who say they are personally against abortion and that abortion should be rare but legal, all the while doing absolutely nothing to make it rare–and doing a lot to make it quite the contrary.

With Kerry, Democrats are putting forth the most fiercely pro-choice individual ever to receive a major-party nomination for president. This greatly disturbs the Catholic Church, which has worked as steadfastly to slow abortion as any institution. To the Church, nothing would be more irritating than to watch its progress on abortion reversed by a Catholic president.

Support of “abortion rights” is a family affair for the Kerrys. Despite agreeing with her husband that abortion ends the “process of life” (as she put it), Teresa Heinz Kerry (also a Catholic) likewise remains pro-choice, recently telling Newsweek: “I ask myself, if I had a 13-year-old daughter who got drunk one night and got pregnant, what would I do. Christ, I’d go nuts.” Kerry’s daughter Vanessa and his two sisters joined him at the April “March for Women’s Lives” in Washington, D.C.

Ironically, as Kerry addressed the rally, Cardinal Francis Arinze, speaking from the Holy See, presented Redemptionis Sacramentum, a Vatican declaration stating that priests must deny Communion to unrepentant pro-choice Catholic politicians. Arinze said that “unambiguously pro-abortion” Catholic politicians are “not fit” to receive the sacred elements–the bread and wine that Catholics consider the body and blood of Christ.

A number of Catholic bishops have suggested or stated that if John Kerry presents himself for Communion in their dioceses, he will be turned away. These include Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, and even Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston–Kerry’s home diocese. Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs went further, issuing a stern pastoral letter saying that Catholics who vote for politicians who advocate legal abortion should be denied Communion.

That brings us full circle to McGreevey. Around the same time as Sheridan’s bold letter, Archbishop Myers of Newark released “A Time for Honesty,” with which McGreevey complied. This makes one inquire: Could just one person in the national media ask John Kerry if he will follow McGreevey’s example? At the very least, it’s an interesting question that seems newsworthy–surely, worth a single headline. Please? Someone?

Paul Kengor is the author of God and George W. Bush. He is also a professor of political science at Grove City College and a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution.

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College.

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