Politics & Policy

Kerry’s “Catholic” Calculations

His contorted political theology.

John Kerry won’t fight for his own beliefs–by his own admission. Every time one of the debates with President Bush turned to social issues, Kerry sank knee-deep into a mire created by his need to pose as a kind of cultural conservative, although one who would never dare effect any socially conservative legislation.

Asked at the Arizona debate about Catholic bishops who say it would be a sin to vote for a candidate who, like Kerry, supports unlimited abortion and the destruction of human embryos for research purposes, Kerry said: “I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views.”

Where to start? Saying that you “respect” the view that the destruction of human life is wrong is almost insulting. This isn’t like respecting someone’s choice to order the merlot instead of the cabernet. The view that the sanctity of all human life is paramount demands to be accepted or rejected. Merely respecting it is a weasely way of saying you reject it.

Indeed, if Kerry had a proper Catholic upbringing, he wasn’t taught–as he puts it–to “respect” the view that life is sacred; he was taught to accept it as truth. It’s not as though Catholics are instructed to respect fundamental tenets of the church as if they are the exotic beliefs of Zen Buddhism due a polite and inoffensive tolerance.

Kerry then shifted to arguing essentially that, even if he were to consider all life sacred, he couldn’t do anything about it: “I believe that I can’t legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith.” This is a sophomoric relativism that ignores the fact that our most important laws have a moral underpinning. In any case, Kerry quickly contradicted it: “There’s a great passage of the Bible that says, What does it mean, my brother, to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead. And I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by faith.”

So, Kerry presented diametrically opposed views on the role of morality in public life within about 30 seconds. He went on to say that his environmentalism and his poverty-fighting measures were borne of his faith. In other words, his faith affects everything–including his position on whether the minimum wage should be $5.15 or $7 an hour–but not how he legislates concerning life issues, because it would be wrong to legislate his morality, although he does it all the time.

Kerry ties himself into such knots out of calculation. He cannot admit that he’s a social liberal who could care less whether the Catholic Church objects to unborn babies being destroyed, so long as he’s getting the votes of feminists by paying obeisance to Roe v. Wade. If Kerry were to make such a frank admission, of course, it would play poorly in swing states where people have the audacity not just to “respect” the moral tenets of their religious faith, but to believe in and act on them.

Kerry’s straddle is to have (nominally) socially conservative positions, so long as they won’t actually serve any socially conservative ends. He opposes gay marriage, but won’t do anything that might stop it from coming about. He thinks life begins at conception (or so he has said, at least once), but won’t do anything to stop its destruction. He opposes partial-birth abortion, but votes against banning it, and supports parental notification, but votes against requiring it.

Asked by an undecided voter in the St. Louis town-hall debate whether he would use the tax dollars of pro-life voters to fund abortion, Kerry said again how much he “respects” the pro-life position, but didn’t really answer. Translation: “Yes, he will.” That is the truest indication of just how little respect he has for the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. What is it they say about faith without deeds again?

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.

(c)2004 King Features Syndicate


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