The Corner

It Ain’t So, Joe

Joe Conason takes NR, the Standard, and other conservatives to task for advocating the denial of communion to John Kerry–but not to pro-abortion Republican politicians who identify as Catholics, such as George Pataki, Tom Ridge, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s a dumb cheap shot. Conason quotes a Corner post, for example, in which Peter Robinson quoted an email that was tough on Kerry; Conason identifies either Robinson or the correspondent (unoriginally) as “an indignant little Torquemada.” He does not mention that Robinson has explicitly said that he thinks that Pataki and the other pro-abortion Catholic Republicans should also be denied communion. So have I. (And by the way, it’s just sloppy to treat a letter quoted by Peter as NR’s position.) One of NRO’s earliest essays on the subject manages not to mention Kerry or the Republican or Democratic parties; it is solely directed toward the explication of the principle at stake.

As low as my opinion of Conason is, I expected a little better from him. I thought we’d get the usual line about Catholic teaching on the death penalty and social justice. No such luck.

Conason has no idea what the difference between “excommunication” and being denied communion is. He thinks that the label “thirteenth century” constitutes a theological argument. The idiocies just pile atop one another. Conason finds the “timing” of the calls to deprive Kerry of communion “suspicious”–as though the RNC were responsible for the Vatican’s pronouncements over the last three years on the question of pro-abortion Catholic politicians, as though the bishops had set up a special panel to consider the question because of the RNC rather than the Vatican.

Conason thinks he has scored some point by noting that conservative Catholics have not protested Bush’s hiring of Ridge. I have no problem with openly proclaiming that Bush can hire all the pro-abortion Catholics he wants to serve as ambassadors, heads of Cabinet departments, whatever (so long as they’re not setting abortion-related policy). Neither NR nor the Standard is demanding that Bush start grading the quality of public officials’ professed Catholicism. (Note that Conason himself is perfectly happy to question whether we are good Christians.) Whether they adhere to church teachings isn’t Bush’s responsibility. It is, however, a matter to which the bishops must attend, which is all we have been saying.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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