The Corner

Kerry and Catholicism

Joseph Bottum has an article in the Standard on the subject. This seems as good a time as any to respond to the couple of emails I got taking issue with, or asking me to clarify, my remark the other day that “I think that Catholic bishops are probably obligated to withhold communion from pro-abortion politicians (after first talking with them privately).”

I think two things have often been lost in the discussion about that idea. First: The withholding of communion should be seen not as a punishment so much as an act of charity. The Catholic church teaches that the act of denying justice to the unborn (by voting for abortion) is a grave sin. The politician who persists in it is endangering his soul. To encourage him to mend his ways is to do him a favor, albeit one that he will understandably not recognize as such. Second: The church cannot fail to offer this charity. If my reasoning is correct, this is not a discretionary matter for the bishops. Thus: Even if the bishops knew to a certainty that withholding communion from Kerry would generate a backlash that helped him, and the Bush campaign were pleading with them not to do it, they would, if I am right, still have to do it for Kerry’s sake.

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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