“My oath privately between me and God was defined in the Catholic Church by Pius XXIII and Pope Paul VI in the Vatican II, which allows for freedom of conscience for Catholics with respect to these choices …”
Thus did John Kerry rebuke fellow Catholics who are demanding that the bishops sanction him for supporting abortions and homosexual unions.
Katharine Seelye of the New York Times graciously points out that Kerry surely meant John XXIII, as there was no Pius XXIII. The gaffe does suggest, however, that Kerry is about as conversant with Catholic doctrine as Cardinal Ratzinger is with hip-hop.
But the “Pius XXIII” side-splitter is insignificant beside Kerry’s claim that he can both vote for a woman’s right to abort her child and to legalize homosexual unions, and remain faithful to Catholic teaching.
Kerry is wrong, and scandalously wrong. For other Catholics, as untutored as he, may assume that they, too, can act on Kerry’s heretical views and remain true to Catholic doctrine.
Whose duty is it to correct Kerry and, if need be, sanction him? The duty belongs to Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston and the conference of U.S. Catholic bishops. For Kerry is now a candidate for an office where his decisions on law, funding and Supreme Court nominees may determine whether countless unborn children live or perish. This one is going to separate the Cardinal Woolseys from the Thomas Mores.
Nor is this a matter on which Catholics may, in good faith, disagree, like minimum-wage laws. On taking innocent life, the church has spoken out repeatedly, consistently, infallibly. As Kenneth Baker, S.J., writes in Fundamentals of Catholicism:
The Second Vatican Council reiterated the constant tradition of the Church when it declared in the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: Abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”
In his Declaration on Abortion (1974), Pope Paul VI stated, “Respect for human life is called for from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father or the mother … Divine law and natural reason exclude all right to the direct killing of an innocent human being.”
John Hardon, S.J., devoted seven pages of his Catholic Catechism to demonstrating that from the first century A.D., “On the level of morality, Catholicism has always held that the direct attack on an unborn fetus, at any time after conception, is a grave sin.”
Pope John XXIII, who called Vatican II, wrote: “Human life is sacred; from its very inception the creative action of God is directly operative. By violating his laws, the divine majesty is offended, the individuals themselves and humanity are degraded …”
On sexual morality, too, Church teaching is consistent and clear.
The Teaching of Christ: The Catholic Catechism for Adults, states: “homosexual acts … have throughout the centuries been condemned by the ordinary teaching of the Catholic Church and by the formal judgments of the magisterium.”
Now Kerry may believe as he wishes. What he cannot do is vote for abortions and to elevate immoral sexual unions to the level of marriage and claim his votes do not violate Catholic doctrine. In the first case, he is supporting the deliberate killing of unborn children. In the second, he is sanctioning what the church teaches to be unnatural, immoral and depraved conduct, and placing it on a moral and legal plane with marriage, an abomination.
As a Catholic legislator, Kerry’s obligation is clear. Pius XI addressed it in Casti Connubi (On Christian Marriage) in Dec. 1930:
Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority … to defend the lives of the innocent … among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother’s womb. And if the public magistrates … do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors and others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cries from earth to heaven.
But the real problem is not Kerry or his Catholic colleagues like Kennedy, Dodd and Daschle who vote and, one assumes, believe as he does. The problem rests with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Many prelates have failed dismally in their pastoral duty to correct, admonish and sanction our Catholic lords temporal, even as some failed to protect Catholic children from predator-priests.
Rather than act as a pride of lions defending Catholic truth, they have, with rare exceptions, behaved like a rabbit warren. Time to get off the lettuce diet and return to the raw meat of doctrinal truth and episcopal duty to which they have all been called.