Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Monday, October 18, 2004

John Kerry, ex-Catholic?

Have John Kerry's "I'm a Catholic but..." words come back to haunt him? There is a report that John Kerry has been excommunicated as a result of his "nuanced" position on abortion. While personally opposed to it, he has readily and consistently voted to expand abortion rights. Kerry's record may have caused his automatic expulsion from the Church:

From a quick reading of the documents, it appears that a canon lawyer in Los Angeles named Marc Balestrieri brought a complaint against John Kerry, which the Vatican responded to last month. I gather that the answer has just now been made public.

The Vatican's response is by Father Basil Cole, a Dominican theologian based in Washington, DC, who said he had been assigned to give an unofficial response to the question that Balestrieri had submitted. He answers two questions that Balestrieri had posed, both affirmatively. His letter concludes:

"Consequently, if a Catholic publicly and obstinately supports the civil right to abortion, knowing that the Church teaches officially against that legislation, he or she commits that heresy envisioned by Can. 751 of the Code. Provided that the presumptions of knowledge of the law and penalty and imputability are not rebutted in the external forum, one is automatically excommunicated according to Can. 1364, Sec. 1."

Catholic World News says that "[t]he type of excommunication outlined in the new information is called latae sententiae, which means that it occurs automatically and does not require a formal pronouncement by any Church official."

From the perspective of the Church community, it is always sad to lose members, as opposed to gaining new ones. There should be no rejoicing at this news, regardless of one's political leanings. From the election perspective, if this report is true, the main question is: what effect will this news have on the campaigns during the remaining weeks before we head to the polls? If you are a Bush supporter, I believe this is unwelcome news. The reelection campaign is gaining steam, his polls are up, and the news focus is on issues Bush can win. He has significant momentum. If you are a Kerry supporter, this could be good news. The Kerry campaign did not capitalize on the debates, and has been suffering for the last few days. This report would distract from the more material news of the Kerry campaign's decline in recent days. He can tread water while the story plays itself out, and may even earn a few sympathy votes.

These last two weeks should be full of plenty of fireworks, whether they are false rumors, or big news stories. Voters will weigh the significance of this story, and many to come, in the next two weeks.

UPDATE: It appears that Senator John Kerry is still a Catholic after all. The letter cited above appears to be a private, unofficial response to the lawyer's inquiry.

In Washington, Father Cole told CNS the Holy See "gets these requests ... tons of them," and that Father DiNoia asked him to respond to Balestrieri in a private capacity.

"I have no relationship to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ... and the letter that I wrote to Balestrieri was purely private," he told CNS Oct. 19. "I wrote it as a private theologian, not with any authority. It has no authority whatsoever."


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