Thursday, April 15, 2004

Sen. John Kerry met with Washington’s Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick yesterday afternoon in the first encounter between one of the most powerful men in the U.S. Catholic Church and one of the country’s most liberal Catholic politicians.

The Massachusetts senator, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, made no statement after the 45-minute meeting at the archdiocesan headquarters in Hyattsville, despite criticism by church leaders that he is not adhering to Catholic teaching on key issues such as abortion.

The cardinal, who “doesn’t ever comment on private or pastoral meetings he has with people,” according to a spokesman, also did not discuss the meeting. But the spokesman did express some surprise that the Kerry campaign mentioned the event on its daily traveling press schedule.

The senator, however, did not invite reporters with him to the archdiocese.

The meeting was significant because the cardinal leads a bishops panel mandated to produce guidelines on how the church should respond to Catholic politicians who flout church law.

Mr. Kerry has voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion and against the Defense of Marriage Act, which protects states from having to recognize homosexual “marriages” performed elsewhere in the country. The senator also favors civil unions between homosexuals as well as human cloning.

“All this puts Kerry at odds with Catholic teaching, which of course makes him no different from many other liberal Catholics who have run for office in recent decades,” wrote editor Terence P. Jeffrey in the March 31 issue of Human Events.

But on an Easter morning Fox News Channel broadcast, Cardinal McCarrick shied away from making a decision when asked whether he would withhold Communion from Mr. Kerry because of his views.

“I would want to get to talk to him, get to see him and understand him before I would make a decision like that,” the cardinal said.

Although the senator’s abortion stance “has to be an issue” for the Catholic Church because of its teachings, the cardinal said there are limits to any punishment.

“I think there are many of us who would feel that there are certain restrictions that we might put on people, that there are certain sanctions that we may put on people,” he said. “But I think many of us would not like to use the Eucharist as part of the sanctions.”

Three Catholic prelates — Bishops Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis, Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., and Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans — have said that pro-choice Catholic politicians should refrain from taking Communion in their dioceses.

All Catholics are expected to adhere to church teaching, especially politicians, because of their place in society as lawmakers and leaders, according to a 2003 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops document, “Faithful Citizenship.”

“Faithful citizenship calls Catholics to see civic and political responsibilities through the eyes of faith and to bring our moral convictions to public life,” the document says.

“People of good will and sound faith can disagree about specific applications of Catholic principles. However, Catholics in public life have a particular responsibility to bring together consistently their faith, moral principles and public responsibilities,” the document says.

Thus, the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said yesterday that Mr. Kerry needs to be made more accountable to Catholic teaching.

“It is of grave concern to us when someone seeking the highest office in our land claims to share our faith and ignores the most fundamental injustice our country faces, namely, abortion,” he said.

“It causes even greater concern when public officials try to privatize the issue, as if the shedding of blood can ever be simply a matter of ‘private religious faith.’ Abortion practitioners are testifying in these very days in court trials about the partial-birth abortion ban…. Those procedures are not ‘personal, private beliefs.’ They are publicly available, legal activities, repulsive to most Americans.”

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