BOSTON — Sen. John Kerry’s campaign has asked a Paulist priest, and not the archbishop of Boston, to give an invocation later this week at the Democratic National Convention being hosted here.
The prayer is expected to be offered Thursday — the culmination of the convention — by the Rev. John B. Ardis, director of the Paulist Center, a progressive Catholic church and outreach center that focuses largely on social justice.
Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, often attend the Paulist Center when they are in town, and Father Ardis has supported Mr. Kerry in the national debate over whether politicians who are pro-choice should receive Communion.
Father Ardis has said that it is “contrary to the meaning of the Eucharist to use it as an instrument of division and as a weapon in political battles” and that it would be a “misuse of our authority” to do so.
“Senator Kerry has been a member of the Paulist Center community for many years. We will continue to serve him Communion as long as he comes forward respectfully to receive it,” Father Ardis said earlier this year.
Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley’s spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, said, “The way I look at it, a lot of people weren’t asked,” to give the prayer.
He noted that Archbishop O’Malley “wouldn’t have been able to do it anyway because he’s out of town” and added that it seems as if Mr. Kerry simply wanted the prayer to be given by the priest from the church he attends.
Archbishop O’Malley has said there are reasons that Catholics should refrain from taking Communion, but it’s a person’s responsibility and not up to the church to deny Communion, Father Coyne said.
Calls to the Kerry campaign were not returned, but Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told the Boston Globe, “We never reached out to Archbishop O’Malley to deliver the invocation.”
She said the campaign asked Father Ardis because “that is John Kerry’s home church.”
Mr. Kerry has been a strong supporter of abortion rights, although recently he said he feels that life begins at conception. A few bishops, including the archbishop of St. Louis, have said they would deny Mr. Kerry Communion because he is pro-choice and the Catholic Church teaches that abortion isn’t morally acceptable.
At the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles, gave the invocation and called on people to protect the unborn in his prayer.
“In You, oh God, we trust that You will keep us ever committed to protect the life and well-being of all people, but especially unborn children, the sick and the elderly, those on skid row and those on death row,” he prayed, according to a CNN transcript.
Father Ardis is a member of the Paulist Fathers, an order of Catholic priests founded primarily to evangelize. The Paulist Center, on Beacon Hill, where Mr. Kerry lives, calls itself “a worship community of Christians in the Roman Catholic tradition in Boston” that “aspires to express the good news of Jesus Christ in contemporary society” through prayer meetings, Eucharistic liturgy and outreach.
Conservative groups at the convention this week say they will be watching to see whether Mr. Kerry clarifies his views on abortion.
“Kerry can’t have it both ways,” said Dr. Janice Crouse, a spokeswoman for the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee who is in Boston this week. “If Kerry truly believes life begins at conception, then abortion at any stage is taking a human life.”
Dr. Crouse said Mr. Kerry’s voting record is “far clearer than his verbal statements,” noting that he voted against the Partial Birth Abortion Ban in 2003 and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act in 2004.