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 The Soul of John Kerry 

May 25, 2004 
Communion is the central sacrament of the Catholic Church. So once again the question arises: Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Should the bishops deny it to Catholic politicians who promote abortion?

The issue has heated up because of John Kerry, a Catholic so tepid that until this year few have thought of him as having any religion at all. Suddenly he’s saying his religion is important to him, even though he seems to skip Sunday mass to attend Protestant churches — not so much to worship as to campaign.

Of course a church has the right to deny its sacraments to anyone it deems unfit to receive them, including politicians. The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is “an unspeakable crime.” Kerry has displayed more public enthusiasm for abortion, which he calls a basic right, than for his Church, from which he distances himself. And now he covets the Church’s embrace?

Sure, Kerry’s a hypocrite, comes the reply, but wouldn’t the bishops also be hypocritical if they enforce the ban on abortion but not on, say, capital punishment? But the Church officially condemns abortion; it doesn’t forbid capital punishment in principle. Pope John Paul II has merely given it as his own considered view that in our time capital punishment is no longer defensible. His personal judgment carries weight, but it doesn’t have the status of an official teaching of the Church.

Obviously there are other differences between abortion and the death penalty. Executing a murderer is morally symmetrical — it invokes the ancient rule of an eye for an eye — in a way that killing an unborn child is not. If millions of innocent people were executed without trial every year, there would be a clear parallel. Otherwise, the analogy is strained.

The biggest difference is that even a mass murderer is entitled to a trial. His humanity entitles him to that. He isn’t sentenced to death just because someone wants him killed. He gets due process of law and the presumption of innocence; he gets a lawyer to make a case for his interest; he has to be proved guilty and deserving of execution.

If the judge or a single juror can be shown to have a bias against him or something to gain by his death, the trial is invalidated. His fate must be decided impartially.

[Breaker quote: Where did he leave it?]All these civilized inhibitions are absent with abortion. The child is sentenced to death by a single interested party who wants him destroyed. His own interest isn’t represented. Even his father has no say. The decision is totally arbitrary; the mother needs no justification beyond the mere desire to be rid of the child.

To Kerry, this is as it should be. He professes to be “personally opposed” to feticide, yet nothing about its nature or the ease with which it’s procured horrifies him, or even disturbs his conscience.

You might think seeing is believing, but even pictures of aborted children bounce off liberals like Kerry the way the Abu Ghraib photos bounce off Rush Limbaugh. They get angrier at the people who show them than at what the pictures show.

Recently a group of Catholic Democrats in Congress objected to any move by the hierarchy to discipline pro-abortion politicians. Considering their own party discipline, this was rich: the Democrats tolerate no real disagreement on abortion, and won’t allow anti-abortion speakers at their own convention.

Indeed, a chief difference between the Catholic Church in America and the Democratic Party is that the Church puts up with a lot of dissent. And having weighed the consequences, Kerry will sooner defy his Church than his party. He gives the impression of a man who sold his soul so long ago that he has no idea where to go to get it back.

That seeming soullessness may even be a political drawback. He’s already notorious for straddling issues and reversing positions. Is there anything left he won’t compromise?

We live in the age of the plastic conscience, and we are used to seeing people “reinvent” themselves in middle age. The idea of maintaining a consistent character over a lifetime is passť. Why go on being the same old person when you can hire consultants and focus groups to show you the way to a whole new self?

Someone has observed that gaining the whole world while losing your soul is a net loss. He obviously wasn’t thinking like a politician.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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