BOSTON, Oct. 19 – The Roman Catholic Church’s official news service quoted an unnamed Vatican official on Tuesday as saying John Kerry was “not a heretic” for his stance on abortion rights.
The article by The Catholic News Service also quoted an unnamed Vatican official as saying Mr. Kerry was not about to be excommunicated because “you can incur excommunication” automatically “only if you procure or perform an abortion.”
But on Tuesday, Father Di Noia, an American priest who is highly influential in his position as under secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took steps to distance himself from the letter. He told The Catholic News Service that “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has had no contact with Mr. Balestrieri” and that Mr. Balestrieri’s “claim that the private letter he received from Father Basil Cole is a Vatican response is completely without merit.”
Father Di Noia’s remarks to the news service seem to reflect a reluctance by at least some Vatican officials to be perceived as trying to meddle in an American presidential election, experts on the Vatican said.
Way back a long time ago, there was an ugly sentiment in this country that the Catholic Church was a foreign organization whose leadership went out of its way to control the decisions of its members, and that its members, therefore, could not be trusted to be good American citizens. Of course, that view was just used as a pretext by Americans who were simply anti-immigrant. But it seems to me that the (admittedly very few) bishops who are going around saying that it’s a sin to vote for pro-choice candidates are playing into exactly that stereotype.
Naturally, the bishops have as much right as anyone else to express their opinions, but it seems to me that threatening people with hellfire based on their electoral choices goes beyond “expressing one’s opinion.” This columnist from the Philadelphia Inquirer has some related thoughts on the issue. One of the points he makes is that the Church has outlawed both abortion and contraception, and it occurs to me that much in the same way that the vast majority of the laiety completely ignore the bishops on the issue of birth control, they will likewise ignore this attempt to dictate who people should and should not vote for. And for the record, the purpose of this paragraph is NOT, repeat NOT to criticize the rank-and-file members of the Catholic Church. I’m not criticizing all of the American bishops even. Just the ones that are saying it is a sin to vote one way or another.
EARLIER: God Plays His Hand