Poster Boy John Kerry
Few election campaigns in recent memory have generated the media feeding frenzy equaling that of presidential hopeful John Kerry. This is because John Kerry is both a Senator and a Catholic. Senator Kerry has compiled a rather consistent voting record against legislation that protects innocent human life. Despite such actions in Congress, he still routinely attends Mass and partakes of the Eucharist.
Taking cover under the familiar "voting my conscience" defense, he contends that his actions are proper to his professed religion. Endless debates have erupted over whether his behavior constitutes grave scandal to American Catholics and, by extension, the whole Church. His flagrant disdain for Church teaching forces the question of whether he, and all Catholic politicians of similar ilk, should be refused the Eucharist given the perceived disgrace engendered by their participation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear on the sanctity of human life. It echoes the position held by Christians throughout the ages. In addition, two recent documents remind public officials of how they must carry out their duties in light of their Catholic faith. One is the "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life" issued by the Vatican in 2002. The other is "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility" issued by the American bishops in 2003. Finally, the Code of Canon Law (No.915) clearly asserts that those "...who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Communion." Taken collectively, it is fair to say that the Church has made itself quite clear with respect to the value of life and the role Catholics, elected or not, have in its protection.
Many bishops and noteworthy members of the laity have weighed in on this divisive issue. Some steadfastly contend that the Eucharist must be protected from scandal and therefore refused to certain public figures. Others, however, say that the Eucharist is not to be used as a weapon for behavior modification. Prayer, dialogue and proper catechesis should be employed to address the problem, not the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Son of God. The furor continues.
Observing this maelstrom prompts some reflection on its root cause. While the storm rages in the media, the true instigator remains quietly under the radar. I refer, of course, to contraception. Perhaps we have forgotten that contraception is the bedrock of abortion. In America, contraception is mainstream doctrine. It is the anchor of feel-good philosophies like choice, freedom and rights. Americans happily justify their use of contraceptive drugs or devices as part of life in a modern, enlightened age. We employ them without a second thought as to their sinister capabilities.
Contraception laid the groundwork for de-linking marriage and sexual intercourse. That done, the sexual act was transformed. It was originally intended as a physical manifestation of marital love open to the gift of life. It is now mindless recreation whose only end is pleasure. The natural outcome, a child, is simply a disposable commodity.
Sadly, many "good" Catholics have jumped aboard this guilt-free cultural bandwagon. In fact, thousands who declare themselves pro-life on the abortion issue vehemently defend their "right" to contraception. Their participation is often justified by simple disclaimers like, "I just don't happen to agree with the Church on that issue." The more defiant will assert that, "The Church has no business in my bedroom" or the ever-popular, "What does the pope know about the cost of raising kids?"
These fellow Catholics either fail to fully realize, or they simply deny, the fact that every chemical method of contraception is abortifacient. Every pill, implant, or injection, whether before or the morning after, works to ensure pregnancy does not occur. They all do this by flushing out a fertilized egg if necessary. This is abortion. It is a clinical fact. A completely unique human life is summarily ended in the privacy of our own home.
This reality cannot be softened or denied. It cannot be politically corrected. Drug companies even try to mitigate the evil by redefining when life begins. They attempt to sell us on the notion that life does not begin at conception but at implantation or first sensation. This is a lie. Adopting this notion, however, helps couples assuage any lingering guilt while buying more time for the vendor's product to be used. The number of innocent lives brought to an end each day in the abortion mills pales in comparison to those ended in the American bedroom.
Enter John Kerry, poster boy for disobedience to the Church's teachings. He embraces abortion while brazenly accepting the Eucharist. How many "good" Catholics join him and "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin?" Some of these same Catholics publicly lambaste Senator Kerry for his abortion stand yet knowingly engage in contraceptive practices themselves. Others quietly support his behavior in order to prolong the "legitimacy" of abortion and protect their contraceptive choices. Like our defiant Senator, are any of these folks piously accepting the Eucharist each Sunday? Like him, are they fooling themselves by proclaiming that their faith life is separate from their "real" life?
Senator Kerry is most definitely in need of our prayers. He needs to turn in humility to Holy Mother Church. He needs to meet with his bishop to obtain the knowledge and guidance he lacks. Most of all, he needs to honor the Eucharist.
Many of us must also undertake this same journey. Before wallowing in the scandal incited by a politician, each of us must look hard at our own level of Christian obedience. Perhaps we have been duped into participation in the culture of death. If so, are we willing to embrace the "new morality" at the price of our very souls?
About the Author
Gary Shirley, his wife, and three children are members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Kennesaw, Georgia, where Gary serves as catechist in the adult education program. Gary is an Archdiocese of Atlanta certified catechist (both PSR and RCIA) with 14 years teaching experience. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.