I'm a Roman Catholic. I woke up the day after Easter to find this headline in The New York Times: "Kerry Attends Easter Services and Receives Holy Communion."
Weird, right? It's hard to count all the ways. First, the "dog bites man" aspect: John Kerry, who describes himself as a "believing and practicing Catholic," goes to church on Easter. This is headline news? Second, there is the uneasy feeling that some unspoken boundary is, or is about to be, crossed. For faithful Catholics, communion is not just a nice ritual: It is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and the ultimate sign of our willingness to be incorporated into the church. Why are the sacraments of my faith being (I dunno) dirtied up with presidential politics?
You can't just blame The New York Times. The Catholic Church has begun to realize how big a problem it has on its hands: When highly visible Catholics dissent from the church's core teachings on things like abortion and remain Catholics in good standing, it is hard to see how the next generation of Catholics can avoid concluding the church is just not serious. You too can be a good Catholic AND support abortion -- John Kerry (not to mention Rudy Giuliani) is living proof.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently formed a task force to struggle with how to deal with pro-choice Catholic politicians. In February, the archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, warned John Kerry that he could not, in good faith, allow him to take communion. Sen. Kerry's archbishop, Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston, has not mentioned Kerry specifically, but did say Catholic politicians who oppose core Catholic teachings "shouldn't dare come to communion." Meanwhile, William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is raising a different issue, claiming, "There is no evidence that John Kerry and Teresa Heinz were ever married in the Catholic Church."
This is not a column about John Kerry, presidential candidate, because frankly, I don't believe any of it will affect the election returns. The American Catholics who care deeply about the church's teachings on abortion or marriage are probably already out of the Kerry camp.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.