John Kerry Vs. Pro-Life Catholics: The Abortion Battle Continues

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

John Kerry Vs. Pro-Life Catholics: The Abortion Battle Continues

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 15, 2004

Washington, DC ( — In what is shaping up to be one of the key battles of the 2004 presidential election, pro-life Catholics continue to dog Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for being seriously out of step with the Catholic Church on key issues such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

On Thursday, Priests for Life, a leading pro-life organization made up of more than 1,300 Catholic priests, criticized Kerry for continuing to back abortion.

"[I]t is of grave concern to us when someone seeking the highest office in our land claims to share our faith and ignores the most fundamental injustice our country faces, namely, abortion," the group said in a statement.

The group says it objects to Kerry’s classifying the abortion issue as a "private matter" — a throwback to the line first employed by former New York governor Mario Cuomo — whereby a Catholic elected official can claim he is "personally pro-life" but refuses to back legislation codifying those beliefs.

"It causes even greater concern when public officials try to privatize the issue, as if the shedding of blood can ever be simply a matter of ‘private religious faith,’" Priests for Life added.

Cuomo, once a leading presidential wannabe, was never the nominee. But, Kerry will become the first Catholic to be a major political party’s presidential nominee since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision allowing abortion.

Father Frank Pavone, the co-founder and director of Priests for Life, previously told that it would be a "long campaign" for Kerry if he continued to belittle the Catholic faith with his unending support for abortion.

With the growing intensity of the battle, Pavone’s observation is coming true.

However, Kerry backers are not standing around waiting for someone else to respond to pro-life leaders like Pavone. Columnist Dick Ryan, in a Newsday op-ed, comes to Kerry’s defense.

Ryan criticizes Catholic officials for trying "to play kingmaker and manipulate Catholic voters by smearing Catholic candidates out of step with Vatican authoritarianism."

Part of the debate has revolved around whether or not Kerry should be taking communion at Catholic churches.

Ryan said Catholic leaders have no right to deny communion to Kerry because, "Nobody likes bullies, especially a group of men who were invisible and timidly inarticulate at the height of the worst scandal in the history of their church," referring to the sexual abuse scandals.

Frances Kissling of the so-called Catholics for a Free Choice agrees.

"I hope the bishops are satisfied that the sacraments of the church are now the subject of a media frenzy," Kissling said of Catholic officials, calling them "eucharistic Peeping Toms."

Meanwhile, Kerry is expected to meet today with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick , the archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Cardinal McCarrick, who has questioned Kerry’s anti-life views on stem cell research and abortion, is heading up a task force for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on how to handle politicians like Kerry whose views run counter to the church.

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said he would offer the politician a blessing rather than giving him full communion and Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston has told Catholic elected officials who are pro-abortion that they should not be receiving communion.

However, McCarrick said he would be "uncomfortable" denying communion to pro-abortion politicians.

Yet, Priests for Life says the bigger issue is Kerry’s support for abortion.

"The central issue regarding Senator Kerry is not about Communion, or whether the bishops will allow it. It is about violence against children, and whether public officials will allow it," the pro-life group said. "We challenge Senator Kerry to either renounce his support of legal abortion, or to publicly admit what he’s supporting, and what abortion practitioners already testify to under oath: that abortion dismembers and crushes the heads of babies."

Despite the Kerry defenders, Pavone’s group will be ready to rally pro-life Catholics. Priests for Life has more than 1,300 priests who have signed a statement saying they will "preach on abortion as the single most important electoral issue."