Catholic Officials Say John Kerry Not Excommunicated Over Abortion Support

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 19, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Officials Say John Kerry Not Excommunicated Over Abortion Support

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 19, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A swirling nationwide controversy has developed over the last few days over the contention by a Catholic attorney that presidential candidate John Kerry has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church because of his views in favor of abortion.

A report by Catholic World News on Monday says a Vatican official sent a note to an attorney who is pressing for Kerry’s excommunication saying the Democratic candidate automatically excommunicated himself by vocally supporting abortion.

According to CWN, Marc Balestrieri, a Los Angeles attorney who represents a group that holds Catholic elected officials accountable to church teaching, received a letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In July, Balestrieri sued Kerry in ecclesiastical court and is seeking an official church opinion on the matter.

According to Balestrieri, the letter said that any Catholic politician who is "personally opposed to abortion, but supports a woman’s right to choose," is automatically excommunicated.

Balestrieri also said the letter could be used as a basis for discussing the pro-abortion views of other Catholic elected officials.

Balestrieri told Catholic World News that he went to Rome in August to discuss his efforts with CDF officials.

Less than 10 days later he received a letter from Father Basil Cole, a Washington, DC theologian charged with answering Balestrieri’s questions on behalf of CDF.

According to the CWN report, Father Cole wrote, "If a Catholic publicly and obstinately
supports the civil right to abortion, knowing that the Church teaches officially against that legislation, he or she commits that heresy."

Balestrieri, director of a group called DeFide, announced the letter on an EWTN television program on Friday.

However, a story by the Catholic News Service on Tuesday says Balestrieri may have jumped the gun.

A CDF official told the news service, which has the backing of the U.S. Catholic bishops, that Balestrieri is misrepresenting his contact with the Vatican office.

Dominican Father Augustine DiNoia told CNS that CDF has had "no contact" with Balestrieri.

"His claim that the private letter he received from (Dominican) Father Basil Cole is a Vatican response is completely without merit," Father DiNoia told Catholic News Service Tuesday.

DiNoia said that Father Cole was not selected by CDF to officially respond to Balestrieri’s questions. In fact, Cole’s letter, posted on the DeFide web site, indicates that Cole was responding to Balestrieri in an unofficial capacity.

As a result, the opinion that John Kerry has automatically excommunicated himself by virtue of his pro-abortion position is a private opinion of Father Cole and not an official opinion of the Catholic Church, DiNoia explained.

In an interview with CNS, Father Cole agreed with DiNoia’s assessment and said his letter represented his own views and not the Vatican’s.

CNS reports that an unnamed Vatican official it contacted confirmed that the Catholic Church has not officially excommunicated Kerry and had not seriously investigated doing so.

Kerry’s positions in favor of abortion, euthanasia, human cloning and embryonic stem cell research have been the source of considerable debate within the Catholic community.

Key pro-life Catholic leaders, including numerous bishops and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, have indicated that Catholics should not vote for any politicians or candidates that support these grisly practices opposed by the church.

Related web sites:
DeFide –
Catholic News Service –