Catholicism and politics, take two

The National Catholic Reporter has a very good editorial on the “controversy” of John Kerry’s Catholicism and what it means about his fitness to be President.

Assume for the moment that John Kerry’s Catholic critics are correct. That a Catholic legislator, or would-be president, cannot embrace abortion rights (or embryonic stem cell research, or gay rights or you name it) and be a “good Catholic.”

It’s an interesting debate, one in which even some “good Catholics” — those who would pass these narrow litmus tests — might disagree.

But that discussion has nothing — zero — to do with whether John Kerry should be president of the United States.

Kerry might be a “bad Catholic” (or a “good” one for that matter) and still be an exemplary president; or a failed one. Personal piety and religious observance are not prerequisites of national leadership.

Were Jefferson and Lincoln good Deists? Hoover and Nixon exemplary Quakers? Kennedy a committed Catholic? George H.W. Bush a first-rate Episcopalian? Clinton a quality Baptist? George W. Bush a pious Methodist?

Who cares?

History judges these men not on their religious zeal, but on their performance in office. How God judges them is for God to decide.

Read the whole thing. Via Body and Soul.

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5 Responses to Catholicism and politics, take two

  1. Xguy says:

    The problem is that Kerry will use the “Catholic” label to try to get Catholics to vote for him in November. If he insists on calling himself a Catholic then he should expect to be criticized when he doesn’t act like one.

  2. Chris says:

    Kerry will run on whatever view makes him popular, and won’t hold himself to any particular standard. He’ll run on “personal morality”, which is a good strategy because there are lots of Americans, both Protestant and Catholic, who don’t go by what the Bible, or the Pope say. These people go off their “personal morality”, just like John Kerry.

  3. Michael says:

    Kerry will be criticized by those who don’t want him to be elected president. The tradition of politicians doing what they wanted to do no matter what the Pope said goes back significantly before the reformation, to sometime shortly after the Popes started telling politicians what to do.

  4. Steve Bates says:

    The asymmetry of some people’s arguments bothers me a lot. What of all the Republican politicians… Pataki and Giuliani come to mind immediately, but a whole raft of American Catholic Republican politicians are vulnerable on this… who are not “good Catholics” in the sense in which Kerry is being criticized, but are somehow given a bye on the issue?

    This has everything to do with politics, and nothing to do with religion. Michael is right: “Kerry will be criticized by those who don’t want him to be elected president.”

  5. Linkmeister says:

    It bears repeating that Bush’s church came out solidly against the Iraq war. I doubt that will hurt him in November, regrettably.

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