Grassroots Catholic websites are springing up all over the internet in response to the Kerry scandal, prompted by righteous indignation over Kerry's disrepect for the Church and the Eucharist. Catholics Against Kerry gives tips on how to protest (and to whom), and promises to post Kerry's campaign schedule (just in case he comes to your parish for a photo-op).
ExcommunicateKerry.com, another one-man operation, advocates harsher measures than the mere withholding of communion. And judging from his latest email newsletter, it would seem that Catholic apologist Karl Keating would agree with the proposal:
What a difference four decades makes! In 1962 Leander Perez and several other Catholic politicians in Louisiana were excommunicated by New Orleans Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel. Their offense? Opposing Rummel's pleas to end racial segregation in schools.
Segregation was a Bad Thing. As bad as it was, at least it wasn't a species of homicide. But abortion is homicide, which means it is a Worse Thing. You will look in vain to find an analogue to Archbishop Rummel in today's American episcopate.
Even the level of the umbrage has changed. The discussion hasn't been about excommunicating politicians who, through their votes, end the lives of unborn children. No, the discussion has been whether these politicians should undergo the inconvenience (which is about all it would be for them) of not being able to receive Communion.
If the leaders of the Church refrain from giving even a slap on the wrist, who can take them seriously? Bishops who don't "bish" undermine their own authority, and everyone under their care suffers from that.
Mark Shea, on the other hand, questions the prudentiality of expelling pro-choicers from the Church, and the possibility of schism were such action taken by the bishops:
Would most of me love to see it happen? Sure! And I'll bet the cry "Hulk Smash" is cathartic for Dr. Bruce Banner too. But do I think that the final result of the American episcopacy sending that message could well end in catastrophe? Yeah, I do.
At the very least, I'd be interested in seeing some real discussion and thought about what such a move would logically entail. Some of my readers seem to think "Bring it on!" is the only Truly Christian approach to possibility of major schism. I think schism would be catastrophic.
Orthodox Catholics will continue to remain divided on this question. However, I think that most of us will agree that a clear and firm response is needed on the part of the Bishops -- not just individually, but as a collective voice. As one commentator noted on Mark Shea's blog today:
"The problem with the Kerry situation is that it is a PUBLIC scandal. And as such needs a timely public response. Should they try to manage it privately with Kerry at first, absolutely. Is the decision theirs to make, absolutely. However, by not making a decision, and allowing different priests to make up their own mind on whether it is appropriate for a pro-abortion Catholic to recieve communion, the bishops feed into the modern "as long as my conscience tells me it's okay then it is okay" mentality."
Ongoing commentary by the editors of CatholicKerryWatch
Sen. John Kerry stands with Kate Michelman (right) President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Since 1995, Michelman's group has given Kerry a 100% rating for his voting record to defend abortion.