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John Kerry: Catholic warrior

By Lisa Fabrizio
web posted May 10, 2004

There's an old saying around these parts: If you bring your business to the bar, it becomes the bar's business. John F. Kerry has, for most of his adult life, run for political office on the strength of his Vietnam service record and, in Massachusetts where this once counted, as a professed Catholic. Now that he's in the biggest race of his life, he's feeling a bit tender toward those who are questioning the validity of both of these issues.

For those of you born on Venus, Kerry served in the Navy as a "swift boat" commander for four months in Vietnam where he was awarded three Purple Hearts and a Silver and Bronze Star. His incessant insertion of his Vietnam service into every imaginable discourse is the stuff of which stand-up comics' dreams are made.

John KerryNow that some old comrades-in-arms and investigative reporters have presented some events of Kerry's past differently than he recalls, he has been waxing righteously indignant. Despite the fact that he and his Band of Brothers Tour provided the ammo, he brazenly expects his enemies to hold their fire.

Most oddly though, his claim to exemption from analysis of his service record is based on the service itself; the same service he used to defame his fellow soldiers thirty long years ago. The very medals or ribbons he did or did not throw over the U.S. Capitol fence have now been redeemed at their original value; that is, as symbols of honor.

More strange still is his assertion that his military experience -- the highlights of which apparently were his own war crimes -- now uniquely qualifies him to be Commander in Chief. A curious claim for someone who advocates a stronger "public-diplomacy effort."

A new raft of TV ads designed to "re-introduce" Kerry to a yawning public debuted last week, with the two most frequently shown containing no less than fifteen Vietnam references in their combined two minutes. That's one every eight seconds for those keeping score at home -- or often enough to suggest his impugning President Bush for exploiting the War on Terror is just a tad hypocritical.

The logic of all this seems to boil down to another old adage: I can call my wife anything I want, but you'd better not. In other words, Vietnam is an issue that is his and his alone and any criticism or investigation of his record concerning same should be taboo.

Also on this list is his religious affiliation of choice. His frequent trips to church have been well chronicled as he so often mentions his Catholicism on the hustings. How Catholic is John Kerry? Try this from his press clippings: "He's married to a millionaire wife who took notice when she overheard him singing Catholic hymns in Portuguese during a church service at an environmental summit in Brazil." I kid you not.

But he is unabashedly pro-abortion, and in one of those moments which would have been publicized everywhere had a conservative been the culprit, he claimed last year that "there is no such thing as a partial birth," not pausing to explain the reason he voted many times against bills banning it.

He's been threatened with being refused Communion by some in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy and feels this is unfair and even un-American stating, "I think that it's important to not have the church instructing politicians. That is an inappropriate crossing of the line in America."

However, the church requires all Catholics to reject abortion as murder but does have a few words directed at lawmakers: "No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can reasonably advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life." Please note the use of the word "innocent."

Kerry continues to receive Communion even after a top Vatican cardinal said politicians who support abortion rights should be denied the Eucharist. His usual place of worship, The Paulist Center in Boston is interesting because, as explained by the AP, "it attracts Catholics uncomfortable with some of the Vatican's orthodox teachings or who otherwise feel alienated from the Roman Catholic Church."

These are more commonly referred to as "cafeteria Catholics," who pick and choose their beliefs, and one is not surprised to find Kerry there among those who can find nuance even in religion. Nuance is, after all, an almost religious commodity among Democrats.

John Kerry has been the most photographed Christian Democrat since Bill Clinton, his fellow anti-war traveler and skilled practitioner of nuance. In support of Clinton's 1992 candidacy, Kerry said, "We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam reduced to simple campaign rhetoric."

Would that we should be so lucky.

Lisa Fabrizio is a freelance columnist from Stamford, Connecticut. You may write her at mailbox@lisafab.com.

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