Kerry's Catholicism, Bible quoting are now center of campaign
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has cranked up the religion talk this week, criticizing President Bush on biblical grounds and giving a lengthy interview with Time magazine on his Catholic beliefs.

The Time story, written by magazine political reporters Karen Tumulty and Perry Bacon Jr., not religion reporter David Van Biema, isn't really about Bush vs. Kerry or even Protestant politics vs. Catholic politics. It's Catholic doctrine vs. a Catholic's personal beliefs.

"People in Rome are becoming more and more aware that there's a problem with John Kerry, and a potential scandal with his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of his stances, particularly abortion," an unnamed American Vatican official tells the magazine.

But Kerry says there's no problem or scandal at all. "We have a separation of church and state in this country," he said. "As John Kennedy said very clearly, I will be a President who happens to be Catholic, not a Catholic President. … I don't tell church officials what to do, and church officials shouldn't tell American politicians what to do in the context of our public life."

There's quite a bit of unpacking to do in that context, and one hopes that in the next few days campaign reporters will be asking some follow-up questions. Does Kerry believe that church leaders shouldn't comment on issues of public morality? Would Kerry also oppose church officials telling American politicians to, for example, work against racism, or support legislation that would help the poor and disadvantaged? If Kerry doesn't believe in submitting himself to the teachings of his church leaders, then why is he a Roman Catholic instead of a member of a denomination that emphasizes the individual's personal faith (for example, a Baptist church that stresses "soul competency")?

Kerry says he just "happens to be Catholic," but also suggests that Catholicism is something he chose. After going through "a period of a little bit of anger and agnosticism," when he returned from the Vietnam War, he says, "subsequently, I did a lot of reading and a lot of thinking and really came to understand how all those terrible things fit." Hearing more about Kerry's theodicy could be very illuminating if he believes this belief has (or should have) any bearing on his public policy.

But from some of Kerry's statements, it seems that he may not believe that his theology should influence his politics. Or does he? Kerry is getting much press today over comments he made yesterday criticizing Bush on the basis of biblical teaching. "The scriptures say: 'It is not enough, my brother, to say you have faith, when there are no deeds.' We look at what is happening in America today and we say: 'Where are the deeds?'" he said at New Northside Baptist Church in St. Louis.

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It's time to reach for that future. It's time to hear and heed the ancient proverb that should guide us today: "When you pray, move your feet." …
The scriptures tell us that there is "a time to break down and a time to build up." This is our time to break down division, not build it up. It's time to reject the politics of falseness and fear calculated to divide black from white, rich from poor, neighborhood from neighborhood, region from region. …
This is our time to start building up America again. Time to build up the material things that matter—from our schools to health centers to depressed communities that can thrive again. But even more, time to build up the things of the spirit that lift us up—the sense that no matter where we come from, what we have or what we lack—we are all God's children, linked together by the dignity of each and the shared destiny of all. …
So let us pray. Let us move our feet. Let us march together and let us lead America in a new direction—toward that mountain top which has always been our destination. We won't get there in one year or one election. But this year is our time to take another giant step toward the country we can and should become.

Several media outlets covering the speech are careful to note that Kerry didn't mention Bush by name, but did aim his comments at "our present national leadership."

But Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, says it's clear whom Kerry was referring to, and that the speech was "beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of scripture for political attack."

According to Time, however, it's not the first time Kerry has made these comments: "In a speech at a Mississippi church on March 7, he said Bush does not practice the 'compassionate conservatism' he preaches, and quoted James 2: 14, 'What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?'"

It's also worth noting that Kerry gave his speech at a Baptist church in St. Louis, even though he'd told Time, "I certainly intend to take Communion and continue to go to Mass as a Catholic" in that city. But the Catholic archbishop of that city, Raymond Burke, has publicly warned the candidate "not to present himself for Communion" because of his votes supporting abortion.

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More religion and politics:

  • GOP pressing cultural issues | From gays to guns to the rights of the unborn, Republicans are staging a series of cultural clashes in Congress in the run-up to the fall elections, seeking political advantage as much as legislative accomplishment (Associated Press)

  • As legislators haggle, some churches lose faith in measure | The Republican administration is concerned with trying to remove a state budget provision, passed by the House and Senate, that would prohibit -based initiative spending unless it is approved by the General Assembly (The Washington Post)

  • Americans fighting their own holy war | If there's one essential truth about the United States these days, it is that the principal divide in the country is no longer between rich and poor, or even black and white, but between the devout and the unbelievers (Alex Massie, The Scotsman)

  • Bill could criminalize Scriptures, say bishops | Portions of the Bible are in danger of being condemned as hate literature, say religious groups opposed to changes in the Criminal Code to be debated next week by the Senate (CanWest News Service/Calgary Herald)

  • Is Bush the holiest of them all? Verily, no | Many presidents have openly held strong religious beliefs (Amity Shlaes, Los Angeles Times)

Life ethics:

  • Courts to hear 3 abortion-ban challenges | A historic legal battle over abortion begins in courtrooms coast to coast Monday as three federal judges take up requests to derail the first substantial congressional limitation on abortion since the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision (Associated Press)

  • An assault on Roe? | Opponents take incremental steps against abortion (Time)

  • Harm to fetuses becomes issue in Utah and elsewhere | State courts, not federal, are where the vast majority of the country's violent-crime cases are handled (The New York Times)

  • Abortion war reignites in US | Laws to outlaw late terminations and give a foetus rights raise fears of an outright ban (Sunday Herald, Glasgow)

  • A vote for unheard victims | The families of America's most defenseless victims deserve to know that those who harm their children — born or unborn — will be held accountable (Alvin Williams, The Washington Times)

  • 'Passion' case may test new law | Murder suspect could be state's 1st prosecution in death of fetus (Houston Chronicle)

  • Building a better baby | The dark side of universal prenatal screening (Agnes R. Howard, The Weekly Standard)

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Rwanda genocide:

  • Will we say 'never again' yet again? | Let's be blunt: Sudan's behavior easily meets the definition of genocide in Article 2 of the 1948 convention against genocide (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)

  • Rwandans are struggling to love children of hate | More than 10,000 children were born of rapes during the genocide, according to victims' groups (The Washington Post)

  • Rwanda, remembered | Ten years after Rwanda's genocide, what has the world learned? (The Economist)

  • Rwanda to free 30,000 genocide suspects | Rwanda plans to release at least 30,000 suspects who have confessed to participating in the 1994 genocide, letting them be tried in community courts rather than by the country's overburdened judicial system, an official said Saturday (Associated Press)

Moscow bans Jehovah's Witnesses:

Israel and Christians:

Bishop hit-and-run:


  • Officials probe Kentucky church fires | Weekend fires that damaged two eastern Kentucky churches were being investigated as possible arson, authorities said Sunday (Associated Press)

  • Scandalized church leader back in pulpit | The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, the scandalized former leader of the National Baptist Convention USA released from prison in November, is back in the pulpit (Associated Press)

Crosses burned in minister's yard:

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  • Pastor to help cross burning suspects | Pastor Jason Martin, who awoke to find a cross ablaze in his family's front yard, said Sunday he hopes to speak with the teenagers accused of setting the fire to tell them they are forgiven (Associated Press)

  • No tolerance for racism | Snohomish County residents have responded with shock, anger and resolve to a cross-burning at the Arlington home of a black minister (Editorial, The Seattle Times)

  • Earlier: 2 arrested in Wash. cross burning | Two 16-year-old boys turned themselves in to authorities Saturday for burning a cross at the home of a black minister, according to a newspaper report (Associated Press)

'Under God':

  • Some believers cringe at 'under God' defense | Why aren't more believers distressed when language that pretty clearly affirms an existing, active, transcendental God must be defended as nothing more than language about what the nation's framers thought two centuries ago? (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)

  • Pledge harms no one | The U.S. Supreme Court may prove us wrong, but having the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance doesn't strike us as an unpardonable breach of the wall separating church and state (Editorial, The Denver Post)

  • The Pledge at the Court: Is 'under God' religious? | Supreme Court in a tough spot: Government should not promote or endorse religion, but ruling against the phrase would provoke mass outrage (Charles Haynes, First Amendment Center)

  • Pledge plaintiff's challenge to Congress's chaplains rejected | Federal judge throws out atheist Michael Newdow's establishment-clause claim, releasing decision on same day Newdow argued Pledge of Allegiance case before Supreme Court (Associated Press)

  • God doesn't have the best tunes | It was rather thrilling for us non-believers to have one of our tribe stand up in an American court and say, as he pointed to the flag: "I am an atheist. I don't believe in God" (Zoe Heller, The Telegraph, London)

  • Hundreds of central Texans to attend Ten Commandments rally | Almost 900 Central Texans are planning to travel to Dallas next week for the first in a series of Ten Commandments Rallies to demonstrate their resolve to keep the United States "one nation under God" (Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)

Episcopal Church:

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  • Visiting bishop wants end to rhetoric on gay clergy | N.T. Wright, an influential Church of England bishop visiting Pittsburgh this week believes the crisis in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion over gay ordination is related to America's unilateralism (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Former Archbishop of Canterbury criticizes Islam:

Church buildings:

  • They're saving Grace | Preservationists start digging at historic church (The Washington Post)

  • Historic N.Y. church may close doors | Valuable real estate and decreasing attendance threaten St. Ann's in Greenwich Village (Los Angeles Times)

  • Believers say oil is seeping from icon in Bethlehem | Unexplained event at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church began with Great Lent (The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.)

  • Preservationists fear church closings | The architectural landscape of Eastern Massachusetts, dominated in so many communities by church steeples and bell towers, is at risk of being diminished as the region's largest religious denomination, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, prepares to shutter a significant number of parishes, preservationists say (The Boston Globe)

  • Fire damages 15th-century church in Greece | A fire damaged the bell-tower of an Orthodox Christian church at the all-male monastic enclave of Mount Athos Saturday, but officials said the blaze was extinguished before it could spread (Associated Press)

  • Oregon court upholds rejection of church building plan | Salem neighborhood protested Mormon church's proposal to build meetinghouse, parking lot amid homes (Associated Press)

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  • Ex-pizza magnate's church to be extra large | On rural land now populated by snakes and raccoons will rise the nation's largest crucifix, God and Collier County officials willing (Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

  • Cypress resolution | We're glad the church can move forward. But no one should forget the abusive actions of the city (Editorial, The Orange County Register, Ca.)

  • Religious rites welcomed; parking rights are thornier | There is a stretch of Flushing where persons of various religions worship without a hint of sectarian strife. When it comes to parking spaces, though, it is all-out war (The New York Times)

Missions & ministry:

School board rejects state gender law:

  • Defiant official gets rare backing | In rejecting a state gender law—a stance that jeopardizes funding—a Westminster school trustee was stunned to land a majority (Los Angeles Times)

  • Not-so-grown-up behavior | State law prevails over local school politics and personal belief. That's a point of basic civics that three befuddled trustees of the Westminster elementary school district should struggle to recall (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

Wheaton College cult:

  • Wheaton College denies it knew of abusive cult | Wheaton College officials deny knowing about any abuse committed by a former graduate student against several other former students who say they were members of a physically abusive cult controlled by the older student, according to a statement released by the school (Chicago Sun-Times)

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  • Wheaton defends cult position | Officials at an Illinois Christian college are firing back amid swirling criticism that they allowed a controversial cult leader to recruit students on campus, including three Bay Staters who say they were later tortured (Boston Herald)

  • College responds to cult claims | Wheaton College officials on Thursday said they have no knowledge of any abusive acts occurring on campus in relation to an alleged cult leader while he was enrolled there (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

Baylor University:

  • Baylor's gay ban protested | 200 rally in Waco to support former seminary student (Associated Press)

  • Rally set to protest Baylor's policy on homosexuality | Organizers of a gay rights rally in downtown Waco Saturday say they expect 1,000 demonstrators to voice their criticism of Baylor University for its treatment of gay students (Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)

  • A vision on track | Baylor University's bold and dramatic vision for the future — Baylor 2012 — is off to a strong start on a sound financial foundation (David Brooks, Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)

  • Healing Baylor's rift | The polarization and alienation among faculty, students, and alumni at Baylor University reached a critical level sometime ago. Contrary to the wishful-thinking assertions of President Sloan, morale and healing at Baylor are not improving (H. Rhea Gray, Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)

Gay marriage:

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  • Marriage debate puts GOP gays on the spot | Bush risking votes over amendment (Houston Chronicle)

  • The town that outlawed marriage | This week, Corvallis and the surrounding Benton County made legal history when its authorities stopped issuing marriage licences to any couples - heterosexual or homosexual (The Telegraph, London)

  • Gay couples win full rights to 'marriage' in Britain | New laws allow partners to share pensions, property; Overhaul follows anger after Nigel Hawthorne's death (The Guardian, London)

  • Two pastors give two views on the word of God | The debate over same-sex marriage in Massachusetts has triggered intense interest from religious leaders across the state and country (The Boston Globe)

  • Mass. resuming debate on gay marriage ban | Lawmakers resume the constitutional convention on Monday and are expected to decide whether to give final approval to an amendment that would ban gay marriage but allow gay couples to enter into civil unions (Associated Press)

  • Man disturbs Mass to defend gay marriage | A gay man interrupted a church Mass on Sunday when he told congregants he objected to a video opposing same-sex marriage that was shown moments earlier (Associated Press)

  • An ambiguous amendment | Getting back to basics in the marriage debate (Maggie Gallagher, National Review Online)

  • Gay marriage and the election | The media won't mention it, but polls show a winning issue for the GOP (Mark Stricherz, The Weekly Standard)

  • Same-sex unions and discontents | Why not let the issue wend its deliberate way through the courts first? Maybe reason and reverence will yet come to the fore, and a solemn constitutional amendment may not be necessary (Paul Greenberg, The Washington Times)


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  • Onward and upward | If she could have lived her life backwards, perhaps Karen Armstrong would have enjoyed it more. She now lives a solitary existence focused on trying to understand God and explain him (Book review of The Spiral Staircase) (The Economist)

  • Contrasting a nun's view with a journalist's | A review of two recent books on the Catholic Church clergy abuse debacle (Marci Hamilton,

Archbishop of Canterbury criticizes TV show:

  • Archbishop's despair at TV soap | The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Christians to reject the self-seeking lifestyle typified by the hit ITV television series, Footballers' Wives (BBC)

  • Archbishop sees our sin in Footballers' Wives | For most of its millions of fans, Footballers' Wives is a racy TV drama charting the sexual exploits and bitter jealousies of its cast of spoilt and glamorous stars. But for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the greed, treachery and adultery it chronicles is a piercingly accurate parable of all that is wrong with morality in Britain (The Observer, London)

  • Footballers' Wives mirrors Britain's ills, says Williams | More than seven million people switch on the ITV drama Footballers' Wives every week but it is a reasonable bet that only one of them, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, then feels a compulsion to quote St Paul (The Telegraph, London)

  • Own goal | It is hard to know which is the more depressing. Either the Archbishop of Canterbury spends his Wednesday evenings in Lambeth Palace watching Footballers' Wives; or else he has made a speech about the programme without having followed it (Editorial, The Telegraph, London)

Vicar gets film deal:

  • Vicar wins a healthy £2.2m film deal | Graham Taylor has sold his best-selling first novel to Hollywood for £.2 million, at the same time that he has been asked by the Church of England to hand in his notice on the ground of ill health (The Times, London)

  • Vicar clinches £2.5m movie deal | The Scarborough vicar who sold his motorbike to finance his first novel has clinched a £2.5m movie deal (BBC)


  • Frenzy and fury as Jesus film hits South Africa | Cinema audiences in tears as religious leaders row over Mel Gibson's gory epic (Sunday Times, South Africa)

  • The language of Christ awaits resurrection | Khaled Ahmad Alloush and Mohammed Qassem Tawil are anxiously waiting to hear whether there will be a special screening of Mel Gibson's controversial film, The Passion of the Christ, in their isolated village of Jab'edine, perched in the hills north of Damascus (Financial Times)

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  • Finance group for L.I. diocese calls reserve funds adequate | The financial overseers of Long Island's Roman Catholic diocese say that its reserves are barely adequate, disputing an accountant's criticism that it has been hoarding funds (The New York Times)

  • Pope condemns use of child soldiers | Pope John Paul II decried the use of child soldiers in world conflicts Sunday, saying they were victims twice over and were overwhelmed by "the hatred of adults" (Associated Press)

  • More praying, less playing on Sunday: Pope | He said he was concerned at Australia's growing trend away from marriage in favor of living together and it was the job of bishops to ensure the values of marriage were upheld in society and the media (AAP, Australia)

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  • Pope deplores Australia's secular trends | Pope John Paul II deplored Friday that secular trends have found "fertile ground" in Australia and urged the country's Roman Catholic bishops to actively defend the church's teaching on marriage and the family (Associated Press)

  • Taxing questions for the Church | The Catholic bishops of England and Wales suggest that what is lacking in most discussions about taxation is the realisation that taxes have a moral and religious context, as well as an economic and political one (Gerald Grace, The Guardian, London)


  • Check for pedophiles may silence church bells | They have been ringing bells at St James the Great church in the village of Gawsworth, Cheshire, for more than 600 years (The Guardian, London)

  • Choir school in New Jersey loses immunity in sex abuse case | Older law says that nonprofit groups set up exclusively for religious, charitable or educational purposes are immune from liability when someone suffers damages resulting from an employee's negligence (Associated Press)

  • Vatican hears sex abuse cases sent to Pope | The Vatican, implementing a change in the way it handles clerical sex abuse cases and other serious crimes against church law, has begun delegating cases that normally would have gone straight to the pope instead to his key orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Associated Press)

  • Jehovah's Witnesses hold sex abuse caucus | Present and former Jehovah's Witnesses who claim they were sexually abused by congregation leaders gathered in their first national caucus Saturday, sharing grievances about the religion's handling of abuse complaints and discussing legal strategy (Associated Press)

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