When John Kerry ran for President in 2004, several of the more reactionary American Catholic Bishops banned him from taking Communion in churches in their dioceses on the grounds that his pro-abortion-rights stance cut him off from the Church.
I’m not sure how much damage (if any) this did to Kerry’s immortal soul (assuming him to have one), but it certainly put a crimp in his campaigning, and helped explain his extraordinarily poor performance among Catholics. Without violating their tax-exempt status, those Bishops managed to mount a very public demonstration about which candidate they expected their flocks to vote for.
If Kerry had gotten the same share of the Catholic vote in 2004 as the Baptist Al Gore got in 2000, he’d be President today. (And the Democrats probably would control neither House of Congress, but that’s another story.) Being seen to be out of step with his own Church may well have cost him Protestant votes, too.
The Catholic Bishops, now meeting in Baltimore, plan to issue a statement on who should take Communion. It appears — I can’t be sure about this — they intend to set out a set of principles for individual Catholics to use in deciding for themselves, but back off from the practice of ordering individuals to stay away, short of formal excommunication. At least, that’s what the loony-toons at the American Life League seem to be worried about, according to full-page ads they took out in today’s papers.
Again, I’m not sure I’m reading the tea-leaves correctly. But if that’s in fact in the works, it would be extraordinarily good news for Democrats. I’d resigned myself to believing that we could never run a Catholic for President again.
Of course, this also benefits Rudy Giuliani; perhaps that is the underlying motivation. Even so, I’d count it as very good news.
Footnote Readers who understand this better than I do are invited to let me know if I’ve gotten this wrong.