Not a Prodigal Son

Kerry has a different language, a different connection to ritual, and a different relationship to Jesus than that of Bush.

BY: Deborah Caldwell


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As a teenager he attended

St. Paul's

, an Episcopal boarding school where he was one of only a few Catholics. Kerry took a taxi into town to attend Mass while the other boys went to the on-campus Episcopal chapel.

There, Kerry met his most important spiritual mentor: the late Rev. Richard Walker, a black Episcopal priest who went on to become Bishop of Washington. According to Brinkley, Kerry and his pal Daniel Barbiero spent evenings listening to Walker discuss civil rights and faith. Kerry was "always quite religious," Barbiero told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

When Kerry and Barbiero later arrived at Yale together, Barbiero let his religious life slide, while Kerry still attended Mass. "One of the first things he did when he got there was to find out where the Catholic Church was," Barbiero said.

Kerry has said his religious faith propelled him to join the Navy and go to Vietnam, because he wanted to please God. Six of his closest friends died there, and Kerry received the Silver and Bronze stars for valor and three Purple Hearts for minor injuries. Barbiero remembers carrying a Catholic missal into battle; Kerry carried a rosary and prayed it daily. "We viewed those things as keeping the good Lord as close to us as possible during what we knew would be a difficult time," Barbiero said.

When Kerry got home from Vietnam, he told Time magazine, he went through what he calls a "period of a little bit of anger and agnosticism, but subsequently, I did a lot of reading and a lot of thinking and really came to understand how all those terrible things fit."

Indeed, Kerry recently described his Catholicism as "an important part of getting through tough periods in my life and remains a bedrock of values--of sureness, I guess--about who I am, where we all fit, what our role is on this planet."

As John Kerry grew older, Catholicism was changing dramatically.

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