Not a Prodigal Son

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

Continued from page 2

, which brought sweeping change to the church. Many Catholics at that time, particularly Americans, felt liberated by new Vatican encouragement to think for themselves and to evaluate moral decisions based on Christian conscience. This is why, for example, so many American Catholics--upwards of 90 percent--reject church teaching banning artificial birth control: to them it seems wrong, and they feel Vatican II gave them license to make that decision.

The Rev. John Ardis, director of the

Paulist Center

in Boston, where Kerry often worships, believes thesenator typifies Catholics of his generation. "Vatican II called us to agreater participation in the church. It called us to greater ownershipof the church. For the Paulists, that would also mean we emphasizetaking our faith into the workplace," Ardis told Beliefnet on Wednesday."And that is clearly what he has done--taken it into his life'swork."


Vatican II also emphasized what is called

Catholic Social Teaching

, a body of ideas about how the church deals with issues in the world. Since the 1960s, liberal and moderate Catholics inspired by those teachings have been loosely called "social justice" Catholics--emphasizing work with the poor, fair wages, nuclear non-proliferation, environmental concern, and just immigration practices. In addition, many of these Catholics emphasize what the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago coined the

seamless garment



life ethic: that all life is sacred, and therefore abortion


war-mongering, poverty, and the death penalty are wrong.

Conservatives argue that Vatican II had some negative side effects, including an increase in divorce among Catholics. John Kerry typified his generation of Catholics in that way, too. In 1970, he married Julia Thorne, an Episcopalian who is the twin sister of Kerry's Yale friend, David Thorne. Kerry apparently didn't insist on a Catholic upbringing for the children. Kerry and Thorne did, however, have the marriage recognized by the Catholic Church. "He and Julia got a priest's blessing on Long Island before they got married in a moreecumenical ceremony on my grandmother's lawn," David Thorne said.

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Deborah Caldwell
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