Not a Prodigal Son
Kerry has a different language, a different connection to ritual, and a different relationship to Jesus than that of Bush.
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Julia battled depression and chose to end the marriage in 1982. After six years of formal separation, the couple finally divorced in 1988.
In 1992, Kerry met Teresa Heinz while fumbling his way through a Portuguese hymn at a Catholic Mass in Rio de Janeiro. They were both attending a United Nations-sponsored Earth Summit. When they wed three years later, Kerry's divorce forced them to marry outside the church, which doesn't officially permit it. But Heinz Kerry was reportedly uncomfortable in what is called an "irregular relationship" with Catholicism. So in 1997 Kerry applied for and was granted an annulment of his previous marriage--an act that allowed them to receive communion.
When Kerry is home, he attends the Paulist Center in Boston, an easy walk from his house. It is not a traditional parish; its members describe it as an "intentional community" because they choose to worship there--many of them driving from all over New England. Built in 1970 by the Paulists (a religious order like the Jesuits), it operates with the permission of Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston, but is financially independent of the Church.
The Paulist Center emphazes liturgy, music, and helping the needy. It attracts as many as 1,000 worshippers at its four weekend Masses, and has 2,400 families on its mailing list, says Ardis, the center's director.
"He worships here regularly when they're in town, but we've never sat down and had any kind of at-length conversation about his faith," Ardis says. "In some ways I probably have the same relationship with him that priests have with most parishioners--which is more contact at Sunday Mass rather than at other times. With only about 10-15 percent of parishioners do you have a higher level of relationship than that."
The center has a nuts-and-berries sort of reputation, with a lot of campus-ministry types in attendance. It is sometimes picketed by pro-life activists because it is Kerry's home church. But it isn't all that unusual; similar intellectual, liberal-leaning Catholic centers full of pro-choice Catholics dot the American landscape, especially in university towns.
Ardis says Kerry is committed to the social justice work of the center, including a Wednesday night dinner for 200 homeless people, a food pantry and a tutoring program for inner-city children. Kerry once participated in a 20-mile walk for hunger sponsored by the church, and he has served the homeless at least once on a Wednesday night, Ardis says. "If we look at his track record, it is reaching out to the most needy of society," says Ardis.