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 4

A December 2003 interview with the

Interfaith Alliance

probably comes closest to reflecting the candidate's true sensibility. In it, Kerry called his faith "your guidepost, your sort of moral compass, your sustaining force if you will, in everything that you do. But...maybe it's a little bit the New Englander in me or something--you wear it in your heart and in your soul, not necessarily on your sleeve....There are all the lessons of a lifetime of myrelationship as a person of faith, but not something that I think youought to push at people every single day in the secular world."

Of course, an evangelical Christian, such as President Bush, wouldn't put it quite like that. Evangelicals are more comfortable describing a personal conversion experience, a moment when they came to "know Jesus." It's not as if Catholics (or even non-evangelical Protestants) mind talking about their spiritual journey when asked. It's just that sharing one's personal testimony is simply

not done

in those circles. The average Catholic of Kerry's generation, or any other generation, would probably wince at the thought of talking publicly about a "personal relationship" with Jesus.

Yet Catholics (and non-evangelical Protestants) do have a connection with Jesus. Kerry accesses it through his relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus, when he prays the rosary. Like all Catholics, he makes an intense physical connection to Jesus' body and blood during Communion. The liturgy, meanwhile, binds Catholics to tradition, and through its sacred beauty allows the worshipper to drift into a meditative union with God.


But you won't ever hear Kerry saying he's "feeling blessed by the Lord" on a particular day or talk about God using him as an "instrument."

How has his Catholicism affected his political approach? Had he been a Catholic raised in, say, the 1940s, it would have likely meant that John Kerry's positions would reflect those of the Church. Many conservative Catholics believe Vatican II unleashed the phenomenon of the "cafeteria Catholic," those who embrace Catholicism but not all its teachings.

Michele Dillon

, a University of New Hampshire sociologist and Catholicism expert, says majorities of American Catholics disagree with church teaching against birth control (93%), divorce (65%), married priests (60%) and female priests (60%). Even on abortion, at least two-thirds of American Catholics are in some sense pro-choice, Dillonsays.

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Deborah Caldwell
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