The Deacon's Bench

Jacques Berlinerblau, from the Washington Post’s On Faith section, has been taking a hard look at the Giuliani candidacy this week — and draws interesting parallels and contrasts with another pro-choice Catholic who ran afoul of some bishops, John Kerry:

In the winter of 2004 Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis had made it known that he would not grant Communion to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. The demurral from the campaign of the pro-Choice senator from Massachusetts was polite (as all responses to the Church must be): “The archbishop has the right to deny Communion to whoever he wants, but Senator Kerry respectfully disagrees with him on the issue of choice.”

Let’s call this a Communion-denial story. Political handlers hate Communion-denial stories. But here’s something they hate even more: journalists nationwide were so intrigued by this new angle that pretty soon the Kerry people had a Communion-denial story pandemic on their hands. The media started “what iffing”–writing stories about Eucharistic wafers that might be denied to Kerry were he to seek them on the campaign trail.

As Kerry trundled from state to state, from parish to parish, newsroom editors across America were saying things like this:

“Kerry’s campaigning where? Any Catholics live out there? Somebody have Mitch–where’s Mitch?–find out who the Archbishop of that diocese is. Bishop. Archbishop? What’s the difference again? Anyhow, see if he’ll do an interview. What? I don’t care if it’s Good Friday just get him on the damn phone! Do we have a picture on file? Where the hell is Mitch?”

That John Kerry actually lost the Catholic vote in 2004 is something that the Giuliani team is certainly aware of. For these reasons they have trained themselves in the arts of Communion-denial story pandemic containment.

This past May an outbreak was reported at the New York Church where Giuliani had one of his weddings. Then, just two weeks ago, Archbishop Burke demonstrated that he does not play partisan politics and said of the Republican what he said of the Democrat. Giuliani responded as follows: “Archbishops have a right to their opinion, you know. There’s freedom of religion in this country. There’s no established religion, and archbishops have a right to their opinion. Everybody has a right to their opinion.”

Giuliani’s team has done a reasonably effective job of quarantining these outbreaks. In both instances the stories have popped up in the news cycle only to disappear fairy quickly.

Why has the damage been kept in check? I am not entirely sure (and I can’t rule out that more virulent strains of Communion-denial stories are en route). It may be that the media and electorate are bored with it all. Or perhaps America’s mayor, whose spiritual bond to his Catholicism is infinitely less difficult to discern than that of the unemotive Kerry, has enough diocese street cred’ to ride out the storm.

Last, I reiterate a point I made a few months back, namely, that Giuliani’s flawed Catholicism appeals to Americans who are good God-fearing people, but not perfect ones.

Interesting stuff. Let the debate begin.

Or, perhaps, continue.

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