Reprinted from "A Call to Service" by John Kerry.

Anticipating my candidacy, the Boston Globe looked into my family history. ...the paper discovered that one hundred years ago, my paternal grandfather was an Austrian Jew named Fritz Kohn, who changed his name to Kerry and converted to Catholicism shortly before immigrating to Massachusetts. I didn't know this because my grandfather died when my father was just five years old...

One thing that hasn't changed for me as a result of this revelation is my Catholic heritage. I am a believing and practicing Catholic, married to another believing and practicing Catholic. And being an American Catholic at this particular moment in history has three particular implications for my own point of view as a candidate for presidency.

The first two follow directly from the two great commandments set forth in the Scriptures: our obligations to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The first commandment means we must believe that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. They may not always be that clear, but they exist, and it is our duty to honor them as best we can.

The second commandment means that our commitment to equal rights and social justice, here and around the world, is not simply a matter of political fashion or economic and social theory but a direct command from God. Christian bigotry and intolerance are nothing less than a direct affront to God's law and a rejection of God's love.

There is a third facet of being an American Catholic. To a larger extent than Catholics elsewhere, we have supported and relied upon the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state to guarantee our right to worship and our liberty of conscience. That tradition, strongly advanced by John F. Kennedy in his quest to become our first Catholic president, helped make religious affiliation a nonissue in American politics. It should stay that way.
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