This article is adapted, with permission, from a speech given at a Catholics for Kerry rally in Ohio on Sunday, October 24, 2004.
I'm the pastor of The Paulist Center where Senator Kerry and Mrs. Heinz-Kerry worship when they are home in Boston.
For the past ten years, when Senator Kerry and Mrs. Heinz-Kerry have been in town, they have come to Mass at the Holy Spirit Chapel. Although close to their home in Boston, the Paulist Center is not their geographic parish; rather it's an intentional worship community. I believe that the Kerrys choose to come to our chapel for Mass because they find there a faith-filled and faithful community of Catholics who are motivated by the principles of compassion.
Throughout the years, at Sunday liturgy, the Kerrys have never sought special consideration or attention. (And even now with the required Secret Service protection and the press that follows them, the Kerrys do all they can to minimize the impact that their attendance at one of our Sunday liturgies has on the members of our community and on the Mass.) As long as I've been the pastor at the Center, I've observed that both the Senator and Mrs. Heinz-Kerry have joined in the prayer of our church and devoutly participated in the Mass through their spoken, sung, and silent prayer.
Being attentive to the many ways that Paulist Center members live out their faith, I am able to see how the faith life of our church is lived out in the work that John Kerry does as our U.S. Senator. The values of faith and family, strength and service, responsibility and opportunity for all that John Kerry outlines in his speeches and that are found in his voting record reflect his deep and ongoing faith as a Catholic. John Kerry's platform indicates his desire that all individuals will be heard and their needs addressed. This reflects paragraph #1738 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: "Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect."
I offer just a few examples of Senator Kerry putting his faith into action:
John Kerry has voted for every major Civil Rights bill to come before the Congress since 1985, including the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Equal Rights Amendment. He has also voted to include sexual orientation in non-discrimination laws.
The Psalms have been powerful inspiration to people of faith for thousands of years. In Psalm 34, we hear: The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Faithful followers also need to be attentive to the poor. John Kerry's pledge to increase the minimum wage is evidence of his desire to assist people in lifting themselves from the lowest levels of poverty. He continues to seek tax relief for the middle class. In 2003, the Senator sponsored a bill to establish a National Housing Trust Fund to promote the construction of new, affordable rental units for low-income, working families. In 2000, he also supported the Global Debt Relief bill, which approved $225 million for third world debt relief.
In the Gospels, we hear many stories of Jesus' care and healing touch for those who are sick. Senator Kerry has continued to champion the poor and every citizen in his proposal for affordable, high quality health care for all. In addition, he voted against the final version of the Medicare Prescription Drug Act, which threatened employer-provided drug coverage for millions of retirees. He is the author of the most comprehensive HIV/AIDS bill ever to pass the Senate and understands that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has implications for the life and death of millions of men, women and children around the world as well as for the global economy and international security.
Through his far-reaching commitment to the environment, John Kerry witnesses to his faith in the God of Genesis, the God who formed all of creation and saw that it is good. His many works in this area include authoring the Marine Mammal Protection Act Amendments of 1994, which banned the use of drift nets threatening dolphins and other marine life. He is the current co-sponsor of the Clean Power Act, designed to require utility companies to control multiple pollutants.
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul wrote that Christ is our peace; we who are baptized in Christ's name must also work for peace. Senator Kerry has consistently opposed development and funding for new, more usable nuclear weapons. He has promised to enforce gun laws and close the gun show loophole and thus require background checks for all gun sales. He is also in favor of extending the assault weapons ban.
In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we read: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." Pope Paul VI said if "you want peace, work for justice." We are called as People of God to respect and collaborate with people of all nations. True peace is the fruit of justice. As Senator Kerry has made clear: "As President, I will not cede our security to any nation or institution--and adversaries will have no doubt of my resolve to use force if necessary--but I will always understand that even the only super-power on earth cannot succeed without cooperation and compromise with our friends and allies." Kerry's dedication to ending the war in Iraq, as well as his oath only to send troops as a last measure, is a clear understanding of his deep and abiding faith.
Not only are Senator and Mrs. Heinz-Kerry regular members of the local church where I pastor, but I sincerely believe that their lives witness to the Catholic faith. Both of them have worked diligently to safeguard the environment. Mrs. Heinz-Kerry's work with the Heinz Family Foundation, which benefits many of the poor, especially women, is a sign of her commitment to stewarding the resources with which she has been entrusted. And Senator Kerry, as a public servant---from service in the military to his work as a district attorney to his life as an elected official---has exemplified the Catholic ethic in seeking mercy and justice for all, and especially for the marginalized in society, for the poor, the sick, and those who are persecuted.
John Kerry's faith is a cornerstone to his life and his work. He has answered God's call, and accepts that he has a part to play in God's on-going act of creation. God is real in John and Teresa's lives and, while they could undoubtedly easily choose to sit back and enjoy a life of relaxed leisure, they do not. They continue to answer God's call by responding "send us."