John Kerry should be refused Communion, says cardinal


Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria said yesterday that the Democratic candidate in the US presidential election, Senator John Kerry, should not receive Communion because of his public pro-abortion stance.

Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Cult, was speaking at the presentation of Redemptionis Sacramentum, a 71-page instruction on "Certain Matters to be Observed or to be Avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist".

Senator Kerry is a practising Catholic who, as a politician, has taken a pro-choice stance on women's rights issues, including abortion. He says that he personally opposes abortion, but supports the rights of others to have one. Senator Kerry argues that church doctrine allows Catholics the freedom of conscience to choose.

Questioned on the issue yesterday, Cardinal Arinze initially responded that the "norm of the church" was very clear. "The Catholic Church exists in the USA and there are bishops there. Let them interpret it."

Later, at a news conference in the Vatican, Cardinal Arinze was again questioned on the Kerry issue by Fox TV correspondent Greg Burke, who asked: "If a politician is known to take a pro-abortion stance, should a priest refuse him Communion?" "Yes," came the emphatic answer from Cardinal Arinze.

Asked about the possible implications of this for Irish politicians who are practising Catholics and who also support the pro-choice position, a spokesman for the Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell, said he was sure Cardinal Arinze's comments would be "carefully considered by Cardinal Connell".

One Irish politician who agreed to give his response, Labour TD Mr Michael D. Higgins suggested that the exchange at yesterday's press conference in Rome was probably part of a Fox TV attempt to derail the Kerry campaign. He pointed out that similar efforts were made in 1960 to damage John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. Kennedy went on to become the first Catholic president of the US.

Mr Higgins, who receives Communion at Mass, also asked what priest had the right to arrive at a judgment in the matter. Overall, though, it was an issue of such complexity and delicacy that he would like to give it further consideration, he said.

Breda O'Brien column: page 16