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 CNS Story:

KERRY-VALUES Oct-25-2004 (820 words) With photo. xxxn

Kerry addresses faith, values, but rejects bishops on life issues

By Catholic News Service

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- In the most pointedly religious speech of his presidential campaign, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts said Oct. 24 that his lifelong Catholic faith gives him "values to live by and apply to the decisions I make."

But the talk at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale also contained a message for Catholic bishops who, Kerry said, "have suggested that as a public official I must cast votes or take public positions -- on issues like a woman's right to choose and stem-cell research -- that carry out the tenets of the Catholic Church."

"I love my church; I respect the bishops; but I respectfully disagree," the Democratic candidate said.

"My task, as I see it, is not to write every doctrine into law," he added. "That is not possible or right in a pluralistic society."

A New York Times story on the speech reported that the crowd in Fort Lauderdale shouted "No!" when Kerry spoke about "the tenets of the Catholic Church" and gave him a standing ovation when he said he disagreed.

In the 2,090-word speech, Kerry mentioned the word "Catholic" only twice, but spoke about God 10 times, "faith" or "faithful" 13 times and "values" eight times.

He said his own religious experience "began with my parents who, in addition to making sure I learned and lived my faith, also taught me at an early age that we are all put on this earth for something greater than ourselves."

"What they taught me was truly put to the test when I was in Vietnam," Kerry added. "Faith was as much a part of our daily lives as the battle itself. Some of my closest friends were killed. I prayed. And I even questioned how all the terrible things I'd seen fit into God's plan."

But he said he returned from Vietnam "with a sense of hope and a belief in a higher purpose."

Quoting the Letter of James -- "It is not enough, my brother, to say you have faith when there are no deeds. ... Faith without works is dead" -- Kerry said, "For me, that means having and holding to a vision of a society of the common good, where individual rights and freedoms are connected to our responsibility to others.

"Catholics call this solidarity," he added. "We simply mean that as children of the same God, we share a common destiny. We express our humanity by reaching out to our fellow citizens, and indeed, to all our brothers and sisters in this country and on this earth.

"Those values will guide me as president," Kerry said. "I will put middle-class families and those struggling to join them ahead of the interests of the well-to-do and well-connected."

Kerry said both religious and civic values dictate that "the ethical test of a good society is how it treats its most vulnerable members."

"Who among us is more vulnerable today than the 8 million Americans who are out of work? Who is more vulnerable than the 45 million Americans without health insurance? Who is more vulnerable than the parents who have to choose between food and medicine for their children?" he asked.

"That's why we have to raise the minimum wage, ensure equal pay, and finish the job of welfare reform, so we can honor work and once again grow the middle class instead of growing the number of people in poverty," he added.

Kerry closed his speech by urging "all of you -- Republicans and Democrats, progressives and conservatives, faithful and less faithful -- to pray together that God guide this nation in the decision we make nine days from now."

In his only direct reference to his Republican competitor, President George W. Bush, Kerry said that whether he or Bush is chosen Nov. 2 "we will both be in need of your prayers and your support."

"We always end our speeches in campaigns like this by saying, 'God bless America,'" Kerry added. "But it seems to me that we should also say to God, 'Thank you for blessing America in so many ways.'"

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in an Oct. 25 statement that the Kerry talk had misrepresented the Christian faith and Catholic teaching on abortion.

"Kerry said, on the one hand, that he disagrees with the church on abortion, and yet that society must protect its most vulnerable members," Father Pavone said. "That's exactly why the church is against abortion and requires Kerry -- and every public official -- to extend protection to the most vulnerable, the children in the womb.

"Mr. Kerry obviously does not understand the church he claims to belong to," he said. "The church's position on abortion is not based on religious doctrine; it is based on the very duty to society that Mr. Kerry claims to fulfill."


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