Who's behind the "heresy" charge against Kerry

Published July 1, 2004 9:07PM (EDT)

Rev. Moon's Washington Times brings us the story today of a Catholic lawyer who has filed "heresy" charges against John Kerry for bringing "most serious scandal to the American public" by receiving Holy Communion even though he supports abortion rights. This bit of ridiculousness is just the latest attempt by a handful of religious conservatives to target Kerry for being a "bad Catholic" and thus deserving of defeat in November.

Even if Kerry was never religious, these threats would be uncalled for. But Kerry's voting record was ranked recently as most in line with the church, when all issues are taken into account, not just abortion. He was an altar boy, for chrissakes, and considered joining the seminary and choosing a career in the priesthood. He attends Mass. Yes, he disagrees with the Vatican on some policy points. So do many of us who support issues like abortion rights and stem cell research.

The "heresy" charges were filed in Kerry's archdiocese in Boston and if the Church ever actually convicted Kerry, he could be excommunicated -- although the man who brought the complaint says he's just looking for "repentance." It's up to the Boston Archdiocese to respond to the complaint, which was filed on June 14, but it has yet to do so. Marc Balestrieri, a Los Angeles-based canon lawyer and an assistant judge with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' tribunal, an ecclesiastical court, told the Washington Times: "Heresy is a public, ecclesiastical crime  It affects entire communities. It is one of the greatest sins you can commit."

Mr. Balestrieri posted his heresy complaint against Kerry on defide.com. The Web site states: "This Not-for-Profit association is entirely independent and not tied to any organization whatsoever. Please help us fight the good fight!" "Not tied to any organization whatsoever"? A domain name search reveals defide.com is owned by one Bruno Quintavalle, a leader of the ProLife Alliance, a pro-life political party in Great Britain that opposes abortion rights, stem cell research and the right to die. Quintavalle gained international attention as a prominent legal opponent of the separation of conjoined twins in Britain in 2000, and is the son of the Countess Quintavalle, another anti-abortion leader in the U.K.

What role is a British anti-abortion rights leader playing in this latest attack on John Kerry and his faith? It's unclear, but Mssrs. Balestrieri and Quintavalle should know that most American Catholics, and most voters here in general, don't agree with these tactics. Voters don't like it when U.S. bishops try to interfere with the U.S. presidential election by threatening to withhold Communion from Kerry and other pro-choice Democrats, so they probably won't respond well to this, either. And while these gentlemen are accusing Kerry of being heretical, they should also observe their own hypocrisy. They're undermining Kerry because he supports abortion rights, while ignoring his opponent's views on life that run counter to Vatican teachings: His most prolific use of the death chamber while Texas governor, and his perpetrating a war of choice, not necessity, in Iraq.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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