The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, July 02, 2004

Kerry, the heretic?

From the Moon-owned Washington Times, one takes allegations against pols with a few more grains of salt than the standard carload.

However - today, the Times informs us that
A Catholic lawyer has filed heresy charges against Sen. John Kerry with the Archdiocese of Boston, accusing the Democratic presidential candidate of bringing "most serious scandal to the American public" by receiving Holy Communion as a pro-choice Catholic.

Isn't heresy a tad Inquisition, the rack and Ken Russell's The Devils for these enlightened days? Apparently not.

The complainant is one
Marc Balestrieri, a Los Angeles-based canon lawyer and an assistant judge with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' tribunal, an ecclesiastical court.

Who he? Cursory searching suggests that, first and foremost, the guy is French! And, less surprisingly, that he was concerned in the running of an anti-abortion group in France, Droit de naître [1]. And that he is something of an intéllo or egghead [2]. (His online footprint seems rather skimpy.)

The complaint (PDF) is a delightful read. Sample (para 27):
Defendant's actions have generated headlines and wonderment across the Nation and brought most serious scandal to the American public.

Plenty of quotes in Latin and (to an utter layman) learned-looking argument lead to its demand (page 13, para 78): excommunication, public penance and other, unspecified penalties on account of Kerry's heresy.

(Burning at the stake appears to have fallen into desuetude in ecclesiastical circles!)

There are other charges - amongst others, of diabolical scandal - for those interested.

The Times quotes the guy as saying
My goal is his repentance, not excommunication.

It also quotes a canon lawyer:
I have never heard of a case like this being processed before.

And whether the complaint is taken further is at the discretion of Kerry's bishop. Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston was not one of those bishops willing to deny Kerry communion last time the Kerry religious wars flamed: I've seen nothing (hardly saying much!) to suggest he would decide to take up Balestrieri's complaint.

It's a bit of nonsense, then? What the anti-Kerry bigots are missing, so far as I can tell, is any leverage over the hierarchy to get them to take the heresy question seriously. No doubt, the Pope would be on their side; but I doubt whether the frail old man - nor the apparatchiks and bigwig cardinals preparing for the next papacy - would rank it as a priority.

  1. References here, here, here, here. (PDF); he figures in a piece on a March for Life in Washington.

  2. Try this.

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