It's not quite the same thing as the Democratic Party's snub of the prolife Pennsylvania Gov. William Casey in 1992, but John Kerry's campaign has broken with tradition by not inviting the host city's Catholic archbishop to deliver an invocation during this week's Democratic convention. As Michael Paulson and Patrick Healy report in The Boston Globe,
The Kerry campaign said it has not invited Sean P. O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston. O'Malley's spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, said recently that O'Malley planned to be out of town this week.
"We never reached out to Archbishop O'Malley to deliver the invocation," said a Kerry spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter. "We are seeking to arrange having [the priest] from the Paulist Center to deliver the invocation, since that is John Kerry's home church."
As the Globe also makes clear, O'Malley has not been the toughest critic among Catholic bishops of Kerry's consistent support of abortion rights:
A few bishops, including Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis, have said they would deny Communion to Kerry based on his support for abortion rights. But other bishops, including O'Malley, have said that while Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not seek Communion, the church would not deny it to those who do.
The church itself is spare, consisting of a medium-sized auditorium built in the Federalist tradition. The ceiling is high and there are pews both on the ground floor and in the balcony. The altar in the front is tiny. Hanging in the space above it is the only artwork of note: a large, abstract sculpture of Christ, behind which hangs a tree trunk, in roughly the space of a cross.
There are no kneelers in the church and the atmosphere is decidedly casual. (Of the hundred or so people at Mass on Sunday morning, only two men wore coat and tie.) At times the Mass departs from the Catholic text. During the Nicene Creed, for example, the sections on believing in only "one Lord" ("We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God . . . ") and only "one holy Catholic and apostolic Church" are excised from the prayer.
. . . The ideology which brings people to the Paulist Center is best explained by the Center's Mission Statement which declares, "Attentive to the Holy Spirit, we are a Catholic community that welcomes all, liberates the voice of each and goes forth to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ." (Before Mass, this Mission Statement is projected, in large type, onto the wall above the altar, on either side of the statue of Christ.) In their Vision Statement, the Center goes on to explain that they aspire to serve "those persons searching for a spiritual home and those who have been alienated from the Catholic Church."
The subtext here -- with talk of liberating voices and welcoming people alienated from those other mean Catholic churches -- is that the Paulist Center is Catholic, but not really: more Episcopal lite; or orthodox Unitarian.
The practical consequence of this attitude is that if John Kerry isn't the least bit conflicted about stumping for abortion and taking communion, the people at the Paulist Center are even less conflicted about giving him the Host.
Amid all the fuss about whether John Kerry would be denied Communion because of his stance on abortion, it's worth noting which side has followed through on thoughts of exclusion.