Kerry Cleared of Heresy Charge--But What About Bush?
As you may know, this presidential election has been roiled by claims from certain conservative Catholics--including a noisy minority of Bishops--that Catholics emperil their souls by voting for John Kerry, whose views on abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research allegedly divide him fatally from Church teachings, making him a self-excommunicated heretic.
Yesterday, according to the Catholic News Service, an unnamed Vatican official representing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith addressed this argument by saying: "No, Kerry is not a heretic."
Now that we've cleared that up, Catholics might want to apply a similar test to President Bush, whose campaign has made a mighty effort to convince Catholic voters they have a religious duty to vote Republican this year.
I don't want to prejudge any official proceedings here, but a quick examination of the president's professed beliefs create a strong suspicion that he is guilty of a number of heresies condemned by ecumenical councils and leading Catholic theologians over the last two millenia.
Although he does not appear to belong to any specific religious congregation, Mr. Bush has publicly identified himself as a "born-again Christian" of the Methodist denomination. He is thus presumptively an adherent of the Protestant Heresy, condemned most notably and definitively by the sixteenth-century Council of Trent. If so, Bush has implicitly embraced an array of subordinate heresies, including:
* Denial of the teaching authority of the Church (the basis, BTW, for questions about Mr. Kerry's views on abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research).
* Bibliolatry (rejection of Church tradition as amplifying and interpreting scriptural authority)
* Symbolism (rejection of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist)
* Sacrilege (rejection of marriage, holy orders, penance, confirmation and extreme unction as valid Sacraments of the Church)
* Dishonoring the Mother of God (rejection of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, Assumption and Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
* Schism (rejection of papal authority and establishment of a separate ecclesiastical structure)
In addition, as a Methodist, Bush must be suspected of additional grave errors associated with the heresiarch and patron saint of that denomination, John Wesley.
* Pelagianism (belief in the perfectibility of human nature, suppressed in the 4th century by the Emperor Honarius, following the teaching of St. Augustine).
* Abandonment of the Apostolic Succession of Bishops (achieved when Methodists seceded from the Church of England)
Moreover, as Msgr. Ronald Knox argued in his influential 1950 book, Enthusiasm, Wesleyans reflect a persistant heretical tendency towards elevation of subjective experience in the pursuit of religious truth that links them to such widely varying heresies at Donatism, Hussism and Jansenism.
Finally, the President's persistant "unilateralist" demand that the United States must enjoy a privileged and unique status with respect to the use of force specifically and international law generally raises some concern that he is guilty of the Americanist Heresy (the belief that this country's special conditions require deviations from universal laws of faith and morals), condemned by Pope Leo XIII in 1899.
If fidelity to the totality of Church teachings is supposed to be the sole test for voting behavior by Catholics, then perhaps the examination of conscience that some conservatives have urged on Catholics prior to entering the voting booth should extend to the highly suspect belief and value system of the incumbent.