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Of Canons and Culture…Lay Canon Lawyer Sues John Kerry for Heresy
7/14/2004 1:36:00 PM by Pete Vere, JCL
On June 14th, some heavy news hit both the canon law world and the American political scene. Marc Balestrieri filed a formal canonical petition before the Archdiocese of Boston in which he denounced John Forbes Kerry for the ecclesiastical crime of heresy. By July 1st, Marc had posted his eighteen-page petition available to defide.com where those with Internet access may view it.
Balestrieri’s canonical petition came as a surprise to many - including conservative canonists like myself. While other Catholic faithful have filed similar canonical actions in the past, what makes Balestrieri’s petition unique is that he happens to be a respected lay canonist. Yet like many lay canonists who fall within generation-x, Balestrieri is fed up with the scandal caused by pro-abort Catholic politicians. So he decided to attempt canonical recourse against the well-known senator from Massachusetts.
I know Marc personally. I will gladly vouch for his credentials as a canon lawyer. He told me in our last conversation that he spent six months researching both the procedure and the merit of this canonical action before undertaking it. It shows. When it comes to the facts and to the law, Balestrieri’s research, presentation, and handling of the situation is solid. I only wish that I had possessed enough courage to initiate a similar action against Paul Martin in Canada before he became Prime Minister.
In terms of Balestrieri’s future, however, this is the most risky venture undertaken by a canon lawyer since the eighties when Fr. Tom Doyle predicted a future sexual abuse crisis among the clergy. Defide.com reports that Marc is a lay judge with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles tribunal. One can only imagine Cardinal Mahony’s reaction to this petition. So Marc is likely putting both his reputation and his livelihood on the line with his canonical denunciation of Democrat presidential nominee. You’ve got guts Marc, and I pray our readers at the Wanderer will support you in this endeavor.
Yet this canonical action raises an important question, namely, what precisely is John Kerry’s heresy? Despite the misunderstanding of some sympathetic to Balestrieri’s action, Kerry’s heresy does not concern his reception of Holy Communion. This is separate - albeit not unrelated - issue. Rather, Kerry’s heresy concerns his affirmation that abortion is a matter of private morality with no public responsibility on the part of Catholic politicians.
For example, the presidential hopeful recently appeared on Larry King Live. When questioned about bishops threatening to deny him Holy Communion because of his voting record on abortion, Kerry responded: “Well, there are some bishops who have spoken out, but that's not the position of the Church, and as you know, we have a separation in America of Church and state. My obligation as a Catholic is to examine my conscience, under the freedom of conscience under Vatican II, Pope John XXIII, and Pope Paul […] I mean, being for choice does not mean you are for abortion...” As an aside, perhaps it is no coincidence that Kerry failed to mention Pope John Paul II in his litany of Church authorities whom he claims support his position. One need only read Evangelium vitae to know where our current Holy Father stands with regards to this issue.
Alternatively, one can contrast Kerry’s doctrine with that taught by the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church aptly summarizes Church teaching in article 2270 as follows: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent to life,” (emphasis mine). With regards to the political responsibility of every Catholic toward the child in the womb, article 2273 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation…”
In denying these clear teachings of the Catholic Church while claiming to be a devout Catholic, John Forbes Kerry inflicts scandal upon Christ’s faithful. As fellow Catholic blogger Lane Core, Jr. explains in somewhat more contemporary language: “John Forbes Kerry is a darn heretic. He has caused and continues to cause great harm to the Catholic Church and to individual Catholics by stirring up doubt among Catholics and others about the Church's teaching and the Church's authority to teach, and by other scandals - even to the point of leading innumerable others, including Catholics, into believing The Right to Murder Unborn Children heresy - not by what he professes to believe but by what actions he takes and does not take, which is all that really matters.”
Obviously, Balistrieri’s canonical action is something every orthodox Catholic should support. So how can we go about doing so as simple Catholic laity? First, keep Marc in your daily prayers. This battle is as much spiritual as it is canonical. Perhaps you can offer up an extra Rosary for him or spend an hour before Our Lord in Eucharistic adoration.
Secondly, Marc requires some financial support. Perhaps it is only coincidence that the same day Marc’s petition was made public, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles posted a new job opening for a canon lawyer. Time will tell. In the meantime, Marc requires basic living amenities such as food, water and shelter like the rest of us. When I last spoke to Marc, however, he had not eaten in several days, having poured his meager life savings as one of the Church’s lay employees into this canonical action. You can donate to Marc’s effort electronically at defide.com or you can send a check via postal mail to the following address:
1223 Wilshire Boulevard, PMB 346
Santa Monica, CA 90403-5400
Thirdly, like over 1500 other
Catholics, you can join Marc as a petitioner to his canonical action against
John Kerry and the latter’s alleged pro-choice heresy. In my opinion as a
canonist, this is in keeping with the canonical right of every Catholic outlined
in the third paragraph of canon 212 as follows: “Christ’s faithful […] have the
right, indeed at times the duty […] to manifest to the sacred Pastors their
views on matters which concern the good of the Church.” The destruction wreaked
on millions of women and children each year by abortion, as well as the scandal
to the faith caused by pro-choice Catholic politicians such as John Kerry,
obviously concerns the common good of the Church. Therefore, to exercise your
canonical right to express yourself on this matter, please visit Defide.com and
learn how you can join Marc Balestrieri as a co-petitioner to this canonical