CBS propaganda, unpacked

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Apr 07, 2004

Last night's CBS News report on the controversy over whether John Kerry should receive communion stands as a model of inaccurate, selective-- should we say dishonest?-- reporting.

Correspondent David Paul Kuhn found several Catholic "experts" to back Kerry's side of the controversy; somehow he couldn't find anyone on the other side. So he produces some gross inaccuracies. A quick sampling:

The denial of communion to a Catholic eminent politician would be unprecedented. Experts cite such action as forbidden by Catholic cannon (sic) law, except in extreme cases that do not apply to Kerry.

Wrong. Eminent Catholic politicians have been excommunicated in the past; kings have been denied the sacraments. Although there has been no recent precedent in the US-- at least not involving a politician of national stature-- there is absolutely nothing in canon law that would forbid it. Archbishop Burke, a trained canon-law expert, knows full well that Church law is on his side.

Communion is a central tenant of Catholicism, meant to recognize Jesus’ last supper.

You don't expect an ignorant reporter to understand Catholic theology, so let's pass over the simplistic notion that the Mass "recognizes" the Last Supper. Focus instead on the statement that Communion is a "tenant." A "tenant" is someone who pays rent. Poor Mr. Kuhn can neither think nor spell.

If abortion were part of such a litmus test, so must other issues of equivalent substance to the Church, like its vehement opposition to capital punishment.

Baloney. The two issues are radically different. The Church has always taught that abortion is absolutely unjustifiable: the killing of the innocent. The Church has always taught-- and still teaches!-- that the state has the right to impose the death penalty. (Catechism 2266)

In recent years the Church has added the caveat that circumstances rarely justify the use of capital punishment. To be sure, in current Church teaching there is a strong presumption against the death penalty. But there has never been an absolute prohibition-- nor could there be, without a complete reversal of traditional teaching.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Apr. 08, 2004 5:17 PM ET USA

    America has not changed much since 1776; it is still very much a Christian-but-anti-Catholic country. That is why the left-wing media are so enamored with John Kerry. They see him, not as the dishonest Catholic that he is, but as some sort of hero, a modern, saintly man who is willing to stand up to the big, bad archconservatives in the Church’s hierarchy. If he is elected, Kerry will probably insist his oath of office be sworn on a Douay-Rheims, just to prove that he is a genuine Catholic.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Apr. 08, 2004 9:57 AM ET USA

    Sometimes I really feel that I am living in a bizarre, surreal "through the looking glass" type reality. Even more so than what is proposed above, Canon Law not only supports what Archbishop Burke is stating, it INSISTS ON IT. Anyone who "helps a woman procure an abortion..." is AUTOMATICALLY EXCOMMUNICATED. I shall not weary my fellow readers by quoting chapter and verse. It is easy enough to find. On the contrary, it is the Bishops who are CHOOSING to do nothing that stand questionable.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2004 9:57 PM ET USA

    The ill-equipped Mr. Kuhn may have relied on the Bull of Pius XXIII as an authoritative source for reference material -- directed there, of course, by the eminently Catholic candidate Kerry.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2004 7:27 PM ET USA

    I'll ditto that!

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2004 11:16 AM ET USA

    I'm less amazed that CBS did a biased, inaccurate piece of blatant anti-Church propaganda than I am that there is somebody who watches CBS News.