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A Curious Kind of Catholic

A look inside John Kerry's preferred place of worship, the Paulist Center. It's where people who hate the Church go to church.

2:55 PM, Jul 25, 2004 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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THE JUNGIAN PSYCHOTHERAPISTS may be fishing in the right pond. The people who come to the Paulist Center aren't your typical Catholics. "The congregation is not geographical, but ideological, drawing people from as far as away as New Hampshire," Drew Deskur, the center's music director, recently told to the Associated Press.

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.

Towards the end of Mass on Sunday, Father John Ardis (who will be giving the consecration at the Democratic convention on Thursday) made an announcement about the anti-abortion protesters on his front steps. Defiantly, he read the Center's Mission Statement. The parishioners burst into applause.

Which explains why John Kerry feels so comfortable at the Paulist Center. His fellow parishioners aren't gritting their teeth and looking away while he fights for abortion and defies the Catholic Church. They're cheering him on.

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.