Volume 17 • Issue 22 | October 22 - 28, 2004

Talking Point

Bless me father, for I am thinking of voting for Kerry

By Jane Flanagan

Last week an archbishop in Colorado said that voting for John Kerry would be a sin.

I’m in trouble now. While I’ve been sinning a long time, I haven’t yet disobeyed a direct order from an archbishop as reported to the New York Times. But then, I suppose these are not normal times.

Still, I wasn’t always a sinner. In fact, I started out life avoiding misdeeds at all costs. As a six-year-old, brand new to Catholic school, when the nun forbid me to talk to friends, and then told me it was as a sin to disobey, I stopped talking.

In fact, so successful was I at not sinning, that when I turned 7 and prepared to make my First Holy Communion, I had a problem: confession. It’s where sinners go for absolution before receiving the sacrament. I honestly couldn’t think of any sins. And while I may have been zealously obedient, I wasn’t stupid. The nuns and priests told us God wanted us to behave perfectly, but they didn’t think we could really pull it off. (They always underestimated children.) I knew they would never buy “no sins.”

So I lied. As part of the confessional warm-up, the sister explained the kind of thing Father would be looking for: telling a lie, disobeying mom, etc.

“Two lies, one disobeyed my mother,” was my opening line at the first confession. The next visit I went with “two disobeys and one lie.” Yes, I know, by going to confession I became a sinner.

It’s a similar kind of conundrum that is plaguing me now. Voting for Kerry is a sin. But I can’t possibly vote for George Bush. Of course, there is always Nader. And even though he’s pro-choice and for gay rights, the archbishop didn’t mention him. But, well, I’m not voting for Nader.

It’s odd that anybody over at the Catholic Church actually has the energy to talk about Kerry and sinning. What with the explosion of pedophilia among the clergy that we learned about these past few years, you’d think they’d be laying low. But then, I shouldn’t underestimate the clergy. Their fortitude is relentless.

I know because the crucial teachings kept up as I got older. I learned about abstaining from pre marital-sex, (I would marry at 38) and that contraception and abortion were sins. Still, it’s those early grades that I’m recalling. Back then I was taught that thinking a bad thought was a sin. I still remember sitting through hours of geography, history and science, all the while trying to stamp out the thought “God is stupid.”

Come to think of it, perhaps it’s this sort of preoccupation that was the point in the first place. I was one of 50 kids in a class. Any kind of mental exercise to keep pupils preoccupied, and therefore, quiet, could not be a bad thing.

Yet, I learned a lot. Preparing for that communion I had to memorize the ten commandments. This is coming in handy, because they are popping up at government halls all over America. Now that evangelical groups are as heavily funded as the Catholic Church, separation of church and state is, to the delight of both, on the decline.

I’m glad there is so much consensus now. Back when I was in school, I was taught to feel sorry for Jews and Protestants. We all knew that anybody who wasn’t Catholic was going to hell.

Speaking of hell, I still haven’t solved the problem of my impending sin. But I see that the archbishop said that if I vote for Kerry, I can just go to confession and fess up. Whew. Finally, I don’t have to lie.


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