Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 8, 2014

The Politics of Denying Communion to Catholic Elected Officials

William D. Blake and Amanda Friesen
From the journal The Forum


In his 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry, a Catholic, was threatened with being denied Holy Communion because of his pro-choice voting record. This article investigates the extent to which communion denial impacted Catholic elected officials and analyzes public attitudes regarding communion denial for Kerry. The results of our analysis suggest that, despite heavy media coverage, few bishops endorsed the communion denial and few pro-choice Catholic officials were threatened. While the data also indicate there are meaningful political implications for public attitudes on communion denial, the tactic does not command support from many Catholics.

Corresponding author: William D. Blake, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, IN, USA, E-mail:

  1. 1

    While Kennedy’s approach to a potential conflict between conscience and public duty may have assuaged enough Protestant voters, Brennan’s pledge angered some Catholic leaders. The former dean of the Notre Dame Law School, Thomas Shaffer, has argued that when a Catholic judge privileges the Constitution above his faith, he has committed a form of idolatry (as cited in Levinson 2003, p. 215).

  2. 2

    The search was performed in the US Newspapers and Wires database with the terms “Catholic AND (denied OR denial OR deny) W/5 communion.”

  3. 3

    Oddly enough, since John William McCormack became the first Catholic elected House Speaker in 1962, six of the last nine speakers have been Catholic, including the incumbent John Boehner.

  4. 4

    The data were downloaded from the Association of Religion Data Archives, on October 28, 2013, and were collected by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

  5. 5
  6. 6

    An ANOVA revealed a statistically-significant difference of groups at the p<0.05 level.

  7. 7

    Through Stata, we created the variable by “alpha viewkerry votekerry, gen (kerryness).”

  8. 8

    Effect sizes were computed separately from the models and are not reported in the tables.”


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Published Online: 2014-02-08
Published in Print: 2013-12-01

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