Heinz squeezes blame from pope
By Eric Heyl
Reprinted with permission
Were it not for the man now known as Pope Benedict XVI, Teresa Heinz might already have installed new drapes and carpeting in the White House.
Or so she seems to believe.
Based on remarks Heinz made recently at a Seattle money-raiser, the Pittsburgh ketchup heiress -- a practicing Catholic -- appears to have little fondness for the new pontiff.
You can almost understand why. He did, if you buy her argument, indirectly help keep her husband, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., from becoming president last year.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported last month that Heinz blamed Kerry's inability to unseat President Bush on anything and everything but Kerry himself.
She implied votes might have been improperly tabulated because most optical scanning devices used to count votes in many parts of the country are owned by two "hard-right" Republicans.
She also suggested the Kerry campaign was brought down in part by Catholic bishops who assailed the candidate's pro-choice view on abortion.
"You cannot have bishops in the pulpit -- long before or the Sunday before the election, as they did in Catholic churches -- saying it was a mortal sin to vote for John Kerry," she said. "The church has a right and obligation to teach values. They don't have a right to restrict freedom of expression, which they did."
I assume the Post-Intelligencer's Joel Connelly did his best to accurately quote her. No reporter wants to have to ask Heinz to clarify her remarks immediately after she finishes speaking.
We've heard it can be dangerous.
Last summer, American bishops received a letter from the Vatican advising that Catholics who condone abortion are committing "a grave sin."
Kerry wasn't named, but the communique stated that communion -- the body of Christ, Catholics believe -- should be denied "in the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion laws."
The letter was written by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. At the time, that was a fellow named Ratzinger -- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, named Tuesday by the College of Cardinals to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.
Whatever your opinion on abortion, whatever the intent of the letter, the implication that the Vatican helped sway the presidential race is ludicrous.
The presidential race wasn't lost in Rome. It was lost in Boston, Fox Chapel and along the campaign trail.
I recall a far less conspiratorial campaign than does Heinz.
I recall a senator ineptly unable to defeat a president who plunged the nation back into debt and into a war based on assumptions that -- at best -- were completely and utterly erroneous.
Heinz recalls an election that might have been fixed, an election unduly influenced by a Catholic Church she apparently believes betrayed Kerry.
Such thinking is misguided and unfortunate.
The new pontiff is Pope Benedict. It's a pity Heinz considers him to be Pope Benedict Arnold.