The Vatican Has Few Indulgences For You, Rudy!

Contrary to Mr. Giuliani’s appeal for privacy, Benedict argued that “worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter,” and that “Catholic politicians and legislators conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound” to publicly introduce and promote laws which reflect values elemental to the faith. According to Benedict, those fundamental values include “respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms.”

“These values are not negotiable,” wrote Benedict in some of the clearest language yet on the topic.

But as with many things Vatican-related, even the emphatic language in the document has been open to interpretation. Some liberal-minded theologians and Vatican observers have pointed to the pope’s inclusion of the “common good” in the paragraph as the Holy See’s attempt to water down the statement with an ambiguous requirement for lawmakers who wish to take communion.

“My God, no politician can go to communion then,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

Father Reese, a Jesuit, edited America, a New York–based Catholic weekly magazine, before the pope forced him out, in part because the magazine noted that John Paul II administered communion to left-wing and pro-choice Catholic politicians in Italy.

Father Reese also said that, papal pronouncements notwithstanding, the American bishops pose the greatest political threat to Mr. Giuliani.

“We’ll wait and see if the dozen or so bishops who all went after Kerry, if they go after Giuliani for the same thing,” said Father Reese. Mr. Giuliani’s situation may be tougher to address, he said, because no one seems to know “whether he goes to church or not.”

Mr. Giuliani’s campaign declined to comment on how often he attends mass and receives communion. But Mr. Giuliani has been critical of the church’s positions in the past. In 1996 he rebuked the Vatican for attacking President Bill Clinton’s decision to veto a ban on late-term abortion. Mr. Giuliani said the church’s “direct involvement in politics is not a good idea, because I think it confuses people.”