Kerry Takes Communion Despite Cardinal's Comment

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (searchreceived communion from a Catholic priest Saturday, one day after a top Vatican cardinal said politicians who support abortion rights should be denied the Eucharist (search).

Kerry took communion during the 6 p.m. mass at Boston's Paulist Center, where campaign spokesman David Wade said the candidate regularly worships. The church is close to the Beacon Hill home Kerry shares with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry (search).

"We're following the directive of our archdiocese," said Father Joe Ciccone, who gave Kerry the Eucharist. "They have said we should give him communion."

The Paulist Center attracts Catholics uncomfortable with some of the Vatican's (search) orthodox teachings or who otherwise feel alienated from the Roman Catholic Church.

The congregation includes gay couples, whose adopted children are baptized there, unlike in some other Boston parishes. In November, its leaders refused to read aloud during Mass from a letter opposing gay marriage, as requested by the Massachusetts bishops.

The congregation is not geographical, but ideological, drawing people from as far as away as New Hampshire, said Drew Deskur, the center's music director and a parishioner for 25 years.

"It's not St. Around-the-Corner," Deskur said. "It's an intentional community that draws people from all over Boston. It tries to make sure that everyone feels welcome and that everyone participates in the liturgy."

The Archdiocese of Boston "does not hold to the practice of publicly refusing Communion to anyone," said archdiocese spokesman Rev. Christopher Coyne. He said it was up to the individual to decide whether to receive Communion.

In the days before Kerry attended Easter Mass at the Paulist Center, staff members received threatening phone calls and e-mails from Catholics who believed the senator should be denied Communion.

Coyne said he also received many letters and angry calls from concerned Catholics about Kerry's ability to take Communion. He said he contacted the Paulist Center ahead of time to ensure there would be no problem when the senator received the Eucharist.

The chapel celebrates Mass and can conduct every sacrament except marriage.

The center does not resemble a traditional church, but is housed among a row of brownstones. A band plays during worship, and the lyrics are projected onto the wall above the pulpit so parishioners can sing along.

Kerry joined in the singing from his pew near the back Saturday night. His wife was out of town, so he attended alone with several reporters and staff in tow.

Founded in 1970, the church is located within the Archdiocese of Boston and operates with the permission of the bishop. The center, however, is financially independent and has a history of reaching out to marginalized Catholics.

The Paulist Center began a support group for divorced Catholics that has since been replicated in churches across the country. The center also hosts a group for bisexual, gay and lesbian Catholics, as well as a program for lapsed Catholics who are considering a return to the flock.

The center helped launch the Walk for Hunger, a now annual fund-raiser for soup kitchens across the region, and has held funeral Masses for homeless people who die without family or loved ones.