Three pictures hung in the home of my devoutly Catholic immigrant grandparents when I was a boy and I remember them well — Jesus, Pope Paul VI and John F. Kennedy. The president was a source of great pride and a symbol to Catholics that all barriers had finally been broken.
What my family and maybe even candidate Kennedy at the time didn’t realize was that in a key moment in that election of 1960 in Houston, Kennedy helped began the construction of another, even more threatening wall for our society — one that sealed off informed moral wisdom into a realm of non rational beliefs that have no legitimate role in political discourse.
JFK delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to dispel suspicions about the role the Catholic church might play in the government of this country under his administration. Let’s make no mistake about it — Kennedy was addressing a real issue and real prejudice at the time. But on that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith. Let me quote from the beginning of Kennedy’s speech:
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” The idea of strict or absolute separation of church and state is not and never was the American model.
It was a model used in countries like France and until recently Turkey, but it found little support in America until it was introduced into the public discourse by Justice Hugo Black in the case of Everson v. The Board of Education in 1947. While the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the Constitution, the concept of protecting religion from the government does….
The phrase “wall of separation” used by Black comes from a letter written by a founder who didn’t even attend the constitutional convention, Thomas Jefferson. After he was elected president he mentioned the phrase in a response to a letter written to him by the Danbury Baptists.
The Baptists had expressed concern to him about the right of the government to interfere with the religious pursuits of the people, not the right of the people to engage their government with religiously informed moral judgments….
But Kennedy’s misuse of the phrase constructed a high barrier that ultimately would keep religious convictions out of politics in a place where our founders had intended just the opposite….
Kennedy took words written to protect religion from the government and used them to protect the government from religion. It worked — in the years following this speech the concept of an absolute “separation of church and state” gained wider and wider acceptance due to its inculcation in the academy….
As a senator, whenever I was confronted with an immoral law that was unjust or harmed society, I had an obligation to respect the law, but an equal obligation to work toward changing it to comport with what is moral. I agree with the founders that there is a natural law which can be known through the exercise of reason against which the positive or civil law must be measured and if needed amended….
In contrast, a major political offshoot of Kennedy’s articulated philosophy, sometimes referred to as the “privatization of faith,” was best illustrated by Mario Cuomo’s speech at Notre Dame in September 1984.
There Cuomo espoused his nuanced position on abortion: that, as a result of his religious convictions he was personally opposed to abortion. But he then applies Kennedy’s thesis and refrains from imposing his values upon others whose views, because the truth is indiscernible, are equally valid.
A virtual stampede of self-proclaimed Catholic politicians followed Cuomo into this seemingly safe harbor and they remain there today. This political hand washing made it easier for Catholics to be in public life, but it also made it harder for Catholics to be Catholic in public life.
Mother Teresa’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, spoken with a humility that made her quiet voice a loud alarm in our hearts, moved me to take a leading role in an issue that pulled at the moral fabric of our country: partial birth abortion….
Our founders’ inspired brilliance created a paradigm that has given America the best chance of any civilization in the history of man to endure the test of time. Time, this time now in American history is putting that to the test….
The above excerpts come from a March 30 posting by Rick Santorum on Real Clear Religion.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 12:39 AM By 1abqdad Sadly, the Kennedy’s learned early on to manipulate the truth for their political gain. Their inability/unwillingness to follow Christ’s teachings is having dire consequences BECAUSE the bishops FAILED to correct their faulty logic, claims, and behaviors. Yes, those who promote such destructive logic, that they can isolate their faith from their actions in ANY capacity including politics, will be corrected by God after they die. However, the failure of Church leaders to have the guts to do their jobs is the greatest tragedy, for it has allowed absolute EVIL to infect congress in the form of pseudo-Catholics to claim that it is accceptable to reject certain teachings and remain Catholic. (After all, if what Pelosi is doing is really do bad, why hasn’t she been excommunicated or at the very least publically corrected???) Jesus Weeps!
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 1:37 AM By 1abqdad For 4 days last month, I had the honor of helping two Clarician Priests obtain medical care in Flagstaff. (We assist the retired priests via my brother, who is a doctor there.) We discussed the “good old days” and the difficulty of being a Catholic in today’s world and in today’s church! They are appalled at the dissention, hypocrisy, blatant heresy, and disregard for the sanctity of the church that exists today. They cited overzealous mis-application of Vatican II. (Power-hungry, ignorant Lay who “knew better” than the priests, and liberal priests who rejected Christ’s true teachings and used the rebellous atmosphere to teach their distorted doctrines – A la Luther) The added that rejection of Pope Paul VI’s teachings by young people was nearly universal, as they refused to accept God’s concept of sexuality. It was as if evil had taken over the country! (They understand how the priests in Germany must have felt in the 16th century!) The liberals teach an “easy/fun” life, which is the basis of the lies of Satan. Sadly, too many so-called “Christain” faiths have watered-down doctrine to appease this errant philisophy. However, Jesus taught us TRUTH…That living a holy life is HARD! We need to be HONEST and explain ALL aspects of Doctrine from the basis that to follow Christ you must be willing to take up YOUR cross, which is difficult and requires constant sacrifice! (Being a good parent also requires sacrifice, which has caused so many BAD parents since the sexual revolution!) We just need to be blatantly HONEST with prospective Catholics…It is NOT easy…BUT, it is SO worth it!!! People CAN understand this concept! NO watered-down doctrine! Just the TRUTH!
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 6:34 AM By MacDonald Reminds me of a favorite country western song: “You’ve got to stand for something — or you’ll fall for anything.” How can a person of faith profess their religion will have no impact on their soul, thoughts, decisions, actions, and voting? This would be what the Church calls a “functional atheist.” In other words, you might have a baptismal certificate in some drawer, but the way you live gives no one, including God, a clue that you are indeed a genuine Roman Catholic Christian.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 7:20 AM By Dan Kennedy not only wanted Catholicism out of his public life, but, in one sense, out of his private life as well. He was a womanizer, sad to say, and broke his marriage vows frequently. I loved the man and find it hard to render this judgment, but the record bears me up. Catholic politicians who have followed Kennedy’s lead, I suspect, suffer from a similar ambivalence toward the Church’s teaching on sexual matters with a wink and a nod from the bishops — until now. Ted Kennedy’s wife was recently disinvited from speaking at a commencement event. She, like her husband, is an abortion-rights and gay-rights supporter. Santorum is correct that Catholicism is now so counter-cultural that it is unthinkable that a faithful Catholic could withstand the withering attack of the mainstream media should he/she desire to become POTUS.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 7:27 AM By Juergensen Rick Santorum should have mentioned the role of the bishops in all this. By deliberately refusing to enforce Church law, namely Canon 915, against abortionist “Catholic” politicians and those who vote for them, the bishops have made it eminently “easier for Catholics to be in public life.” Thus, as EWTN News Chief Raymond Arroyo stated after the 2008 election, “The bishops I spoke to say that maybe half of their brother bishops, if not more, voted for Obama”; and, 52% of “Catholic” voters followed suit and voted for the Prince of Abortion too. This is the faith that comes to us from the apostles?
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 7:56 AM By Camille Babies, through abortion and Senior Citizens, through euthanasia, are now paying the price for Kennedy’s selfish desire. I see a re-enactment of the biblical stories playing out in today’s politics.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 7:56 AM By JMJ The senator is quite long winded, isn’t he? At least he tells it like it is which is why the media hates him. I was a big fan of JFK as I am a Roman Catholic from Mass. and a Democrat (just can’t find the party as it seems to have disappeared from America), but, something happened as I grew older and I started to look into his life and I didn’t like what I was finding. JFK could have been a great all- around man, but, he didn’t chose the right path as another great all-around true man did: Pope John Paul, II and as a result, we now have so many ‘catholics’ that are heading for the pits of hell. When he put country before God as he told the Baptists that he would, he set the stage and as we can see, the final curtain will be coming down upon us with God’s Holy Anger to show us that HE WILL NOT BE MOCKED!! Have a great forever. +JMJ+
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 9:37 AM By goodcause So much chatter about birth control nowadays….The 1968 birth control decison was not a monolithic pronouncement by our Church. After a landslide vote by the papal appointed Population and Family Life Commission asking that the traditional teaching of banning birth control be overturned, a committee of 16 cardinals reviewed the evidence and concluded, by majority votes, that birth control was not intrinsically evil, that a decision to that effect would not be inconsistent with the Church’s traditional teaching, and that the new decision should be publicised as soon as possible. All this information, research, and voting was forwarded to Pope Paul VI, who then waited two years before upholding the traditional teaching banning birth control in Humane Vitae. One of the strongest Papal lobbyists to keep the old birth control teaching in place was the future Pope John Paul II. Many Catholics think that the instutional Church around the world strongly supported Pope Paul VI’s decision, when the reverse was obviously true and still is so today. By the way, to date, Rich Santorum is losing the Catholic vote to Mitt Romney, a practicing Mormon, in every single Republican primary thus far.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 9:59 AM By Maryanne Leonard Isn’t it a shame that President Kennedy, who had the honor of being the first Catholic president in the United States of America as well as the honor of being the husband of Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy and the father of Caroline and John F. Kennedy, Jr., couldn’t find it in his heart to honor the Ten Commandments, even while in the highest office of the land? He shames Catholics to this day from his grave for his openly sinful and misogynistic ways. People who are so fond of him must be responding to his charisma and not to his character or even his record as president. If we are so fortunate as to have another Catholic in the office of the presidency or the vice-presidency during our lifetimes, I hope and pray that he or she will be a Catholic who does his or her best to live up to the name of Catholic and the office. I am tired of being ashamed of prominent Catholics in the news.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 10:09 AM By JLS JFK demonstrated courage, and so did Nixon and Reagan. But whereas the Quaker and the Presbyterian were personally moral men, JFK was personally corrupt and this is why he made decisions that brought him to violent end. The bishops seem to prefer show over morality. I have yet to understand why this is, especially because Jesus specified personal morality more than everything else.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 10:23 AM By Mark from PA JMJ, I was a big fan of JFK when I was a child. When he was assassinated my parents had a picture of him framed and it was hung in my bedroom for years. As I grew older I was disappointed to hear of many of the things that he did. Sadly, I do not feel that he was a good Catholic or a good role model for Catholic youth. His brother, Senator Ted Kennedy did much good in his life but how much better could it have been if he had been strongly pro-life and stood up for the lives of innocent children.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 10:30 AM By Abeca Christian I like Santorium! He is by far the best candidate to vote for. I keep praying for him to win but it looks like the mormon guy may be the one winning and I do not like the mormon guy! Now about JFK, I never liked him, I don’t know why many Catholics loved him, in his personal life, he did not represent a good Catholic example. Getting involved in things that most Kennedy’s did, was not a good example since they lived a life of being on the spot light and the world knew they were Catholic! Well anyhoo may JFK rest in peace.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 10:39 AM By Abeca Christian I googled JFK since I wasn’t born around his time, I wanted to read more on him than just what I learned about him in school, he was certainty not someone I would look up to. It seemed like some Catholics looked up to him like he was some kind of Pope or god. That is sad, I wish they would set their eye’s on someone who really honored God. But it’s probably not fair to make harsh comments since he passed away long ago and out of respect, I will decline adding more personal sentiments I discern about him but I don’t understand why people from his time and even today adore him. I respect knowing that he did do some good things.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 11:10 AM By bettybbret Mark from PA, my parents had a picture of JFK displayed in our living-room on the piano (where all our family photos were displayed). They were proud of having an Irish-Catholic president (they were born in Ireland) but sadly they were quite disappointed as they read the newspaper stories about him and eventually his picture disappeared from its place on our piano. PS They HATED Jackie Kennedy because she reminded my mom of someone whom she had intensely disliked at some time in her life.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 11:37 AM By k goodcause, artificial contraception is gravely evil. Pope Paul VI was given a true understanding of the will of God. A tsunami of evil has followed it’s acceptance.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 12:44 PM By k Re:JFK: he went to confession shortly before he was killed.
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 2:05 PM By Mark from PA Abeca Christian, Catholics loved President Kennedy because they didn’t know about the bad things in his personal life. A lot of that stuff came out later. I was a child when he was president so I certainly knew nothing about that stuff. He was the first Catholic president and a hero to Catholic children. He was a handsome and charismatic man. I remember how the nuns were so happy to have a Catholic president and how they loved and respected him. We were heartbroken when he was killed.