June 24, 2010

EVEN BY KENNEDY SUB-STANDARDS IT WAS A LOW POINT:

John F. Kennedy's Political Legacy: A look back at the first Catholic U.S. president's 1960 campaign, and his speech in Houston that opened a door to politicians who find it advantageous to ignore Church teaching (Russell Shaw, 7/04/10, Our Sunday Visitor)

A key architect of that remarkable performance was a journalist named John Cogley. At the time an editor of the Catholic magazine Commonweal, Cogley later became a religion writer for The New York Times and covered the Second Vatican Council. Eventually, he left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopal Church.

The address he crafted for Kennedy skillfully raised and rejected a series of straw men, as when Kennedy declared his belief in an America “where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source.” The situation described was hardly likely to arise in any case, and the way of describing it suggested, without quite saying, that Church teaching is only “instructions.”

Even more important for the future, the candidate repeatedly returned to the idea that religion is a private matter with no bearing upon the decisions of public officials.

“I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair … and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation,” Kennedy said. Personal convictions would be his guide, and “whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.”

Some listeners reacted uneasily to the suggestion that national interest, not morality, should govern presidential decision-making. Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray, the prominent American theologian of church and state whose views were influential at Vatican II, declared the candidate’s radical privatizing of religion to be “idiocy.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 24, 2010 4:50 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« JOHN KERRY WANTS THEM TO REDO THE STUDY BUT USE EMBRYONIC CELLS...: | Main | WHY DOES THE TIMES HATE THE UR?: »