Off The Rails With JFK

I love America. Both sides of my family came over on the Mayflower. My ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. Hearing the national anthem always makes me tear up. The values of freedom and liberty as God-given rights have been ingrained in me since childhood. When I recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I mean it. It’s my privilege and duty to know America’s history, to value the institutions which have made her a great country and to sacrifice myself for her welfare. I respect and obey her laws. But….only up to a point.

As a Catholic, I’m obliged to contest those laws that contradict moral teaching. This is why Catholics oppose laws supporting abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, the death penalty, and same-sex “marriage.” We oppose those laws on moral grounds, because they go against Catholic teaching on life and the family. There comes a point in our lives as followers of Christ when our love of country must be tempered by our greater loyalty to God. And this brings us to John F. Kennedy.  

Running for President in 1960, Kennedy’s Catholic faith was a topic of discussion and concern for many people. Our country still harbored a mistrust of Catholics in politics. Sort of like today, when some folks question the patriotism of a Muslim seeking political office. As JFK campaigned during the election process, he was met with questions about how his faith might influence his presidency. Catholics were seen as “different” from their protestant fellow citizens, and there was concern that a Catholic would govern only after the approval of the Pope. Kennedy made it clear on more than one occasion that his Catholic faith would not dictate his public policy. Fast forward to 2016. The Speaker of the House is Catholic as are 5 of the remaining 8 Supreme Court Justices. Our Vice-President is Catholic. Two of the Republican candidates for President are Catholic. It seems that being a Catholic is no longer an impediment to holding high-level public office. Public opinion has become very accepting of Catholics. And that might not necessarily be a good thing.  

You see, back in JFK’s day, folks were wary of Catholic candidates because they feared their faith would influence their public policy. But we Catholics have done an outstanding job in proving that fear to be groundless. We’ve proven over and over again that we don’t allow our faith to influence anything at all. You can look at the voting records of Catholic members of Congress and readily see that their religion doesn’t inform their decisions, or at least not for many of them. Nor does it temper the findings of our highest Court. In our attempt to make our Catholic faith more acceptable in the public arena, we’ve also made it irrelevant. Folks no longer see Catholics as “different” because we’ve become just as secular as the rest of our country. We don’t allow the Church to influence our votes. This explains why Catholics readily vote for politicians who support abortion and same-sex “marriage.” We’re just the same as the growing number of Americans who claim to have no faith at all. In less than 2 generations, Catholic politicians have gone from exotic to plain vanilla.  

Back in 2010, Archbishop Charles Chaput described our current situation much more eloquently than I can when he said, “[Kennedy’s] remarks profoundly undermined the place not just of Catholics, but of all religious believers in American public life and conversation.” In effect, he said that JFK “began the project of walling religion away” so that we no longer allow our faith to color our decision or our convictions. We’ve made our faith irrelevant to our public lives, keeping it safely and harmlessly tucked into our Sunday morning pews. Everyone “likes” us now because no one believes that Catholicism means much of anything at all. Certainly not in politics.  

Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, no matter what the circumstances? If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.” 

     —-Archbishop William E. Lori 


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kph52013
    Feb 15, 2016 @ 12:50:13

    “We’ve proven over and over again that we don’t allow our faith to influence anything at all.” I couldn’t agree more!


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