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Kennedy Becomes First Catholic President

Kennedy Becomes First Catholic President


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The election of 1960 pitted two veterans of World War II against each other in the campaign for the presidency. Richard M. Nixon had served as Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice president since 1953 and had no opposition for the nomination by the time of the 1960 Republican convention in Chicago in late July. Senator Barry Goldwater declined to oppose him, but nevertheless called on conservatives to take back the party, a harbinger of 1964. Nixon's vice-presidential candidate was Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, who resigned his appointment as ambassador to the United Nations to campaign with Nixon.The Democratic nomination was not as automatic. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas was supported mostly in the South, and Adlai E. Stevenson was popular within the liberal wing. Stevenson's personal popularity was offset by his devastating losses in the two previous elections. Kennedy won the nomination on the first ballot.Kennedy then made the unexpected move of offering the vice-presidency to LBJ. It's not clear that he actually expected Johnson to accept, but Johnson did accept and created a balanced Democratic ticket.During the campaign, questions were raised about Kennedy's Roman Catholic faith. He responded in an address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960, in which he said, in part:"If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I'd tried my best and was fairly judged."But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people."But if, on the other hand, I should win this election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the Presidency -- practically identical, I might add, with the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation, I can, 'solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution -- so help me God.' "Nixon and Kennedy took part in a televised debate, the first between presidential candidates. Given the narrow margin of Kennedy's victory on election day, November 8, 1960, may have been due to the debate.

Election of 1960
Candidates
PartyElectoral
Vote
Popular
Vote
John F. Kennedy (MA)
Lyndon B. Johnson (TX)
Democratic30334,227,096
Richard M. Nixon (CA)
Henry Cabot Lodge (MA)
Republican21934,107,646
Harry F. Byrd (VA)
J. Strom Thurmond (SC)
Barry M. Goldwater (AZ)
Democratic15
14*
1
116,248

*Thurmond and Goldwater were vice-presidential candidates. The former received six votes from Alabama and eight from Mississippi; the latter, a Republican, received his vote from Oklahoma.

Kennedy's victory did not provide coattails for the rest of the Democratic candidates. The Democrats large majority in the U.S. Senate was maintained but actually shrank by one to 64-36. In the House of Representatives, the 1960 election left the Democrats 21 seats behind where they had been, although still leading with a 262 to 175 advantage.



United States presidential election of 1960

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United States presidential election of 1960, American presidential election held on November 8, 1960, in which Democrat John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican Vice Pres. Richard M. Nixon. Kennedy thus became the first Roman Catholic and the youngest person ever elected president. Kennedy was also the first president born in the 20th century.


America's dark and not-very-distant history of hating Catholics

C ongress and the United Nations rolling out their red carpets, nuns working overtime to bake communion hosts, prison inmates carving a walnut throne, tickets for events snapped up in seconds: America is gearing up for pope-mania.

Pope Francis is expected to be greeted with huge crowds and across-the-board reverence when he tours Washington, New York and Philadelphia during his first visit as pontiff to the United States.

The rapture, however, will not change the awkward – and largely forgotten fact – that for centuries the US discriminated against Catholics.

The land of immigrants enshrined freedom of religion in the constitution yet spent much of its history despising, harassing and marginalising Catholics.

From the first Puritan settlers to televangelists, leading political, business and religious figures lambasted followers of Rome as theological abominations and traitorous fifth columnists.

“When you look back at the true, hidden history of the United States this strand of anti-Catholicism is very powerful,” said Kenneth Davis, a prominent historian and commentator.

“We want to show this patriotic view that we were this melting pot of religious freedom. Nonsense. People wanted their own religious freedom, not freedom for others. There was a very, very deep hatred of Catholics.”

Thomas Nast’s anti-Catholic cartoon in Harper’s Weekly in 1875. It depicts Roman catholic bishops as crocodiles attacking public schools, with the connivance of Irish catholic politicians. Photograph: Public Domain

Discrimination dwindled in the 20th century, especially after John F Kennedy became the first Catholic president, bequeathing a sort of amnesia, said Davis. “It’s really astonishing how it has been swept under the rug. It’s as if with JFK all the past is forgiven.”

That history will seem distant indeed if, as expected, progressives and conservatives seek to co-opt the Pope, the former cheering his denunciations of poverty, inequality and climate change, the latter his espousal of family values.

The political establishment no longer frets about the religion. Joe Biden, the vice-president, is Catholic, as are three Republican presidential candidates: Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal.

Yet historians agree discrimination once thrived. “The deepest bias in the history of the American people,” according to Arthur Schlesinger. “The most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history,” said John Higham.

Catholics got in an early bit of sectarian homicide in 1556 when Spanish forces slaughtered a colony of French Huguenot Protestants in what is now Florida.

When Pilgrims and Puritans settled in New England half a century later they brought fresh venom from Europe’s religious conflicts, including the idea that the Pope was the “anti-Christ” and the “whore of Babylon”.

At first banned from the colonies, “papists” were grudgingly allowed entry but with severe civic restrictions, including exclusion from political power. Jews and Quakers also suffered discrimination but were seen as a lesser threat.

Justice Hugo Black surrounded by press in Norfolk, Virginia. Photograph: New York Daily News/NY Daily News via Getty Images

The establishment of a secular republic which separated church and state did not end prejudice.

Lurid myths about Catholic sexual slavery and infanticide spread through pamphlets and books such as Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, an 1834 supposed memoir about a Canadian convent.

Demagogues in the nativist movement incited fury and fear about the huge numbers of impoverished German and Irish Catholic immigrants, many barely speaking English, who spilled off ships.

Newspapers and Protestant clergymen, including Lyman Beecher, co-founder of the American Temperance Society, swelled the outcry, warning the influx would take jobs, spread disease and crime and plot a coup to install the Pope in power.

In 1844 mobs burnt Catholic churches and hunted down victims, notably in Philadelphia where, coincidentally or not, Francis will wrap up his week-long visit.

Abuse from Protestant officers partly drove hundreds of Irish soldiers to defect from the US army to the Mexican side before and during the 1846-48 war with Mexico. The deserters obtained revenge, for a while, by forming the San Patricio battalion and targeting their former superiors in battle, only to wind up jailed, branded and hanged after Mexico surrendered.

The growth of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century gave a new impetus to attacks – mostly verbal – on Catholics. Hugo Black, a KKK member and US senator, gave fiery anti-Catholic speeches before going on to become a defender of civil liberties on the supreme court bench.

Writers and intellectuals had no hesitation bashing the Catholic church. Mark Twain noted he was “educated to enmity toward everything that is Catholic”.

The burgeoning power of Irish and other immigrant Catholic communities paved Al Smith’s election as governor of New York but Lutheran and Baptist opposition helped sink his presidential bid in 1928.

Catholicism remained an obstacle to Kennedy’s White House run in 1960. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Shutterstock

Hostility gradually dwindled, especially during the collective bonding of the second world war, but remained an obstacle to Kennedy’s White House run in 1960. He tried to neutralise the issue, telling a group of Protestant ministers: “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic party’s candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.”

Kennedy’s victory, and the Catholic church’s alliance decades later with Protestant evangelicals on social issues, completed the integration into mainstream public life.

Common ground with evangelicals on abortion and same-sex marriage paved the way for Bush, Jindal and Santorum to court a constituency which once would have reviled them. “They seem to have forgotten this deep, ugly past that they have,” said Davis, the historian.

Sex abuse scandals have in recent years shined a harsh and legitimate spotlight on the church. And the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, an advocacy group, claims Catholic bashing is a staple of US society. But Davis thinks discrimination is in the past. “It’s now largely a non-issue.”

If some religious fanatics greet Francis with posters calling him the anti-Christ and Babylon’s whore they will be on the fringe of the fringe. The US, no longer fearful of a papist coup, seems close to a rare unity in wanting to welcome the Pope.


Why hasn’t there been a Catholic President since JFK?

As America gallops towards the 2020 Presidential Election we take a look at the fact that JFK was the first Catholic elected to the White House as president and was the last. It's worth bearing in mind that Joe Biden is Roman Catholic.

In September 2015, Pope Francis arrived in the United States, a country where six of the nine Supreme Court justices at the time were Catholic, the then-Vice President Joe Biden was Catholic, as was then-Speaker of the House John Boehner, and fully 30 percent of all the members of Congress, in addition to Secretary of State John Kerry.

It sounds like a very healthy quota. It is estimated that 70 million of the 321 million residents of the US are Catholic. There is now also a Catholic taking up residence in the White House as First Lady Melania Trump revealed her religion after her visit with the Pope three years ago.

It will be a source of satisfaction to Francis that the biggest growth area in America will be people from Latin America Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment.

A measure of how far the Catholic church has come was contained in an observation in The New York Times on the speech to the Joint Session of Congress by Pope Francis.

“Not that long ago, the prospect of the head of the Catholic Church addressing Congress would have been unthinkable. Catholics in politics were a source of suspicion and a subject of slander for generations. Even as John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic elected president, he felt compelled to defend his faith by asserting that he would not take orders from the pope.”

Yet, despite the glowing figures and the massive impression that Francis has made, there is still clear evidence that Catholics have been vastly underrepresented in the two most important jobs of all: President and Vice President.

John F. Kennedy, of course, broke that first barrier, but his Catholicism almost doomed him and was widely viewed as a liability. Since his assassination, no Catholic has been close to becoming president again – an extraordinary state of affairs.

I learned to my surprise that Joe Biden is the first Catholic Vice President of the United States, again a real indictment of the religious prejudice against the faith that existed for generations especially in the south, which historically had preachers paint the pope as the devil incarnate.

Last time around, Martin O'Malley was the only Catholic on the Democratic side attempting to run for the presidency, but his candidacy was a real long shot and ultimately unsuccessful.

Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholicism, was the only Republican contender of Catholic background and also didn't last long in the race.

No Jews have been elected to either post, although Al Gore's running mate Joe Liebermann came very close to being VP.

There has never been an Italian and certainly no Hispanic, yet there has been an African American, showing that America nowadays is well capable of putting aside prejudice when choosing a president.

But in the long and glorious history of the United States, it nonetheless remains a fact that John Kennedy and Joe Biden are aberrations rather than the norm.

It is truly amazing when you see the massive popularity of Catholics like JFK and Francis across all creeds and come to understand just how popular their humanitarian rather than doctrinaire message is.

It can surely only be a matter of time before there are many successors to JFK and Biden in the top jobs. No doubt with the number of Hispanic politicians increasing it may well be one of them and that would be very welcome.

America needs to reflect its diversity and showcase the remarkable melting pot that created this great nation.

I firmly believe that Francis's visit in 2015 will help that project along and to have more Catholics in the mix will be positive.

What do you think the chances are of having another Catholic president? Does it surprise you that there has only been one Catholic president and Vice President? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.


Kennedy Becomes First Catholic President - History

Joseph R. Biden, with his wife, Jill, holding the Bible, takes the oath of office as vice president of the United States. (CNS/Reuters)

When the former Delaware senator, Joseph R. Biden, took the oath of office of the vice president of the United States at 11:55 this morning, he became the first Catholic to hold that office in the nation’s history. John F. Kennedy holds the distinction of being the first — and only — Catholic president in history, but until today no other Catholic man or woman has achieved winning the second-highest office in the land.

A handful of others have tried.

The first Catholic to run for vice president was Edmund S. Muskie, former governor and sitting senator from Maine. He joined Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey’s campaign to succeed Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1968 election. Humphrey had been Johnson’s vice president and the campaign suffered from Johnson’s failed Vietnam War policies and the turmoil of the Great Society. The Democrats lost the election to Richard M. Nixon of California and Spiro T. Agnew, Maryland’s governor.

The election marked Nixon’s triumphant return to politics. His career had taken a bad tumble after his loss in 1960 to Kennedy, the only Catholic to be elected president. Muskie went on to serve as President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state.

The second Catholic to run on a major party ticket was Thomas F. Eagleton, who ran on the 1972 Democratic ticket headed by South Dakota Sen. George S. McGovern. Eagleton, a U.S. senator from Missouri, only ran for 18 days. He was forced off the ticket after revelations about his past hospitalizations for mental health problems surfaced. He was succeeded as the party’s vice presidential nominee by another Catholic, Robert Sargent Shriver of Maryland. A hugely popular political activist, Shriver was first head of the Peace Corps and an ambassador to France. McGovern and Shriver lost in one of the nation’s greatest landslide elections to Nixon and Agnew, who were seeking second terms. Interestingly, Shiver was the last presidential or vice presidential nominee not to have served as a governor or member of Congress prior to nomination.

The fourth Catholic to make it on a national ticket was Geraldine Ferraro, a representative from New York. In 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale achieved the Democratic nomination and asked Ferraro to be his running mate. She was the first woman and the first Italian American to run on a major party national ticket. Mondale and Ferraro were defeated by President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush, who were seeking re-election to a second term.

No other Catholic would nab a place on the national ticket until Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004.

What religious denomination has prevailed in the 44 runs for the vice presidency? Presbyterians top the list, with Episcopalians a close second.

Update: Peter Chila (below) is correct. New York Congressman William Miller ran for vice president on the 1964 ticket headed by Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. They were trounced by Johnson and Humphrey.

Interestingly, Miller hailed from the same state that gave America its first Catholic to run at the head of a national ticket. New York Gov. Al Smith was the Democratic nominee for president in 1928. He overwhelmingly carried the Catholic vote, but it wasn’t enough to defeat his opponent, Herbert Hoover, who won by a landslide.

Miller had the distinction of representing two New York districts in Congress, and he later went on to become chairman of the Republican Party. New York, of course, went on to contribute another Catholic candidate: Geraldine Ferraro.


Why Have There Been No Catholic Presidents Since John F. Kennedy?

It seems almost impossible to imagine now that John F. Kennedy's Catholicism was a huge issue in the 1960 presidential campaign. His victory in the Democratic primary in West Virginia&mdasha state with a small Catholic population&mdashwas a huge boost to his candidacy because it proved that anti-Catholic prejudice might be waning. In the fall campaign against Richard Nixon, Kennedy traveled to Houston to reassure Protestant ministers that he wouldn't take orders from Rome or let his faith affect his decisions in the Oval Office. "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act," Kennedy said. Even after he was president, Kennedy gave a big welcome to evangelist Billy Graham, but also met with a Vatican representative and allowed no photographers.

When Kennedy won, it seemed likely that more Catholic presidents would follow but that has not been the case. There's been only one Catholic presidential nominee among the 28 party nominations since Kennedy, and that was another JFK, John Forbes Kerry in 2004.

There have been an abundance of Catholic vice presidential nominees since 1960, but their Catholicism was often seen as a balance to the Protestant at the top of the ticket. They include William E. Miller, Barry Goldwater's running mate in 1964 Ed Muskie, Hubert Humphrey's running mate in 1968 Sargent Shriver, George McGovern's running mate in 1972 Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984 and Joe Biden, Barack Obama's running mate in 2008, which made Biden the first Catholic elected nationwide since JFK 48 years earlier.

Since 1960, we've seen the election of candidates from much smaller denominations. Richard Nixon was a Quaker. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore are Baptists. We've had Greek Orthodox and Mormon presidential nominees (Michael Dukakis and Mitt Romney) and a Jewish vice-presidential nominee (Joe Lieberman).

With several Catholics in this year's race, including Jeb Bush (who converted to the faith) and Marco Rubio (who left the church to become a Mormon and then returned), there's a chance that we'll have a Catholic presidential nominee again and maybe a Catholic president.

Still, it's hard to imagine that JFK, who served in the Senate with Prescott Bush, a Connecticut WASP, could have imagined that Pressy's grandson would be the second Catholic president and not, say, an Italian from New York.

There's no simple explanation as to why we haven't had a second Catholic president but prejudice doesn't seem to be the case. We've had a Mormon nominee, Mitt Romney, and a Jewish veep nominee in Lieberman, who didn't fail because of bigoted views about their faith. Indeed, the Gore-Lieberman ticket won the popular vote.

Part of the reason for the dearth of Catholic nominees may be that the two parties have tended to nominate from the South, which has been growing, and few from the northeast, which is the most Catholic region and has lost population. Lyndon Johnson, Carter, both Bushes and Bill Clinton all hail from southern states. There hasn't been a president from the northeast since Richard Nixon, and he was a Californian when he was elected to the House, Senate and vice presidency and he only resided in New York for a few years when he was elected president in 1968. If you're getting most of your nominees from the South, odds are they won't be Catholic.

Other reasons have been proffered. Abortion is a tricky position for Catholic Democrats. There were moves to excommunicate Kerry for his pro-choice views. Some have cited how the evangelical style of Protestantism, with its public professions of faith, has become widely expected in American politics and more Protestant candidates come out of that tradition.

It could be that this is the year that breaks the drought and not just with any Catholic, but with overtly religious ones unlike JFK. Jeb carries a rosary and has even jetted to Washington for the Pope's visit this week. Rubio's attends mass.. But first they have to overcome Protestants like Carly Fiorina (nondenominational), John Kasich (lapsed Catholic turned Episcopalian), Donald Trump (Presbyterian) and Ben Carson (Seventh Day Adventist). These Protestant Republicans are running far ahead of other Republican Catholics like Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Bobby Jindal (who was raised a Hindu). On the Democratic side, Martin O'Malley is the only Catholic in the race although the party is awaiting Joe Biden's decision.

And if we don't elect a Catholic this year, demographics make it more likely it'll happen before too long. The growing Hispanic population makes it harder not to have a Catholic on the ticket and not just as a vice president.


How Catholic was John F. Kennedy?

(CNN) - When John F. Kennedy was a boy, his mother counseled her children on Good Fridays to pray for a peaceful death.

Young Jack joked that he’d rather pray for two pet dogs.

If you’re looking for the CliffsNotes version of Kennedy’s Catholicism, that anecdote touches on the key themes: the pious Irish mother, the light-hearted irreverence, the ever-present prospect of death.

But there’s much more to the story.

In the words of one biographer, Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass.

He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency.

One scholar suggests that Kennedy was becoming more religious as the Cold War wore on. Another says that Kennedy’s public displays of piety were little more than political lip service.

As the country marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death - and it was far from peaceful, as we all know - almost every aspect of his life is again under the media microscope. But for all the ballyhoo about Kennedy being the first and only Catholic president, the topic of his faith remains largely untouched.

We’ve been told that he was venerated by many who shared his religion and vilified by many who didn’t. We know that his family shared sacraments with popes and confidences with cardinals. And we’ve heard about Kennedy breaking more than a few Commandments.

We also know that Catholics, particularly Irish Catholics, revere Kennedy, hanging his portrait in their parlors next to images of the Sacred Heart, naming their schools and children after him.

But the halo around Kennedy’s head has dimmed in recent decades as revelations about his marital infidelities and carefully concealed health problems have come to light.

“Being the first of any group to get to the White House is worth taking seriously and showing respect for,” said the Rev. John Langan, a Jesuit priest and ethicist at Georgetown University. “But there is bound to be a very ambivalent reaction to Kennedy at this point in our history.”

That still doesn’t tell us much about what kind of Catholic Kennedy was, to the extent that we can ever know.

“It’s hard to look into the soul of a person, especially a person who’s been dead for 50 years, and judge their religion and belief in God,” said Thomas Maier, author of “The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings.”

No doubt Maier is right. But Kennedy's Catholic faith remains central to questions about his character and his legacy. And even if we reserve final judgment for the Almighty, we can still probe history for clues about how religion inspired and guided his short and star-crossed life.

The Irish Catholic ideal

When Kennedy was 13 and attending a Catholic school for the only time in his life, a visiting missionary spoke to the students about his work in India.

Afterward, Kennedy eagerly informed his parents that “it was one of the most interesting talks I’ve ever heard,” according to the Robert Dallek biography “An Unfinished Life.”

The Catholic missionary inspired two aims that day that would drive Kennedy for the rest of his life, according to Ted Sorensen, one of his closest advisers: the desire to enjoy the world, and the desire to improve it.

Few historians argue that Kennedy’s reputation as a womanizer isn’t well-warranted. But even tough-minded idealists such as Eleanor Roosevelt, who once regarded Kennedy as cocky and callow, eventually saw him in another light.

“My final judgment is that here is a man who wants to leave a record (perhaps for ambitious personal reasons, as people say), but I rather think because he is really interested in helping the people of his own country and mankind in general,” Roosevelt said after meeting Kennedy in 1960.

Kennedy put his personal mission another way: “Those to whom much is given, much is required.” That phrase echoes Luke’s Gospel, which, like many parts of the Bible, he learned from his mother, Rose.

Joseph Kennedy, the family patriarch, was often away making his millions and insisted that his children attend top private (and secular) schools such as Harvard. That left the nine Kennedy children’s religious education to Rose, a devout Catholic.

“At the time, it was the Irish Catholic ideal,” Langan said, “a big and active family where the father was successful in business and politics and the mother was the spiritual center, the person who held it all together.”

In other ways, the Kennedys were anything but typical Irish Catholics, said Kean University historian Terry Golway. They were lucratively rich. They mingled with Boston Brahmins. They went to Harvard, not Holy Cross.

“Some people saw them as a faux Catholic,” Golway said, “too big for their britches.”

But few historians doubt Rose Kennedy’s devout attachment to Catholicism.

She attended the country’s top Catholic schools, and she supervised her family like the nuns who ran those schools, according to biographer Barbara A. Perry.

Rose neither spared the rod nor tolerated emotional outbursts. Any bumps and bruises were to be “offered up to God,” the matriarch insisted, no complaining allowed.

“She was terribly religious,” John Kennedy said as an adult. “She was a little removed.”

Still, many say the stoicism Rose Kennedy instilled helped her son deal with the debilitating health issues that plagued his short life. Other historians theorize that Kennedy's poor health - he was twice given last rites before recovering - played a role in his wanton womanizing.

“His continual, almost heroic sexual performance,” wrote Catholic scholar Garry Wills, was a “cackling at the gods of disability that plagued him.”

Well before her son's playboy days, Rose neatly noted her children’s medical histories and church milestones such as baptism, confirmation and first Holy Communion on small index cards.

She left rosaries on their beds, tested their knowledge of the Catholic Catechism and oversaw their prayers for hints of apostasy.

Rose regularly took the children on walks to the local parish or the zoo, where she would show them the lions and explain how they once devoured faithful Christians. It was an effective, if morbid, method to hold the children’s interest, Perry notes in her book “Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch."

As the Kennedy kids grew up, Rose pinned questions about priests’ sermons and Holy Days on the family blackboard, expecting the children to discuss them at dinner, according to Perry.

The matriarch continued preaching the faith well into her children's adulthood, advising them that praying the rosary was as good a way to relieve stress as any drink or pill, and a good bit better for their figure.

And Rose wrote to Jacqueline Kennedy to “remind Jack about his Easter duty” to attend the sacrament of confession. “I’m sure that the church is quite near” to their home in Washington, she nagged.

Teasing and testing

Surrounded by his mother’s intense piety, Jack Kennedy couldn’t help but tease and test her.

He interrupted her Bible stories to ask odd questions such as what happened to the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? Who took care of the ass after the crucifixion?

Later, Kennedy’s questions grew more probing.

Traveling through the Middle East as an adolescent, he visited Jerusalem, where Christians believe Christ ascended into heaven and Muslims believe the same about Mohammed.

Upon his return to the United States, Kennedy promptly asked a priest, “Mohammed has a big following and Christ has a big following, and why do you think we should believe in Christ any more than Mohammed?”

Get this boy some religious instruction, before he becomes an atheist, the priest told Kennedy’s parents, according to Dallek’s biography.

Later, Kennedy teasingly threatened to teach a Bible class - then a strictly Protestant practice - when his parents pressured him to dump his married girlfriend, Inga Arvad.

“Don’t good works come under our obligations to the Catholic Church?” he needled his mother and father.

“We’re not a completely ritualistic, formalistic, hierarchical structure in which the Word, the truth, must only come down from the very top - a structure that allows for no individual interpretation - or are we?”

Kennedy even ribbed Rose and Joe while fighting in the Solomon Islands during World War II. He told them he had dutifully attended Easter Mass at a native hut, even as enemy aircraft circled overhead. And his parents would be pleased to know a priest had devoted all his energies to Kennedy’s salvation.

“I’m stringing along with him,” Kennedy wrote, “but I’m not giving over too easy as I want him to work a bit - so he’ll appreciate it more when he finally has me in the front row every morning screaming hallelujah.”

The lion’s den

Joking aside, Kennedy took his faith seriously, according to several biographers, especially when it became a political issue.

In 1947, when Kennedy was a representative from Massachusetts, Congress held a hearing on public funding for parochial schools. He exploded when a Freemason testified that Catholics owe their loyalties to their church, not their country.

“I am not a legal subject of the Pope,” Kennedy countered. “There is an old saying in Boston that we get our religion from Rome and our politics from home.”

The congressional contretemps was just a prelude to the prejudice Kennedy endured during his 1960 presidential run.

Protestant leaders - from backwoods evangelists and radio preachers to prominent pastors such as Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale - warned the country would go to hell with a Catholic in the Oval Office.

“I’m getting tired of these people who think I want to replace the gold at Fort Knox with a supply of holy water,” Kennedy complained.

Against some advisers’ counsel, the candidate decided to directly confront the anti-Catholic bias with a televised speech to a group of Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960. It was like Daniel walking into the lion’s den, a journalist said at the time.

In the now famous speech, Kennedy said he believed that America’s separation of church and state is “absolute” and that a presidential candidate’s religious beliefs are “his own private affair.”

“I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me,” Kennedy said.

The Protestant ministers pressed Kennedy on those pledges in a question and answer session that followed, according to Dallek, but the candidate’s calm reassurances seemed to win many of them over.

“He responded with such poise and restraint that the ministers stood and applauded at the close of the meeting, and some came forward to shake his hand and wish him well in the campaign.”

A ‘little less convinced’

As president, Kennedy continued to say his daily prayers, morning and night, his sister Eunice told historians. But “that doesn’t mean he was terribly religious,” she said.

“He was always a little less convinced” than the rest of the Kennedy clan, Eunice continued, especially his brother Robert Kennedy, who took after Rose.

Still, Eunice said John always hustled off to Mass on Sundays, even while traveling. Maier, the Kennedy biographer who called him Mr. Saturday Night and Mr. Sunday Morning, said The New York Times’ index of the president’s travels show him faithfully attending Mass once a week, wherever he happened to be.

“The popular perception is that he wasn’t all that religious,” Maier said, “but by today’s standards he would be called a traditional Catholic.”

Dallek said he believes Kennedy attended religious rituals more out of duty than desire. “This is the faith he was reared in, and something his parents expected him to do,” the historian said.

“As president it was kind of mandatory to go to church, to show that he was a man of good Christian faith. But was it something that informed his daily life and decisions as president? I don’t think so.”

Others, however, see echoes of Kennedy’s Catholic upbringing in his most famous speech, the 1961 inaugural address. In it, the new president urged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

“The words chosen seem to spring from a sacramental background,” the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, first Catholic chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote in a recent blog post.

“In fact, the whole speech was framed by his belief in a living and ever-present God both at its beginning and in the end,” Coughlin wrote.

Two months later, in a move that may have harkened back to meeting the Catholic missionary, Kennedy founded the Peace Corps.

A monk predicts the assassination

Regardless of how faithful Kennedy was, Irish Catholicism is as much a culture as a set of religious rules and rituals, said Peter Quinn, author of “Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America.”

Kennedy’s gift for gab and love of language his fierce loyalty and clannishness his temper and his wit his concern for the poor and sense of the tragedy of life - he lost a beloved brother and sister at a young age - all are hallmarks of Irish Catholicism, Quinn said.

“The church was the building block of Irish identity, and Kennedy was imbued in that culture.”

Golway agrees. “There was a chip on his shoulder, a sense of being embattled and having to fight for everything. That’s a very Irish-Catholic thing.”

Other historians believe Kennedy was becoming more religious, in the traditional sense, as the threat of nuclear war loomed over his presidency.

“He never talked about his religion, never,” said James W. Douglass, author of “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters.” “But at great personal risk, he was turning from war toward peacemaking.”

Kennedy would not have been the first president to “get religion” in the Oval Office.

Lincoln, an unorthodox believer, once said that “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go.”

Historians say Kennedy kept a note on his desk paraphrasing another quote from Lincoln, “I know that there is a God and I see a storm coming. . If he has a place for me, I am ready.”

If Lincoln’s storm was the Civil War, Kennedy’s was the Cold War.

As Douglass notes, some Catholics had little confidence that Kennedy, the youngest elected president in American history, had the wisdom and humanity to carry the country through the existential threat.

“Maybe Kennedy will break through into that some day by miracle,” Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk and author, wrote to a friend.


Joe Biden becomes first Catholic President since JFK, local bishop reacts

(KWWL) – President Joe Biden is the second Catholic to serve as President of the United States the first being President John F. Kennedy. Biden has outwardly expressed his faith, including it in his political ads and citing scripture in public appearances and speeches.

According to NPR, the President carries a rosary in his pocket and frequently attends Mass on Sundays. In the report, Biden is said to have ran the most overtly devout Democratic presidential campaign since President Jimmy Carter, a Baptist.

Biden's policies during the campaign revolved around social justice reforms, immigration and environmental reforms. These are important teachings of the modern Catholic church as a whole.

KWWL spoke with Bishop Thomas Zinkula of the Davenport Diocese following the inauguration about how the teachings of Catholicism might play a part in the new administration.

“Social justice is important for us, so there are certain things we will connect with him on, the Catholic church will, and the Democratic Party in general. Other things we connect better on with the Republican Party,” said Bishop Zinkula. “We'll connect with him immigration, the environment, abolishing the death penalty, poverty, racism. We'll connect with him very well on those issues.”

In the Vatican, Pope Francis issued a statement reading:

"On the occasion of your inauguration as the forty-sixth President of the United States of America, I extend cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office. Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding. At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice. I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good. With these sentiments, I willingly invoke upon you and your family and the beloved American people an abundance of blessings."

Pope Francis

In a recent article from the Washington Post, Biden had considered the priesthood had he not gone into politics and even considered it again after the death of his first wife and daughter died in the 1970s shortly before being sworn into the U.S. Senate.

However, Biden's faith is a contested one among Catholics. Some conservative Catholics refuse to recognize the President as a true Catholic due to his public stance on abortion. In 2017, a South Carolina parish refused Holy Communion to Biden under orders of the bishop. This was also due to his abortion stance.

Biden talked about this stance with America – The Jesuit Review during a 2015 interview. There he said, “I’m prepared to accept doctrine on a whole range of issues as a Catholic. I’m prepared to accept as a matter of faith — my wife and I, my family — the issue of abortion. But what I’m not prepared to do is impose a rigid view, a precise view, that is born out of my faith, on other people who are equally God-fearing, equally as committed to life.”

A Catholic rising to the nation's highest position is something that was unheard of a century ago. In 1928, New York Governor Alfred Smith, a Democrat, had been the only Catholic nominee of either party. His campaign was dogged by claims that he would “build a tunnel connecting the White House and the Vatican and would amend the Constitution to make Catholicism the nation's established religion” according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Smith would even lose the then Democratic Solid South due to this fact.


Will JFK’s grandson become our first Jewish president?

May 29 would have been President John F. Kennedy’s one hundredth birthday.

Here is the question: would JFK be shepping nachas in heaven over his grandson, Jack Schlossberg, the son of Caroline and Edwin Schlossberg?

“JFK” and “nachas” in the same sentence?

Apparently, some Jews are going there.

It’s about young Jack, whose physical resemblance to his late uncle John Kennedy, Jr. would be uncanny, except for that whole genetics thing.

Jack is a recent Yale graduate, and he is on his way to Harvard Law School.

Asked about his future plans: “I’m inspired by my family’s legacy of public service. It’s something I’m very proud of. But I’m still trying to make my own way and figure things out. So stay tuned—I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

So I’m just going to go ahead and call it now, folks: Unless by some miracle the Red Sea parts and President Al Franken strides out of its primordial depths in 2020, we may have just gotten our first glimpse at our first Jewish President—unless they try to foist the execrable Ivanka on us first.

Even though he has only been voting for four years, we already imagine that Jack Schlossberg is a. going to run for public office, b. going to be president of the United States, and c. he will be the first Jewish president.

Given the history of the Kennedy clan, I would say there is a fighting chance that Jack has a political future.

As his paternal grandparents might have once said: Gei gezunt.

But, can we talk about Jack Schlossberg being Jewish?

First of all, it if were true, it would not have bothered his grandparents and great-uncles and aunts a bit.

Let’s remember: in her later years, his late grandmother, Jackie Onassis, kept company with a Jewish man, Maurice Templesman.

Let’s also remember: Robert Kennedy was assassinated almost fifty years ago – precisely because of his support for Israel during the Six Day War.

As for Jack Schlossberg’s great-grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy: let’s just say that there were no ADL dinners in his honor.

I would actually want his great-grandchildren to be Jewish — just to prove that God has a wicked (as in its Bostonian usage) sense of humor.

Jack’s mother, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, is a product of America’s premier Irish Catholic family.

His father, Edwin Schlossberg, has a serious Jewish background.

His father, Alfred, was president of New York’s Park East Synagogue, which is Orthodox, where Edwin became bar mitzvah. Schlossberg has said that he is “proud to be Jewish.”

But, does that make their children Jewish? (Jack’s sister, Rose Kennedy Schlossberg, was also once “outed” as being Jewish in the pages of the Forward).

First, traditional Jewish law states that if the mother is Jewish, the kids are Jewish.

So, according to any rabbinical colleagues on my right – that would be: No, the Schlossberg kids are not Jewish.

But, wait: what about Reform and Reconstructionist practice? Don’t they say that the child of a Jewish father can be Jewish?

Since 1983, Reform Judaism has considered a child of an interfaith couple to be Jewish if the child is raised exclusively as a Jew. The child would need a Jewish education and celebrate appropriate life cycle events, such as becoming bar or bat mitzvah.

Reconstructionist practice is similar.

Even with such a liberal and welcoming policy, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis would ask:

Were the Schlossberg children raised exclusively as Jews, Jewish education, bar and bat mitzvah?

The deeper question is, of course: do the Schlossberg children consider themselves to be Jewish?

If Jack Schlossberg wanted to join the Jewish people, who wouldn’t welcome him? There are many children of interfaith marriages who decide that they want to be Jews, and who act on that decision.

We have even welcomed descendants of distinguished American political families into the Jewish people. Joshua Boettiger, the great-grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt, serves as rabbi of Temple Emek Shalom in Ashland, Oregon.

I am interested in the “Jack Schlossberg is Jewish” thing — not because of what it says about him, but because of what it says about us.

It is what David E. Kaufman refers to as “Jewhooing,”

…the habit of citing Jewish celebrities—“Didja know, Natalie Portman is Jewish!”—is characteristic of many Jews… It demonstrates that Jews are a part of America, but nonetheless remain distinctive, even exceptional, and thus stand apart from America.

Secure Jews would not “need” for Jack Schlossberg to be Jewish.

They would not need to collect Jewish celebrities, real or imagined, as if the mere existence of such celebrities validated Jewishness itself.


John F. Kennedy

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John F. Kennedy, in full John Fitzgerald Kennedy, byname JFK, (born May 29, 1917, Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.—died November 22, 1963, Dallas, Texas), 35th president of the United States (1961–63), who faced a number of foreign crises, especially in Cuba and Berlin, but managed to secure such achievements as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress. He was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas.

What was John F. Kennedy’s family like?

John F. Kennedy was reared in a large Roman Catholic family of Irish descent that demanded intense physical and intellectual competition among its nine siblings. Steeped in Democratic Party politics, the family produced three presidential candidates: John and his brothers Robert and Ted.

What were John F. Kennedy’s parents’ names?

John F. Kennedy’s father was Joseph P. Kennedy, who acquired a multimillion-dollar fortune in banking, bootlegging, shipbuilding, motion pictures, and the stock market and who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. His mother, Rose, was the daughter of John F. (“Honey Fitz”) Fitzgerald, onetime mayor of Boston.

When was John F. Kennedy born and when did he die?

John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts, and he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. While riding in a motorcade, he was struck by two rifle bullets and died shortly after hospitalization. Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of the slaying.


JFK's Top 5 Political Accomplishments

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination that devastated the country and robbed Americans of a charismatic and inspirational leader.

As the youngest man ever to be elected president at the age of 43, Kennedy represented a new future and hope for the nation. "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans," Kennedy declared in his 1961 inaugural address. While his presidency lasted only 34 months, his political accomplishments helped cement his legacy as a great president.

1. America’s First Catholic President

On Sept. 12, 1960, in perhaps one of the major events that helped solidify Kennedy's presidential victory, candidate Kennedy delivered a brave speech on his religion to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers in Houston, Texas. At the time, many Protestants wondered whether Kennedy's Catholic faith would prevent him from making sound national decisions independent of the Catholic Church. Kennedy proved that he could, and became the first and only Catholic president in American history.

2. Prevented Nuclear Armageddon

After a failed U.S. attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in April 1961, in what became known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, in July 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reached a secret agreement with Cuba's Fidel Castro to place Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba in an effort to prevent future American invasion. Castro's Cuba was to be transformed into a Russia nuclear missile site.

Three months later, in October 1962, an American U-2 spy plane photographed nuclear missile sites being built in Cuba. Kennedy considered a U.S. air strike to destroy the missiles, but there was uncertainty about whether or not the nuclear weapons in Cuba were already operational, which meant that any such attack could have sparked a nuclear war.

After days of deliberation, on Oct. 22, 1962, Kennedy ordered the establishment of a naval blockade, or "quarantine," around Cuba to prevent the Soviets from bringing in more nuclear weapons and military supplies.

For 13 days in October 1962, the world was on the brink of a nuclear war, but as a result of Kennedy's leadership, a peaceful resolution was reached. In the face of a major crisis, Kennedy showed firmness and resolve, and emerged as both a national and global hero.

3. Emphasized Public Service

Kennedy urged and inspired Americans to participate in public service. "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country," he said in his inaugural address in 1961.

4. Established the Peace Corps

In March 1961, Kennedy established the Peace Corps, a volunteer program that sends young Americans to countries abroad in an effort to promote world peace and friendship. This was Kennedy's first great achievement as president. The program encouraged the spirit of service and tapped into the idealism of the younger generation. Since its inception, over 210,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in 139 countries working on issues ranging from AIDS education to economic development.

5. Set Goal to Put Man on the Moon

On May 25, 1961, Kennedy stood before a Joint Session of Congress and set a goal of "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth" by the end of the decade. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important for the long-range exploration of space," Kennedy said.

He asked Congress for $7 billion to $9 billion to fund the space program. Even though the first moon landing did not occur until 1969, Kennedy's speech transformed NASA and the space program.

If there is room for a couple more presidents to join Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt up on Mount Rushmore, Kennedy deserves to be included.