Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Kennedy's Catholicism

Kennedy wore his Catholicism as "unselfconsciously and elegantly as he wore his London clothes,' wrote Commonweal columnist and Kennedy adviser John Cogley. Historians now tell us that Kennedy's Catholicism was perhaps not so much unselfconscious as it was unthinking. In any event, forty-four years later the potential conflict between a president's duty both to uphold the Constitution and to abide by Catholic teaching is perhaps even more acute. This time the divide is not over issues like the constitutionality of tax support for religious schools but the much more fundamental question of what obligations the state has to protect fetal life. The social context has also changed. Kennedy was the charismatic symbol of Catholic material success and cultural assimilation, not Catholic distinctiveness. At the dawn of a new century, Catholics are asking if assimilation has not become simple co-optation, and they increasingly wonder what must be done to preserve any distinctive Catholic practice or identity.

"Kerry, the Catholic", by the editors of Commonweal