The Catholic Question
April 15, 1960
The Catholic Question
Good Friday is as good a time as any to discuss the Catholic Question as it has become an issue in the presidential campaign. Especially as the question is raised in question-and-answer periods in colleges, on street corners and in auditoriums wherever Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts campaigns this week in West Virginia.
Kennedy’s response is that his religious beliefs are personal and private and not one of the great issues of the campaign. He is applauded as he defends the right of a Catholic to be President. While he draws big and enthusiastic crowds, the undertone of anti-Catholic feeling in this state where Catholics number less than 5 per cent of the population is never absent.
The semi-official position of the Catholic church in the United States has been stated by Rev. Francis J. Connell, former dean of the School of Sacred Theology at Catholic University in Washington in a reply to the question: “what should a priest say to his parishioners when they question him on the current problem whether or not a Catholic may or should be President of the United States?”
He made these points in his answer: There is nothing in the Catholic religion that should prevent a Catholic from being a good President. The church’s teaching regarding the duties of those in public office, if conscientiously followed, would help a person in public office to fulfill his obligation more effectively. However, a Catholic would be guilty of sin if he voted for a candidate because he was a Catholic and passed over a non-Catholic who, he thinks, would make a better President. In other words, there should be no Catholic party in our land.
And, by the same token, there should be no anti-Catholic party. West Virginia, where Catholics are less than 5 per cent of the population, will be a good test of whether or not we can keep religion out of our consideration when we choose the man to fill the highest office in the land.
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