1959: Sen. Kennedy cautions Democrats

Here’s a news item from this time of year in 1959: Then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., cautioned Democratic leaders that if he were denied the presidential nomination because he was a Catholic, “it could grievously damage the party.”

The New York Times notes that news outlets reported that Kennedy “was particularly candid in making the point to several key figures in the Democratic hierarchy of Pennsylvania, including Gov. David Lawrence, it was learned today (Dec. 16). Sen. Kennedy declared he expected to win a string of state primaries next year and to go to the Los Angeles convention with at least 500 delegates, which is a sizable bulk of the 766 votes needed for nomination.”

It goes without saying that the NCWC News Service — the precursor to CNS — was reporting vigorously on the upcoming election. One of the stories the news service carried around the same time as the Times anecdote above was about the president of the Baltimore City Council, Philip Goodman, asking the local postmaster to investigate the mailing of a pamphlet he described as “a scurrilous and disgraceful attack” on Kennedy. 

The pamphlet was titled “The Pope for President.” Turned out it had been written by an ex-priest who had set up his own anti-Catholic organization and was selling anti-Catholic booklets he wrote around the country.

The news service also reported that Kennedy, considered the frontrunner at that point for the presidential nomination in 1960, expressed dismay that only the Catholics considering a run for the White House had been asked whether they thought U.S. funds should be used “to promote birth control abroad.” Kennedy said it would be “a mistake for the United States government to attempt to advocate the limitation of the population of underdeveloped countries.”

The bishops issued a statement saying Catholics would not support any public funds — by direct aid or “by means of international organizations” — going for birth control, abortion or sterilization.

6 Responses

  1. The Catholic Church needs to stop trying to equate birth control, especially condoms, with abortion. It is a ridiculous and illogical position, and continues to push people away from the church.

  2. As with most rejection of the Church’s teaching, Brendan, your position comes from a lack of understanding for the true rationale behind the teaching. The Church does not equate birth control use with abortion, but she does equate it with other evils. What does access to birth control do but make it easier for people to commit sins against the Sixth Commandment and to reject half of God’s intended purpose for the procreative act? And recall what Our Lord said about knowing a tree by the fruit that it bears. We must remember that the Church’s first aim is our happiness in the next world, not in this one. The Church certainly does not want unwated children to be raised in unloving homes or AIDS to run rampant in Africa, but infinitely more than that, it wants her children to merit eternity in Heaven. We were created only to serve God in this life and be with him in the next, and birth control facilitates neither of these purposes. Hence, we have the Church’s teaching on the subject.

  3. You might want to read the Vatican’s “Persona Humana,” Brendan. I found it to be the best Catholic document concerning sexual ethics:

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html

  4. For the most part, I agree with Brendan. It is very difficult to reconcile the Church’s “Culture of Life” with a position that exacerbates the spread of an agonizing, fatal disease.

  5. MM–the Church’s Culture of Life doesn’t spread AIDS. People choosing to having multiple, premarital partners does. If people practiced chastity, AIDS wouldn’t be an epidemic anywhere.

  6. I’ve been to Africa. Acquiring AIDS is no more of a “choice” than being born into a world of poverty, war and famine. AIDS is often a byproduct of those very conditions. Those of us living in privilege cannot imagine the suffering. But we are called to alleviate it where it is possible. And it is possible.

    In the spirit of charity, I pray that the Church will review and revise it’s policy on condom use.

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