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.

Vatican UN nuncio calls world to ‘discernment and new thinking’ on climate change

Archbishop Celestino Migliore (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the church official heading the Vatican’s five-member delegation to the U.N. climate change conference, said “discernment and new thinking” are necessary to address the moral crises facing the world.

In addressing the delegates during a Dec. 17 plenary session, the archbishop said people must take personal responsibility to care for the environment and reduce the impact of climate change on the God’s creation.

Here’s an excerpt:

With realism, trust and hope we must assume the new responsibilities which call us to the scene of a world in need of a deep cultural renewal and rediscovery of fundamental values on which to build  a better future. The moral crises that humanity is currently experiencing, be they economic, nutritional, environmental or social — all deeply interlinked — oblige us to redesign our way, to establish new guidelines and to find new forms of engagement. These crises become thus the occasion for discernment and new thinking.

The archbishop also called people to change their living habits. Such steps, he said, would help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases —  a leading cause of climate change, scientists say — pumped into the atmosphere.

These efforts are about working on lifestyles, as the current dominant models of consumption and production are often unsustainable from the point of view of social, environmental, economic and even moral analysis. We must safeguard creation — soil, water and air — as a gift entrusted to everyone, but we must also and above all prevent mankind from destroying itself.

CNS will have more soon. Here’s our story.

A step toward sainthood for John Paul II?

Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. (CNS photo/Joe Rimkus Jr.)

VATICAN CITY — For more than a week, Vatican sources have been predicting that on Saturday Pope Benedict would sign the decree declaring that Pope John Paul II heroically lived the Christian virtues — a major step toward eventual beatification of the late pope.

The decree declaring Pope John Paul “venerable” would confirm a recommendation made by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes after years of study. We reported in November on the congregation’s action here.

It’s premature, but already Vatican officials — and the Roman patrons of my local coffee bar — are talking about a likely beatification ceremony in October of 2010, perhaps on the Oct. 16 anniversary of the late pope’s election in 1978.

Before beatification occurs, however, the Vatican must approve a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul’s intercession.  Church experts are already studying a possible miracle, the cure of a French nun from Parkinson’s disease, the same disease from which Pope John Paul suffered.

In 2005, Pope Benedict set Pope John Paul on the fast track to beatification by waiving the normal five-year waiting period for the introduction of his sainthood cause. That seemed to respond to the “Santo subito!” (“Sainthood now!”) banners that were held aloft at Pope John Paul’s funeral. In April, the church will mark the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death.

The initial diocesan phase of his sainthood cause was completed in April 2007. In November of 2008, a team of theological consultors to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes began studying the 2,000-page “positio,” the document that made the case for beatification. After their favorable judgment, the cardinal and bishop members of the sainthood congregation met last month and gave their go-ahead for the decree of heroic virtues.

The presumed miracle, meanwhile, is being studied in a five-step process that involves medical experts, a medical board, theological consultors, the members of the congregation and, finally, Pope Benedict.

There’s some speculation that Pope Benedict might be ready to approve the miracle along with the heroic virtues. That happens rarely, but it does happen: in December of 2002, Pope John Paul II signed decrees on the same day affirming the heroic virtues of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and a miraculous cure attributed to her intercession. She was beatified the following October.

Pope Benedict on Saturday is also expected to  formally recognize the miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Mary MacKillop, the Australian founder of a religious order dedicated to educating the children of the poor.