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.