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JFK: America's first Catholic president
November 23rd, 2013
07:13 AM ET

How Catholic was John F. Kennedy?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) When John F. Kennedy was a boy, his mother counseled her children on Good Fridays to pray for a peaceful death.

Young Jack joked that he’d rather pray for two pet dogs.

If you’re looking for the CliffsNotes version of Kennedy’s Catholicism, that anecdote touches on the key themes: the pious Irish mother, the light-hearted irreverence, the ever-present prospect of death.

But there’s much more to the story.

In the words of one biographer, Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass.

He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency.

One scholar suggests that Kennedy was becoming more religious as the Cold War wore on. Another says that Kennedy’s public displays of piety were little more than political lip service.

As the country marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death and it was far from peaceful, as we all know almost every aspect of his life is again under the media microscope. But for all the ballyhoo about Kennedy being the first and only Catholic president, the topic of his faith remains largely untouched.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Leaders • Mass • Politics • Prejudice

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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