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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.

We’ve been told that he was venerated by many who shared his religion and vilified by many who didn’t. We know that his family shared sacraments with popes and confidences with cardinals. And we’ve heard about Kennedy breaking more than a few Commandments.

We also know that Catholics, particularly Irish Catholics, revere Kennedy, hanging his portrait in their parlors next to images of the Sacred Heart, naming their schools and children after him.

But the halo around Kennedy’s head has dimmed in recent decades as revelations about his marital infidelities and carefully concealed health problems have come to light.

“Being the first of any group to get to the White House is worth taking seriously and showing respect for,” said the Rev. John Langan, a Jesuit priest and ethicist at Georgetown University. “But there is bound to be a very ambivalent reaction to Kennedy at this point in our history.”

That still doesn’t tell us much about what kind of Catholic Kennedy was, to the extent that we can ever know.

“It’s hard to look into the soul of a person, especially a person who’s been dead for 50 years, and judge their religion and belief in God,” said Thomas Maier, author of “The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings.”

No doubt Maier is right. But Kennedy's Catholic faith remains central to questions about his character and his legacy. And even if we reserve final judgment for the Almighty, we can still probe history for clues about how religion inspired and guided his short and star-crossed life.

The Irish Catholic ideal

When Kennedy was 13 and attending a Catholic school for the only time in his life, a visiting missionary spoke to the students about his work in India.

Afterward, Kennedy eagerly informed his parents that “it was one of the most interesting talks I’ve ever heard,” according to the Robert Dallek biography “An Unfinished Life.

The Catholic missionary inspired two aims that day that would drive Kennedy for the rest of his life, according to Ted Sorensen, one of his closest advisers: the desire to enjoy the world, and the desire to improve it.

Few historians argue that Kennedy’s reputation as a womanizer isn’t well-warranted. But even tough-minded idealists such as Eleanor Roosevelt, who once regarded Kennedy as cocky and callow, eventually saw him in another light.

“My final judgment is that here is a man who wants to leave a record (perhaps for ambitious personal reasons, as people say), but I rather think because he is really interested in helping the people of his own country and mankind in general,” Roosevelt said after meeting Kennedy in 1960.

Kennedy put his personal mission another way: “Those to whom much is given, much is required.” That phrase echoes Luke’s Gospel, which, like many parts of the Bible, he learned from his mother, Rose.

Joseph Kennedy, the family patriarch, was often away making his millions and insisted that his children attend top private (and secular) schools such as Harvard. That left the nine Kennedy children’s religious education to Rose, a devout Catholic.

“At the time, it was the Irish Catholic ideal,” Langan said, “a big and active family where the father was successful in business and politics and the mother was the spiritual center, the person who held it all together.”

In other ways, the Kennedys were anything but typical Irish Catholics, said Kean University historian Terry Golway. They were lucratively rich. They mingled with Boston Brahmins. They went to Harvard, not Holy Cross.

“Some people saw them as a faux Catholic,” Golway said, “too big for their britches.”

But few historians doubt Rose Kennedy’s devout attachment to Catholicism.

She attended the country’s top Catholic schools, and she supervised her family like the nuns who ran those schools, according to biographer Barbara A. Perry.

Rose neither spared the rod nor tolerated emotional outbursts. Any bumps and bruises were to be “offered up to God,” the matriarch insisted, no complaining allowed.

“She was terribly religious,” John Kennedy said as an adult. “She was a little removed.”

Still, many say the stoicism Rose Kennedy instilled helped her son deal with the debilitating health issues that plagued his short life. Other historians theorize that Kennedy's poor health - he was twice given last rites before recovering - played a role in his wanton womanizing.

“His continual, almost heroic sexual performance,” wrote Catholic scholar Garry Wills, was a “cackling at the gods of disability that plagued him.”

Well before her son's playboy days, Rose neatly noted her children’s medical histories and church milestones such as baptism, confirmation and first Holy Communion on small index cards.

She left rosaries on their beds, tested their knowledge of the Catholic Catechism and oversaw their prayers for hints of apostasy.

Rose regularly took the children on walks to the local parish or the zoo, where she would show them the lions and explain how they once devoured faithful Christians. It was an effective, if morbid, method to hold the children’s interest, Perry notes in her book “Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch."

As the Kennedy kids grew up, Rose pinned questions about priests’ sermons and Holy Days on the family blackboard, expecting the children to discuss them at dinner, according to Perry.

The matriarch continued preaching the faith well into her children's adulthood, advising them that praying the rosary was as good a way to relieve stress as any drink or pill, and a good bit better for their figure.

And Rose wrote to Jacqueline Kennedy to “remind Jack about his Easter duty” to attend the sacrament of confession. “I’m sure that the church is quite near” to their home in Washington, she nagged.

Teasing and testing

Surrounded by his mother’s intense piety, Jack Kennedy couldn’t help but tease and test her.

He interrupted her Bible stories to ask odd questions such as what happened to the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? Who took care of the ass after the crucifixion?

Later, Kennedy’s questions grew more probing.

Traveling through the Middle East as an adolescent, he visited Jerusalem, where Christians believe Christ ascended into heaven and Muslims believe the same about Mohammed.

Upon his return to the United States, Kennedy promptly asked a priest, “Mohammed has a big following and Christ has a big following, and why do you think we should believe in Christ any more than Mohammed?”

Get this boy some religious instruction, before he becomes an atheist, the priest told Kennedy’s parents, according to Dallek’s biography.

Later, Kennedy teasingly threatened to teach a Bible class - then a strictly Protestant practice - when his parents pressured him to dump his married girlfriend, Inga Arvad.

“Don’t good works come under our obligations to the Catholic Church?” he needled his mother and father.

“We’re not a completely ritualistic, formalistic, hierarchical structure in which the Word, the truth, must only come down from the very top - a structure that allows for no individual interpretation - or are we?”

Kennedy even ribbed Rose and Joe while fighting in the Solomon Islands during World War II. He told them he had dutifully attended Easter Mass at a native hut, even as enemy aircraft circled overhead. And his parents would be pleased to know a priest had devoted all his energies to Kennedy’s salvation.

“I’m stringing along with him,” Kennedy wrote, “but I’m not giving over too easy as I want him to work a bit - so he’ll appreciate it more when he finally has me in the front row every morning screaming hallelujah.”

The lion’s den

Joking aside, Kennedy took his faith seriously, according to several biographers, especially when it became a political issue.

In 1947, when Kennedy was a representative from Massachusetts, Congress held a hearing on public funding for parochial schools. He exploded when a Freemason testified that Catholics owe their loyalties to their church, not their country.

“I am not a legal subject of the Pope,” Kennedy countered. “There is an old saying in Boston that we get our religion from Rome and our politics from home.”

The congressional contretemps was just a prelude to the prejudice Kennedy endured during his 1960 presidential run.

Protestant leaders - from backwoods evangelists and radio preachers to prominent pastors such as Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale - warned the country would go to hell with a Catholic in the Oval Office.

“I’m getting tired of these people who think I want to replace the gold at Fort Knox with a supply of holy water,” Kennedy complained.

Against some advisers’ counsel, the candidate decided to directly confront the anti-Catholic bias with a televised speech to a group of Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960. It was like Daniel walking into the lion’s den, a journalist said at the time.

In the now famous speech, Kennedy said he believed that America’s separation of church and state is “absolute” and that a presidential candidate’s religious beliefs are “his own private affair.”

“I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me,” Kennedy said.

The Protestant ministers pressed Kennedy on those pledges in a question and answer session that followed, according to Dallek, but the candidate’s calm reassurances seemed to win many of them over.

“He responded with such poise and restraint that the ministers stood and applauded at the close of the meeting, and some came forward to shake his hand and wish him well in the campaign.”

A ‘little less convinced’

As president, Kennedy continued to say his daily prayers, morning and night, his sister Eunice told historians. But “that doesn’t mean he was terribly religious,” she said.

“He was always a little less convinced” than the rest of the Kennedy clan, Eunice continued, especially his brother Robert Kennedy, who took after Rose.

Still, Eunice said John always hustled off to Mass on Sundays, even while traveling. Maier, the Kennedy biographer who called him Mr. Saturday Night and Mr. Sunday Morning, said The New York Times’ index of the president’s travels show him faithfully attending Mass once a week, wherever he happened to be.

“The popular perception is that he wasn’t all that religious,” Maier said, “but by today’s standards he would be called a traditional Catholic.”

Dallek said he believes Kennedy attended religious rituals more out of duty than desire. “This is the faith he was reared in, and something his parents expected him to do,” the historian said.

“As president it was kind of mandatory to go to church, to show that he was a man of good Christian faith. But was it something that informed his daily life and decisions as president? I don’t think so.”

Others, however, see echoes of Kennedy’s Catholic upbringing in his most famous speech, the 1961 inaugural address. In it, the new president urged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

“The words chosen seem to spring from a sacramental background,” the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, first Catholic chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote in a recent blog post.

“In fact, the whole speech was framed by his belief in a living and ever-present God both at its beginning and in the end,” Coughlin wrote.

Two months later, in a move that may have harkened back to meeting the Catholic missionary, Kennedy founded the Peace Corps.

A monk predicts the assassination 

Regardless of how faithful Kennedy was, Irish Catholicism is as much a culture as a set of religious rules and rituals, said Peter Quinn, author of “Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America.

Kennedy’s gift for gab and love of language; his fierce loyalty and clannishness; his temper and his wit; his concern for the poor and sense of the tragedy of life - he lost a beloved brother and sister at a young age - all are hallmarks of Irish Catholicism, Quinn said.

“The church was the building block of Irish identity, and Kennedy was imbued in that culture.”

Golway agrees. “There was a chip on his shoulder, a sense of being embattled and having to fight for everything. That’s a very Irish-Catholic thing.”

Other historians believe Kennedy was becoming more religious, in the traditional sense, as the threat of nuclear war loomed over his presidency.

“He never talked about his religion, never,” said James W. Douglass, author of “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters.” “But at great personal risk, he was turning from war toward peacemaking.”

Kennedy would not have been the first president to “get religion” in the Oval Office.

Lincoln, an unorthodox believer, once said that “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go.”

Historians say Kennedy kept a note on his desk paraphrasing another quote from Lincoln, “I know that there is a God and I see a storm coming. ... If he has a place for me, I am ready.”

If Lincoln’s storm was the Civil War, Kennedy’s was the Cold War.

As Douglass notes, some Catholics had little confidence that Kennedy, the youngest elected president in American history, had the wisdom and humanity to carry the country through the existential threat.

“Maybe Kennedy will break through into that some day by miracle,” Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk and author, wrote to a friend.

“But such people are before long marked out for assassination.”

- CNN Religion Editor

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

soundoff (1,019 Responses)
  1. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YSW8VDgZJU&w=640&h=390]

    November 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Puck

      The original was hilarious.

      November 24, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  2. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8hxB87ULfk&w=640&h=390]

    November 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  3. tony

    If god can flash rainbows to inform people, then he sure as heck didn't need the bible to be written, or vice versa.

    November 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Sue

      Problem is, pretty much every primitive people on Earth has created their own myth "explaining" where rainbows come from. The one in the Bible is just the Hebrew version.

      November 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
      • Sara

        Yeah, but he could make the rainbow write out messages in the sky.

        November 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • lol??

      Might have been a first for the blessed eight or caused by a climate change.

      6 man's attempt to recreate paradise
      7 God's rest, the Sabbath
      8 new beginnings

      November 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  4. lol??

    Buddhism is steeped in sun god worship. The Ajanta Caves give the evidence. Solstice this, solstice that. Science arrogantly dismisses the ancients' fascination with celestial bodies. They be stupid and scientists be schmart. Mutation does that.

    November 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • igaftr

      In reality, Buddhism is more atheistic.
      Buddha believed that seeking a god is a desire and you need to drop desires to attain enlightenment. He believed that whether or not there are gods could not be changed by men, whether or not we worship them does not change if there are gods or not, and the worship is to support desire of the individual.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
      • Sue

        Yet, a Buddhist belief in reincarnation generally wouldn't pass the sniff test of a typical American skeptic who is also an atheist. Most atheists, it seems, reject all supernatural claims, not just the ones about gods.

        November 24, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
        • igaftr

          The desire to attain enlightnenment is also a desire so that shoots out part of the Buddha as well, just pointing out he was considered atheist , but in actuality, agnostic would fit better.

          November 24, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
        • Sue

          Most atheists are also agnostic. We don't believe in any actual gods (atheism), but we can never be sure that no gods exist in the universe (agnosticism). Most of us wouldn't claim that gods are impossible, just that the claims of actual gods here on Earth are unconvincing, see?

          November 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • igaftr

          Right there with you Sue.
          I don't believe ANY definition of any god(s) are sufficient, one HUGE reason is the sentience factor. Though there are many things we do not yet know, putting sentience on anything we have seen so far off this planet is simple anthropomorphising.
          Men create gods in their image or with human characteristics.
          If there was anything even close to a god out there, I seriously doubt that any definition on our planet would be accurate.
          Sort of like trying to describe a theif that was seen 2000 years ago from everyone elses description...likely none are accurate.

          November 24, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
        • Sara

          If you areto believe the Baylor survey on supersti.tion that is, unfortunately, not the case. While on average in the US atheists have been found to be more analytic, most believe in a fairly standard amont of unfounded claims ranging from libertarian "free will" to naive materialism and alternative medicine. I'm not disagreeing there's some correlation between skepticism and lacking belief, but it's neither entirely consistent nor applies to the large number of fundamentalist atheists who actively believe they have good reason to claim their are no gods.

          November 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Believers don't seem to believe, at least at the outset, on the basis of anything rational. They seem to go by a feeling or emotional state that convinces them that what they believe is true. Non-theists may feel such things and bring rational thought to bear on it, while some of us just never have such feelings. C. S. Lewis spoke of something he thought was uniquely human – a sense of what he called the Numinous. It's a sort of feeling for things that are uncanny and, he suggested, supernatural. He felt that the sense was evidence for God because he believed it has no other clear function than to inform people of the supernatural. I disagree, but acknowledge that some people may have the feeling and be inspired to believe in all sorts of odd things because of it.

          November 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
        • Sara

          TTTOO, I think we have to accept that all humans seek to simplify the data points around them, and all do so to a point that is in excess in the face of the true complexity of the world. But I agree that the evidence indicates that some are more intuition than analysis oriented. It seems to me it's just a spectrum, and, as you say, all sorts of stuff can exist on it. The reality is that we need to oversimplify even to engage in speech, however, so we are all quite guilty.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  5. Apple Bush

    Why does god need human beings to spread his word? This is a being that can simultaneously watch, hear or ignore any number of a quadrillion trillion trillion living or inanimate things throughout the universe. This is the all-powerful creator who provided every rule under which we understand our universe. All technology flows from him, yet he can't tell us himself to behave?

    November 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      But that would stop us from having free willies.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • tony

      Look for the info conveyed by the individual photons gigahetz modulationradiating from every rainbow?.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • lol??

      For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

      November 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Doesn't wrath fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike. I rather seems that way.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • lol??

          Why do you say that?? All the dead martyrs?? Not to worry, they'll be satyrized.

          November 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  6. Apple Bush

    The name stealer troll is a child. We can't punish it so we just have to wait for it to get bored.

    November 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • *

      * is that what worked when you were doing it?

      November 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        You must have me confused with someone else. Although I did assume HeavenSent's name when she left. I don't consider that stealing, it was just a parody.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
        • *

          You did it while she/he was still active too. As for, "parody", that's what this troll thinks he/she is doing too. Please, everyone, just stop it.

          November 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I disagree with you.

          November 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
        • midwest rail

          You also admitted to assuming Bill Deacon's name and justified that as "hard teasing". Seems name stealing is trollish under when it's convenient for you.

          November 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
        • midwest rail

          " only ", not under.

          November 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I have no clue what the Bill Deacon thing is, sorry.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
        • midwest rail

          How convenient.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  7. bostontola (real one)

    Why do people impersonate others in a discussion forum?

    There are probably many possible motivations, but in many cases it's simply that they have no cogent arguments and they have no other tactic than play for a stalemate by using disruption. Does anyone respect that?

    November 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Puck

      No. Nobody respects a name stealer. Not even the name stealer himself.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • lol??

      Woe to the feral Public Servants that make full auto AR-15's their strength of their arm!

      November 24, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • Puck

        Yes, because that is clearly what we were talking about.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Pete

      Why do people claim that prominent atheists actually recant on the deathbed? If you can't actually come up with an intelligent response you might as well put words in other people's mouths.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Sara

      It's a lot like vandalism, a desperate effort of the, usually male, unempowered to see themselves as having some impact in the world.

      November 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      It does seem rather childish but it is why I got a wordpress account, now if my alias appears in black you know it isn't me.

      November 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
      • igaftr

        The theif has one now as well...it still gets confused as to which account to use...not surprising since it steals so many.

        November 24, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Fortunately unless I reveal my password I know the thief can't use my account. I do find it funny how easy they are to point out, they make a pathetic impersonator.

          November 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  8. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZtgZ5fHOuU&w=640&h=390]

    November 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      love it!!! 🙂

      at last we agree on something LL. 🙂

      November 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f35gG0x-fo8&w=640&h=390]

        November 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  9. bostontola

    I'm getting annoyed at these blogs already... I should've listened to momma and continue to play "house" with my boyfriends... 😦

    November 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • bostontola (real one)

      You assume quite a bit.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Puck

      Name stealer troll is name stealer.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  10. bostontola

    Philosophical question:

    Is the man created concept of god more powerful, in our living world, than an actual God?

    Obviously there are many man created gods, and the concept of them has led to wars and great advancements. There is lots of objective evidence for that through history. The objective evidence for the direct effect of any actual God is extraordinarily weak.

    November 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • lol??

      "Unutiy in Diversity!!" Nebuchadnezzar.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      People who believe in a God like the Standard (Abrahamic) God are constantly confronted by the difference between what they think this God wants to do and what it does. It loves and wants to save everyone, but it only manages to save some. That suggests that there are things that are impossible for God, but believers are usually unwilling to admit that anything is impossible for God. The God is weak, but not admitted to be weak.

      A philosophical statement about how "strong" God is depends on how God is defined. Is God a necessary being (present in all possible worlds)? Is God the Creator of the Universe, but unable to do logically impossible things? Is God the Creator of reality and able to build possible and impossible worlds? Is God able to do impossible things in possible worlds (making them impossible, one would think)?

      November 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • bostontola (real one)

        A very interesting hypothesis is that the concept of a superior being was a driving component in the domestication of humans. Domestication being key to forming larger than family groups. We all know where that led.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Since we couldn't domesticate ourselves, we invented a master to hold the whip, carrot and stick, and whatever else was needed to do the job.

          November 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
        • bostontola (real one)

          TTtOO,
          There is some fascinating hypotheses out there that we did domesticate ourselves, not intentionally, but via natural cultural selection.

          November 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
      • lol??

        God saves justified sinners. Others need not apply.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
        • Get Real

          And your verified evidence that this happens is...?

          November 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
        • Puck

          Lol. "Justified sinners".

          Rationalizing your crappy behavior again?

          November 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • tony

      Non existent, over the last 13 Billion years, unless you have have something I don't know about

      November 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • bostontola (real one)

        The concept of god couldn't be more existent.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
        • tony

          "The objective evidence for the direct effect of any actual God is extraordinarily weak"

          Your words, my repsonse.

          November 24, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
        • bostontola (real one)

          tony,
          I personally can't definitively say no god, but I believe there is no god. The objective evidence for god is extraordinarily weak.

          November 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
        • tony

          OK. You are right. There is no evidence that I know of. And I am not in a position to know much of what may be out there.

          I'd stil like to know what you think is that weak objective evidence? Christ's face on toast?

          November 24, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
        • bostontola (real one)

          tony,
          I would count the bible as evidence. As I said it is extraordinarily weak evidence. The bible itself provides more evidence against the Abrahamic god than for it, but the bible has been preserved intact, and it does record a god. Don't get me wrong, very weak evidence coupled with the counter evidence in its pages makes me conclude it is false.

          November 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  11. tc

    of course, I would like to believe he tried hard to live out his faith and fell badly at times but it just doesn't seem so. He was an American politician and that in itself doesn't bode well for someone who reallly practices a faith. The majority of Americans profess a God so they feel compelled to say they beieve and practice a faith, mostly Christianity, but in reality they do whatever they want and practice narcissism and godlessness. Whatever the case, I do wish mercy on his soul and that of every other human being.

    November 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • tony

      "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride"

      November 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  12. Seyedibar

    Just Catholic enough to make fun of.

    November 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  13. Rainer Braendlein

    "And we’ve heard about Kennedy breaking more than a few Commandments."

    Unquote.

    I could burst out with saying now that Kennedy was certainly no true Christian when he persistently broke some commandments. The Jewish King David (he was an ancestor of Jesus) was called a man according to God's heart though he commited some outrageous sins (his adultery with Uria's wife, the murder of Uria, the near murder of Nabal which was luckily prevented by Nabal's wife Abigail who later became David's wife after Nabal had been punished by God, etc.).

    I will refer to the story of David, Abigail and Nabal. The core of the story is that if Abigail had not spoken wisely with David he had murdered Nabal (Nabal had deceived David, and the murder had been vigilantism). It was God's grace that prevented David from doing wrong through Abigail.

    Though David was a believer he was still able to sin, and to commit even heavy sins. We can be sure that basically David was against murder and adultry, and did not want to commit that sins. But the problem is that David AND we have inherited the degenerated nature of the falllen Adam – our body is sinful, or the sin dwells in our limbs in a real way (almost biologically). If the faith in Christ's releasing power (the releasing power of his death and resurrection) is not there, and the old nature reigns, even a Christian can commit heavy sins – return is possible through Jesus sacrifice seen as atonement.

    Therefore I will not condemn Mr. Kennedy because of breaking some commandments. I would more criticize that he kept the Catholic doctrine, and did not convert to pure Christianity. However, maybe, he was naive concerning religious matters, and did not care very much about the doctrine. Luther said that a very few Catholics can be true Christians when they simply try to live a righteous life on the basis of their (infant) baptism denying or not being aware of the false doctrine of Catholic Eucharist.

    Generally it would be better when a Catholic who really wants to follow Jesus leaves the Catholic Church. Because the Catholic Church offers Christ every Sunday again in form of the host, and that is diametrically opposed to the Christian doctrine of the Lord's Supper: Christ is not offered every Sunday again but through bread and wine our community with Jesus is renewed, and we receive strength to overcome our sinful nature, and to love God and our neighbour. If Christ would be sacrificed every Sunday again, we could keep on sinning, even sin more, as believers because we had a new atonement every Sunday. I hope that Kennedy did not believe that Catholic heresy.

    Furthermore all people of the Western world are trapped in an awful idolatry which is materialsm. Today there is not much distinction between the life of a Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Free Church Christian, etc.. Why? The materialsm seperates us from the Godhead no matter what we believe, and even if we had the true doctrine, and would still espouse materailism, we would be seperated from the Godhead. The sad thing is that we are not aware of our materialsm but simply regard our today Western lifestyle as the usual lifestyle. Yet, never in history people were so busy with producing goods and services, and consumption of goods and sevices like today, and that is our sure doom. However, maybe Kennedy was naive, did not realize the situation, and then it would be an further excuse for his infidelity.

    We as a society must learn again to find a healthy balance between spiritual things and material things. We must reduce the time and energy which we invest in producing and consuming goods, and instead spend more time for contemplation in silence, praying, fasting, having community with other believers, and reading the Bible.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    About Catholic Eucharist again: The danger of Catholic Eucharist is the following: As Christ is sacrificed (allegedly) in form of the host every Sunday again a Catholic believer could assume that he could commit new and additional sins every week again because Christ is sacrificed for his sins next Sunday again. That reasoning seems to be mad but it exists, and Catholic Eucharist was the main failure of the RCC in Luther's sight beside papacy.

    November 24, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • igaftr

      Thanks rainman for showing how EVERYONE else is No True Christian, except of course you. You are the only christian on the planet.
      Thanks for the update.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        Why do you imply that? I struggle with my sinfulness. That is all about "being the only Christian on the planet".

        November 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
        • igaftr

          rainman
          "I could burst out with saying now that Kennedy was certainly no true Christian when he persistently broke some commandments"
          "pure Christianity"
          " false doctrine of Catholic Eucharist."
          "a Catholic who really wants to follow Jesus"
          "few Catholics can be true Christians "
          "Catholic heresy."
          "Furthermore all people of the Western world are trapped in an awful idolatry which is materialsm"
          "The danger of Catholic Eucharist is the following"

          In other words. No True Christian, No True Christian, No True Christian, over and over ad nauseum. Your website is the same thing.
          Now do you see it?

          November 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
      • lol??

        Don't get hung up and hung out to dry about the philosophers' concept of debate. The Bible mentions false brethren.

        November 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • tc

      As usual, Rainer as the faux christian spews the work of the hated which emanates from a heretical cult. More crazy gibberish from a place of hate rather than love.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        I don't hate Catholics but some Catholic teachings can put at risk the soul's health of somebody.

        Doctrines helping us to justifiy our mistakes are very dangerous (Catholic Eucharist).

        I prefer the doctrine which helps me to improve.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
        • tc

          You have a lot to learn Rainer if you want to be a Christian. If you choose to follow a heretical sect then your job is not to spend so much time bashing others. Your heretical sect is much more easily picked apart as a heresy than the RCC or the Eastern Orthodox. Your cult arose 1500 years after Christ's church and Luther decided to leave it.

          November 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • tc

      Also, if you want to educate yourself on the Eucharist, read about St Jerome. But you won't becasue you are committed to following a heretical sect of lies and ignoring history.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Bernie

      Perhaps it might be beneficial to research what Catholics actually believe about the Eucharist –investigate sources written by knowledgeable Catholic scholars, theologians, or the official publications of the Catholic Church, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Nearly everything you claim to be the meaning of the Catholic Eucharist is inaccurate. I stress that it is important to read what Catholic scholars write and not what non-Catholic scholars write. If you are interested in knowing the truth, of course. I am not saying you will be convinced of the Catholic position but at least you will be able to state the Catholic position accurately. I am not going to correct you here; you will have to do your own homework.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        What I wrote is according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I possess an edition of that fabrication.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
        • Puck

          What you wrote is your interpretation.

          Quit slamming other faiths. You look petty.

          November 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        Going the necessary distance for those new members of this blog:

        . JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

        Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

        Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

        Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Many contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

        Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

        So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

        November 24, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
        • todayIsTheDay

          Good question. Maybe He isn't an "illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man"?

          November 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Bernie

      Perhaps it might be beneficial to research what Catholics actually believe about the Eucharist –investigate sources written by knowledgeable Catholic scholars, theologians, or the official publications of the Catholic Church, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Nearly everything you claim to be the meaning of the Catholic Eucharist is inaccurate. I stress that it is important to read what Catholic scholars write and not what non-Catholic scholars write. If you are interested in knowing the truth, of course. I am not saying you will be convinced of the Catholic position but at least you will be able to state the Catholic position accurately. I am not going to correct you here; you will have to do your own homework.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      And again, RB shows his orthodox Lutheranism.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        You err. I appreciate Christianity according to the New Testament, the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.

        November 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          So RB is not a Lutheran?

          November 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Puck

      You are judging 1.2 BILLION people, Rain. I suggest you worry about your own harsh judgement for doing so.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Get Real

      Rainer,

      The Sunni Muslims and the Shiite Muslims say similar things about each other. So do the Saivites, Shaktas, Vaishnavites, and Smartas in Hinduism.

      Your cert.itude about fantasy beings is age-old and world-wide - dime-a-dozen.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Sue

      Rainer
      Has there ever been a man who managed to become president and still remain a "true Christian"? The politics required to get the job and do it effectively are decidedly unChristian, aren't they? Why judge JFK specifically then?

      November 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  14. Lionly Lamb

    God, the ethereal construct began the cascading events thru which all mannerisms of celestially terrestrial Life augmentations did arise from... For without a material beginning, consciousness could never be... The conscious awareness is but a trivial reflective aspect rooted within the spatial fabrics of atomized cloisters...

    November 24, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      If you want to write fancy, don't end your sentences with a preposition. Also, "did arise from" is redundant because of the "thru which" statement.

      November 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Sired One...

        what a preposterous preposition of lack understanding to be proposed...

        November 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
        • tony

          You're a verbal "selfie".

          November 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
      • lol??

        ".....................There’s no necessity to ban prepositions from the end of sentences. Ending a sentence with a preposition is a perfectly natural part of the structure of modern English.

        You can read more about ending sentences with a preposition on the Oxford Dictionaries blog. Here you will find more information about prepositions and their relationship with other elements..................."

        http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/ending-sentences-with-prepositions

        Another myth shot down.

        November 24, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
      • Eng101

        Combinations of prepositions and ellipses are not necessarily grammatically incorrect.

        November 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      LL: I tend to agree with Cpt Obvious here but I think you know that. Why do you write like this?? What is your education, out of curiosity?

      November 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Totem pole quagmires around self-serving tepidness are everyone's psychic individualism... As to just why I so love to write the way I do is never a questionability for me to be made answerable to... One who is learned can never unlearn... My productive mainstays within the written aspirations of mine gives me a sensation of emotional clarity beyond those scoffers and ridiculers who cannot see the more pleasurable aspects of extenuating one's owned English wordage transitioning... The usages of English wordage should never stagnate into repetitious same old same old vernaculars of rudimentary sameness...

        November 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      excellent bafflegab there, LL...

      November 24, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  15. Reality # 2

    My ghosts to include JFK's are those dead who appear alive in my dreams. P, M, M, L and John had the same issues.

    November 24, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  16. stephen douglas

    JFK's own security disliked him because of his cheating on Jackie and the way he used the Secret Service guys to cover for him. He learned to cheat from his father, a notorious manipulating cheat. Caroline Kennedy has spent her life attempting to shore up the Kennedy legacy through the Kennedy Center and other forms of philanthropy. Bottom line is that most of the Kenndys have been arrogant, reckless, philandering pieces of dirt. The whole "Camalot" thing is a farce.

    November 24, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Sue

      And I suppose you think that the Bushes are a perfect family then?

      November 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
      • stephen douglas

        Bush did not demean those around him, and he sure never cheated on Laura. Those secret service agents covering the president are among the most highly trained individuals in the world of law enforcement and protection services. And that arrogant, self-centered Kennedy used them as if they were bus boys. What a creep.

        November 24, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  17. diodio okova eric

    rest in peace mr. president

    November 24, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  18. Alias

    FTA, "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,"
    People please! He was a politician. He wanted voted, and wasn't afraid to use religion to look moral and get them.
    If he hadn't been shot we would have forgotten him by now.

    November 24, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • stephen douglas

      Well said.

      November 24, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  19. K

    Separation of non-belief and state will teach atheists what kind of reality they want for others. All religions stand together and stop allowing atheists to bully us.

    November 24, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Archibald Smythe-Pennington, III

      "All religions stand together"

      Good luck with that one, master K.

      November 24, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • igaftr

      How exactly and specifically are any atheists bullying anyone?

      Many of the actions by athesist at this point is in RE-action to the viloation of the cont!tution by christians, such as hijacking the Pledge of allegience and putting the lie on our money.

      November 24, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • K

        Fight them not every Christian? If you bully other Christians who did nothing wrong, you are a sad sad troll.

        November 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
        • igaftr

          Again...Where have atheists bullied you?...specifically?

          November 24, 2013 at 10:49 am |
        • K

          They bully all religions not just the one I believe. If someone is religious, how will they react? Mostly with anger and the will to mock them because of what they chose to believe. Happens here ALL the time.

          November 24, 2013 at 10:51 am |
        • igaftr

          ok Ocean...
          3rd try...when specifically have atheists bullied you.

          If you are trying to say it happens here, then you should show the equal bullying coming from the religious just as much, and then we have the trolls such as yourself.

          Anser the question.

          November 24, 2013 at 10:54 am |
        • Billy

          Puddle seems STUMPED.

          November 24, 2013 at 10:57 am |
        • K

          This isn't about me. Sorry troll. You lose.

          November 24, 2013 at 10:58 am |
        • igaftr

          ocean/k whatever name
          It is about you when all you do is post trite rhetoric about atheists that are not true. I am not trolling, I am interacting and not putting up poiintless posts such as you...go ahead change your name again.
          It is about you when all you keep doing is your inane punk trolling.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:02 am |
        • Billy

          K, your butt-hurtedness knows no limits. Did you self-flagellate already today?

          November 24, 2013 at 11:02 am |
        • K

          Separation of non-belief and state will force atheists to stop and allow you trolls to see the reality you want done to entire groups of people all because you find their belief "stupid".

          November 24, 2013 at 11:03 am |
        • igaftr

          seperation of non-belief and state? That would make The USA a theocracy, which is unconst!tutional. Move to Iran if you want a theocracy.

          The seperation of church and state prevent religion from being forced on others. There is NO instance of atheism being forced on anyone.

          Do you have any valid points to bring up?

          November 24, 2013 at 11:10 am |
        • K

          Nope. We only want you atheists to stop whinning and crying over the most stupidest and childish things. You don't like here? Move to North Korea. Most of the state are atheists and you will be welcomed!

          November 24, 2013 at 11:11 am |
        • So Obvi

          that K is hot air and can't come up with one thing to support all its whining.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:14 am |
        • K

          If atheists don't like it here, move to a country where its mostly atheist like North Korea.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:16 am |
        • igaftr

          K
          False again
          North Korea worships their leader as a god...not atheists...try again.

          It is YOUIR post that says that you want a seperation of NON-belief and state, which is state sponsorship of religion, which is as un-American as you can get.

          Pointless punk troll.

          You are either acting like an idiot or you are not acting...which is it?

          November 24, 2013 at 11:18 am |
        • So Obvi

          that K lacks attention and can only troll to satisfy its need – very sad.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:18 am |
        • K

          Don't want a theocracy. I just want you atheist trolls to know what it would feel like. I said ALL religions not just my own. You guys need a dose of the reality you want for others.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:20 am |
        • Henry McPuffnstuff

          K – "You guys need a dose of the reality you want for others."

          So these "guys" should get a dose of something they hope for? It's nice that you want them to achieve what they work towards. I'm touched.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:28 am |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          *yawn* boring troll is boring

          November 24, 2013 at 11:34 am |
        • So Obvi

          K troll is so boring I need another espresso already

          November 24, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • ME II

      Just curious but, how exactly does one separate a lack of something from something else.

      'No more non-anchovy cakes!' ?

      November 24, 2013 at 10:51 am |
      • K

        Separate atheism from OUR laws that are already put into place. Like freedom FOR ALL RELIGIONS? Stop imposing your atheism on us because you find religion stupid. Separation non-belief and state will teach whiny atheists the reality they want done to others.

        November 24, 2013 at 10:57 am |
        • igaftr

          ocean/k
          "Separate atheism from OUR laws that are already put into place"

          Where specifically? Where is atheism on any laws?

          November 24, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • ME II

        @K,
        What atheism is in our laws that you would remove exactly?

        November 24, 2013 at 11:23 am |
        • K

          How about atheists wanting to restrict people to only being religious in their homes and churches? Atheists have been wanting that for years and someday it might happen. Atheists should get the same done to them and you can only be atheist in YOUR home which means you can't attack anybody. Atheism would die in a heart beat. Wouldn't like it if the same was done to you?

          November 24, 2013 at 11:25 am |
        • So Obvi

          That's silly, K. Taking up time with prayer at government functions is another matter.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:34 am |
        • ME II

          @K,
          First, no one, as far as I'm aware, wants to restrict religion to the home only, they just want it removed from science class, because it's not science, and from government, because the government is prohibited from endorse any *one* religion.

          Second, how exactly would you restrict *non-belief* to the home? Would everyone have to constantly pray out loud anytime they are in public?

          November 24, 2013 at 11:34 am |
        • igaftr

          k/ocean
          So no where is the answer...just as we already knew.

          Again...action youu see done by athesists now is REMOVING those areas where the const!tution has been violated, and we need to remove those laws where religion is being forced on all.

          You clearly have NOTHING to back up your wild claims.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:36 am |
        • K

          And atheists whine about it instead of acting mature and rational? You aren't "forced" to pray with them. You can do other things that blocks it out when they do. Atheism causes nothing but whining and cry by "mature" adults.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:36 am |
        • So Obvi

          No reason to waste someone's time at a government function with prayer. Do it before you get there.

          Time to rally and get that crap out of Congress as well. That's even worse since it's a taxpayer expense.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • Doris

          @So Obvi

          True.

          James Madison, Father of the Consti-tution and eleven of our Amendments came to oppose the long-established practice of employing chaplains at public expense in the House of Representatives and Senate on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state and the principles of religious freedom. (See Library of Congress – James Madison Papers – Detached memorandum, ca. 1823.)

          November 24, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  20. Archibald Smythe-Pennington, III

    Some say God is like the wind. This 1992 classic goes out to Christian metal band lovers everywhere!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7V406XfAaI&w=640&h=390]

    November 24, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      I loved the 3 ticket tiers sold for this show:

      See the band
      Hear the band
      Smell the band

      November 24, 2013 at 10:36 am |
      • Science Works

        My Dog is a jealous Dog

        Off topic

        Have to ask you, Vikqueens or the Packers ?

        November 24, 2013 at 10:40 am |
        • My Dog is a jealous Dog

          Today? I have no clue – only lots of wishful thinking. Thanks for reminding me, I have change my clothes! (It's only weird when it doesn't work).

          November 24, 2013 at 10:45 am |
        • My Dog is a jealous Dog

          Well, I have my shareholder jersey on now, and feel much better.

          Considering the game is at Lambeau and it f'ing cold in GB today, I give slight edge to the Pack.

          November 24, 2013 at 10:58 am |
        • Doris

          Yikes. Looks like GB is only a few degrees warmer than International Falls, WI. Of course 13F for them I imagine sometimes feels "warm".

          November 24, 2013 at 11:08 am |
        • Doris

          Excuse me, International Falls, Minn.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:13 am |
        • Science Works

          My Dog is a jealous Dog

          Do you have cheesehead gear to go with your jersey and do they serve a purpose and keep the head warm ?

          But chilly willy gives the edge to the Packers, also the Vikings have no quarter back to speak of.

          November 24, 2013 at 11:26 am |
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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.