November 23rd, 2013
07:13 AM ET

How Catholic was John F. Kennedy?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

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(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. lol??

    Ted Bundy didn't mind debating his own fate when he acted as his own attorney. Was he an A&A or his own little god?? wiki,
    "...................."Ted [was] facing murder charges, with a possible death sentence, and all that mattered to him apparently was that he be in charge."..................."

    November 25, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Paul

      John Wayne Gacy attended church regularly. So?
      If this is an attempt to conflate serial killers with atheists, it fails. As most of your points do.

      November 25, 2013 at 11:12 am |
      • doobzz

        Is lol?? trying to make a point? I thought it left it's computer under a bird feeder.

        November 25, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  2. Deep Thoughts by Doris

    I'm guessing Miley Cyrus doesn't have a real cat.

    November 25, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Shallow thoughts by a dude

      I bet she has a real pussy, but it is hairless.

      November 25, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        That's not inappropriate or rude at all...

        November 25, 2013 at 10:58 am |
        • Ungodly Discipline

          You must have a dirty mind. Sounds like she is allergic to cats and has one of the hypo-allergenic varieties.

          November 25, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Doris

      Well I guess for some, she is some kind of performance artist. But I had it on in the background and thought I was watching a SNL skit. I only found out this morning who it was.

      November 25, 2013 at 11:08 am |
      • Paul

        What is this trickery that Mad Miley is up to now?

        November 25, 2013 at 11:16 am |
        • Joey

          convincing people that she has any actual talent.

          November 25, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  3. SLB

    How catholic was JFK?

    Probably as catholic as the other catholics...Which is, goes to church to listen to the sermon, but then living his normal life as if God doesn't exist!

    November 25, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  4. JW

    Scholar Charles Freeman answers that those who believed that Jesus is God “found it difficult to refute the many sayings of Jesus that suggested he was subordinate to God the Father.” As a result, church tradition and opinions of later authorities were substiituted for the Gospels. To this day, many of the clergy elevate the uninspired sayings of so-called Church Fathers to a plane higher than the Word of God! If you have ever discussed the Trinity doctrine with a seminarian, you have likely noticed that..

    The New Encyclopædia Britannica describes one major factor that led to twisted reasoning: “Christians who had some training in Greek philosophy began to feel the need to express their faith in its terms, both for their own intellectual satisfaction and in order to convert educated pagans.” An important doctrine that was given a pagan twist had to do with the identiity of Jesus Christ. The Bible calls him the Son of God; the lovers of Greek philosophy insisted that he is God.!

    November 25, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Reality # 2

      Bottom line: The Son of God/Father passages in the NT are inventions basically by Matthew. Added details:

      Hmmm, let us see what some of the experts (NT, historical Jesus exegetes) have to say about the "Son of God/the Father references in the NT:

      Matt 7:21
      “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."

      Not said by the historical Jesus, but more embellishment my Matthew. http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb111.html

      Matt 9:6 Passage notes "Son of Man" not Son of God.


      Matt 10:32-33, ""Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; /33/ but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven"

      "Ludemann [Jesus, 344] states " this is a prophetic admonition from the post-Easter community. For it, Jesus and the Son of man were 'identical in the future: Jesus will return in the near future as the Son of man with the clouds of heaven. In his earthly life he was not yet the Son of man, since he will come to judgment only with the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7.13f) at the end of days' (Haenchen)."

      Matt 11:27 "All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.


      "Lüdemann [Jesus, 330f] invokes the classic description from K. Hase of this passage as a "thunderbolt from the Johannine heavens." He notes the typically Johannine reference to mutual knowledge between Father and Son, and the absolute use of "Son" as a designation for Jesus. In dismissing the saying's authenticity, Luedemann also notes the similarity to ideas in the post-Easter commissioning scene at Matt 28:18, "All authority has been given to me ..."

      Matt 1:20- 225 (another "pretty, wingie thingie requirement)

      20/ But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. /21/ She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." /22/ All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: /23/ "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." /24/ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, /25/ but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus."

      "Bruce Chilton

      In Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography (2000), Chilton develops the idea of Jesus as a mamzer; someone whose irregular birth circu-mstances result in their exclusion from full participation in the life of the community. He argues for the natural paternity of Joseph and finds no need for a miraculous conception. In his subsequent reconstruction of Jesus' life, Chilton suggests that this sustained personal experience of exclusion played a major role in Jesus' self-ident-ity, his concept of God and his spiritual quest. "

      Mark 1: 11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

      "Gerd Lüdemann

      Lüdemann [Jesus, 9] affirms the historicity of Jesus being baptized by John, but does not trace the theological interpretations back beyond the post-Easter community:

      ... Jesus did not regard his baptism as appointment to be the son of God. The underlying concept derives from the community, which believed in Jesus as the son of God (cf. Gal. 2.16; 4.4) and located his appointment within his lifetime. In the earliest period, for example, the appointment of Jesus as son of God came only after his resurrection from the dead (cf. Rom. 1.4).

      "John P. Meier, Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame-

      The second volume of A Marginal Jew devotes considerable space to a study of John as "mentor" to Jesus. The historicity of the baptism is addressed on pages 100-105, before considering the meaning of Jesus' baptism on pages 106-116. On the basis of the criterion of embarrassment, supported by a limited proposal for multiple attestation (relying on possible echoes of a Q version in John's Gospel and in 1 John 5:6), Meier concludes:

      We may thus take the baptism of Jesus by John as the firm historical starting point for any treatment of Jesus' public ministry. (II,105) Having established the historicity of the baptism event, Meier is adamant that the narrative must be seen as a Christian midrash, drawing on various OT themes to assert the primacy of Jesus over John. In particular, Meier insists that the theophany must be excluded from all attempts to understand the event, since it is a later Christian invention rather than a surviving memory of some actual spiritual experience of Jesus.

      Meier's discussion of the meaning of the baptism puts great weight on the fact that accepting baptism implied Jesus' agreement with John's apocalyptic message, and also engages at length with the question of Jesus' sinlessness."

      November 25, 2013 at 9:34 am |
      • lol??

        Jesus has another name that will confuse the "experts".

        Rev 19:13
        And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

        November 25, 2013 at 9:53 am |
        • Reality # 2

          As noted previously:

          "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

          Martin Luther once "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

          November 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
      • JW


        You sound more like a philosopher. What you posted still doesn't prove that the son is equal to God or of the same substance. Those scriptures actually prove that the son is separate from the father.

        What those scholar you posted commented about the scriptures doesn't make any sense.... As I posted, they view what the So called Church fathers and Greek philosophers said with higher authority then what the bible really teaches.

        November 25, 2013 at 9:56 am |
        • Reality # 2

          Might want to reread the commentaries of the noted experts. They conclude that Jesus was not a god or the son of some god.

          November 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  5. Lawrence of Arabia

    So, with all of the unrighteousness evident within the man's life, what is to seperate his from the life of an unbeliever? The truth is, if you faith hasn't CHANGED you, then it hasn't SAVED you.

    November 25, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • midwest rail

      The truth is, contemporary evangelical Christians rarely display any attributes worth emulating. ..unless you consider arrogance, condescension and hatred admirable.

      November 25, 2013 at 8:26 am |
      • Lawrence of Arabia

        The truth is, contemporary evangelical Christians rarely display any attributes worth emulating. ..unless you consider arrogance, condescension and hatred admirable.
        And I could turn that around on you, sir. The hatred and vitriol that is displayed in people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, is that representative of all non-theists? Of course not.

        The truth is that systems are not judged by their followers, for the followers may not be "doing it right." The system instead is judged by the system itself.

        November 25, 2013 at 8:58 am |
        • Doris

          LOL, no independent audit, Larry? Sounds dangerous.

          November 25, 2013 at 9:03 am |
        • midwest rail

          "...if you faith hasn't CHANGED you, then it hasn't SAVED you. "
          You and others here regularly talk about how your faith has changed you, made you a better person...but judging by the behavior of most who post here, why would anyone want whatever it is that you have ? Why would they want to be like you ?

          November 25, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Lawrence

          I would that no one strive to be like me. My heart's desire is that men strive to be like Christ.
          We who call ourselves by the name of Christ serve him imperfectly, and there are many who, though they may identify themselves with Him, are indeed not His own. For Jesus said that there will come a day when He will look upon many who proclaim the name of Christ and He will say to them: "depart from me, you who practice lawlessness..."

          Then unless you wish to make the generalization that "all Christians are like so and so," then you must also accept the generalization that "all non-theists are like Richard Dawkins." We know that neither is true.

          Men are judged one at a time. Systems (faith, believe, non-belief, whatever) are judged by the doctrines they aspouse.

          November 25, 2013 at 11:35 am |
        • midwest rail

          LofA, thank you for the response. We're getting close to being on the same page. you said " Systems (faith, believe, non-belief, whatever) are judged by the doctrines they aspouse. " Yet nowhere have I asserted that the system itself displays the three traits I originally mentioned. I intentionally kept my characterization limited to its adherents.

          November 25, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Do you constantly have to re-examine your faith to make sure it is real? I thought faith and salvation through it was a gift from your God. You don't trust it? It's not reliable?

      November 25, 2013 at 8:28 am |
      • Lawrence of Arabia

        Do you constantly have to re-examine your faith to make sure it is real?
        The Bible says in 1 John to each of us "Examine yourselves to see if you be in the faith"

        I thought faith and salvation through it was a gift from your God. You don't trust it? It's not reliable?
        It is reliable. The checking is similar to how a sailor steers his ship by the stars. He is constantly vigilent to be sure that his direction is in accordance to how the stars direct his course.

        November 25, 2013 at 8:55 am |
        • Doris

          "It is reliable. The checking is similar to how a sailor steers his ship by the stars. He is constantly vigilent to be sure that his direction is in accordance to how the stars direct his course."

          I would liken it more to a horse with blinders on whose job is to circle Central Park every day the same way every day.

          November 25, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Doris

          ..the same way..

          November 25, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  6. Reality # 2

    Only for the new ghosts of this blog 🙂

    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 25, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  7. Apple Bush

    Never. Not once. Sinners cannot prove with evidence that their god doesn't exist. They may shout for eternity that their is no evidence for god, but they r liars.

    November 25, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • WASP

      hmmmm then 1 KINGS VERSE 30-40 should be simple for you then.

      build an alter, and summon your god to show himself the same as elijah; if he shows then he is real, if not then he is a lie just as elijah claimed BAAL was.
      if he doesn't consume your offering then either you aren't equal to elijah or your god doesn't exsist; take your pick. 🙂

      November 25, 2013 at 7:04 am |
  8. realbuckyball

    Well, he was promiscuous, wasn't he. So, I guess that makes him a GREAT Cat-o-lick.

    November 25, 2013 at 1:59 am |
  9. CNN's Boss

    You are all fired!!

    November 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • Moderator

      How do you spell BOSS backward?

      November 24, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        maybe by using a mirror..?

        November 24, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  10. Sports Fan

    So far it is all the running game of the Broncos.

    November 24, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  11. AE

    There has never been a Lutheran president. 🙁

    November 24, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Like all Lutherans, the candidate would have to distance herself from Luther's unfortunate works: Von den Jüden und iren Lügen

      November 24, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
      • AE

        That depends on the political climate at the time.

        November 24, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
        • Alias

          The republicans almost got a mormon elected.
          Without god, anything is possible.

          November 25, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • Robert Brown


        I read a summary of that, rough stuff. I don't pretend to know Lutheran doctrine, but they do believe in salvation by grace through faith.

        November 24, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Salvation is a given and can never be revoked no matter one's accu/b>mulative wrongs... All of Life immemorial will live on after they pass into the domains of their own body's kingdom of god... (See Luke 17:21)

          November 24, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Salvation is a given and can never be revoked no matter one's accumulative wrongs... All of Life immemorial will live on after they pass into the domains of their own body's kingdom of god... (See Luke 17:21)

          November 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Lutherans formally renounced Luther's antisemitic writings in the 1970s. The source of it, the reason Luther became so antisemitic, had to do with Luther's strong conviction that he was living in the end times, and his perception of Jews as intransigent towards conversion. With so little time left, he decided that Jews were too much of a danger to believers to justify spending more time on their conversion.

          It was predictable that the Nazis would love this stuff.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
      • Sara

        This is the problem with any movement naming itself based on a founder. It makes change so much more difficult.

        November 24, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
        • Doris

          Not sure why, but the first thing that popped into my head when I read your post, Sara, was the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

          November 25, 2013 at 8:58 am |
        • Sara

          Yeah, exactly. Naming an organization or theory after a person shows an utter lack of perspective and forethought.

          November 25, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Bender Bending Rodriguez

      You do have Sherrod Brown and Loni Anderson.

      November 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
      • AE

        Go Sherrod!

        November 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
        • Bender Bending Rodriguez

          They also have David Hasselhoff.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
        • AE

          Reruns of WKRP and Baywatch just got 100 times better.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  12. Phil

    Catholicism saves no one! Jesus saves! Regardless of religious background, or denomination, all must come to God the same way; through Jesus Christ The Savior! He is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father, but by Him. By Him, not a religious system of beliefs, and works, but through faith in the finished work of Christ alone! God Bless

    November 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • sam stone

      It is amusing that christians desire eternity with the being from whom they have to be "saved"

      stockholm syndrome, anyone?

      November 24, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        Saved from sin

        November 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Sin, death and the devil, for people who like to think in threes.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
        • sam stone

          dance around it any way you wish, robert

          in the end, you are still a snivelling sycophant

          November 24, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Yes Sam, thanks. The first time you called me that, I didn't realize it was an unintended compliment.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
        • sam stone

          it's not, robert

          if you want to take it as such, it just provides further evidence of your delusion

          November 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
      • Phil

        We all live forever, its just a question of where. I prefer to live with God in heaven. Those who reject Him, will live apart from His Holy Presence in the lake of fire. It seems some prefer that to submitting their lives to God. Fool anyone?

        November 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          What leads you to think that there is anything eternal about people, Phil? Everything I know and experience suggests that nothing about us is eternal. I could get technical about it, but that's really about it.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
        • aldewacs2

          Enough with the threats.
          Why should anyone assume that YOU know more than they do?
          You are a self-important windbag with a preacher complex.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
        • Phil

          Tom, we are made in the image of God. The most important aspect of that, is the we, like the angels, live forever.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
        • sam stone

          phil: you are a grovelling slave cvnt

          fvck you, your vindictive pr1ck god and your empty proxy threats

          cowardly punk

          November 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
        • sam stone

          what would christianity be without these pompous windbags?

          here is a suggestion for you, phil

          since you are sure you are going to live in paradise forever, why wait?

          do you have tall buildings where you live? it is the time to step up to (and off for) jeebus

          or, since you like to shoot your mouth off, may i suggest you insert the business end of a 12 gauge in it first?

          come on, punk

          you could be pleasing the slavior in no time at all


          November 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Phil, please forgive Sam. It looks like the idea of eternity disturbs him a little.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
        • sam stone

          I do not need the phil's forgiveness

          it is not the idea of eternity which bothers me

          it is the empty proxy threats from the blowhard theists who run like cowards from reason

          little god wannabes

          cowards wbo bloviate on and on about god's justice, but do everything they can to avoid such justice

          robbie is one of them
          gopher is another
          larrry of arabia

          not a rational thought between them

          but, they can sure beg to beat the band


          November 24, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
        • tallulah13

          There is absolutely no evidence to indicate that is any sort of life after death. Magical thinking doesn't change that.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
        • realbuckyball

          Too bad Phil that you never read the Bible.
          Psalm 39 :
          "Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
          before I depart, and am no more"
          Psalm 115 :
          The dead do not praise the Lord,
          nor do any that go down into silence".
          Psalm 6 :
          "For in death there is no remembrance of you, in Sheol, who can give you praise ?"

          November 25, 2013 at 1:54 am |
        • WASP

          kindof like a batery once our juice is gone, that's the end. in a sense everything "lives" forever because we are made of energy (atoms) and energy can not be created nor destroyed; so in a sense yes and in a sense no.
          the you that types these words will never exsist again, you are the culmination of the experiences you lived through and the choices you have made; yet when your organs fail you die. end of story......"phil" won't ever exsist beyond that point. that is death.

          personally the christian view of "heaven" sounds really boring. praising some ego-maniac for all of eternity? if you want a real heaven research VALHALLA. now that is heaven. eat,drink, fight and other things i can't post on here for all eternity...............well until ragnorak. 🙂

          November 25, 2013 at 7:14 am |
        • Sara


          "There is absolutely no evidence to indicate that is any sort of life after death. Magical thinking doesn't change that."

          Someone who dreams about the return of a dead relative, talks to ghosts or has had a near death experience has 'evidence' in the only sense that that word canbeen meaningful. We don't ever know with certainty whether any of our beliefs are true, so evidence can only ever mean a sign or data point, and it is evidence in sofar as it fits with a particular theory. It is good evidence when other explanations for the data or other theories do not exist, are few or are weak. We can want the world to be less subjective than this, but that won't make it so.

          November 25, 2013 at 8:27 am |
        • Science Works

          But Sara science engineers have created a tool for creating GHOSTS.

          November 25, 2013 at 8:39 am |
        • Alias

          How is it that Sam Stone can make these posts, and it stays here for days, but if I post that the Jews are committing crimes against the Palestinians I get deleted?

          November 25, 2013 at 10:43 am |
        • Ron

          Phil, as you can see from the so called "atheists" responses, they really do believe in God, and really do hate God. How else could you exlain such responses? If someone really thought that God were merely a myth, then why in the world would they become so defensive and venomous towards a so called myth? lol

          November 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
        You've had a pleasant run!
        Shall we be trotting home again?'
        But answer came there none —
        And this was scarcely odd, because
        They'd eaten every one.

        November 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
        • Akira

          Ten points to your house for the Lewis Caroll reference, Tom.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
      • sam stone

        nonsense, robert

        you are being saved from your mythical vindictive pr1ck god from the taint of your equally mythical "sin"

        November 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Bender Bending Rodriguez

      The Catholic Church also says that Jesus is the savior. James 2:24 says it's works and salvation are needed. If you believe you're saved by faith alone then can you commit any sin and still go to heaven?

      November 24, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
      • aldewacs2

        All immaterial.
        If the believers cannot muster even an ounce of proof that there are any gods, then all this rhetoric about gods is just buffoonery. Until there is any proof, all discussion about gods-related stuff can be dumped in the dustbin of history.

        November 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
        • Bender Bending Rodriguez

          I am religious but if any religious individual tells you that there is proof of God, then they obviously do not know what they're talking about. Religion is based on faith, not evidence.

          November 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Wrong again preacher breath.
      "No one shall come to me, unless THE FATHER draw him:.

      November 25, 2013 at 5:56 am |
  13. bostontola

    I thought Christians believe all people are imperfect. If so, why would Kennedy's transgressions make him less of a Catholic? I also thought only God can judge.

    November 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Bender Bending Rodriguez

      I don't think that the Catholic Church would say he was less of a Catholic because he had a number of affairs.

      November 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • aldewacs2

      All immaterial gibberish.
      If the believers cannot muster even an ounce of proof that there are any gods, then all this rhetoric about gods is just buffoonery. Until there is any proof, all discussion about gods-related stuff can be dumped in the dustbin of history.

      November 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • Sara

      I don't think the affairs make one less Catholic once that is established. but when one's Catholicism is in question (as a potential lie of convenience) affairs, church attendance etc all act as evidence for the case as to whether he was genuine in his beliefs.

      November 25, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Alias

      At least that catholic went for mature women and not boys.

      November 25, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  14. myrtlemaylee

    I look for articles that are helpful to me, trying to live my own life according to my own beliefs. This isn't one of them. So JFK was a miserable sinner, as we all are? Not exactly man bites dog. IMO, I see no relevance. Jesus was perfect, the rest of us are much less, trying to be something more. JFK did some magnificent things & some less than magnificent. But he was obviously a practicing Catholic. Whether he practiced enough is up to God. I'm still practicing (poorly, I acknowledge). Peace.

    November 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      What kind of "perfect being" curses fig trees?

      November 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
      • Ben

        Or sends demons into poor, innocent pigs. Or violently overturns the tables of moneychangers? Or tells people to sell all the belongings in with his personal guarantee that he will return soon, but never does?

        November 24, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
      • Robert Brown


        It was symbolic. Israel had been given great things and had produced no fruit.


        November 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


          If a bible verse furthers the cause, it is to be taken literally. If a bible verse is detrimental to the cause, it is either: taken out of context; is allegorical; refers to another verse somewhere else; is an ancient cultural anomaly; is a translation or copyist's error; means something other than what it actually says; Is a mystery of god or not discernible by humans; or is just plain magic.

          November 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
      • Joey

        If not being perfect is human then Jesus was either not perfect, or was not fully human. It seems to me you can't have it both ways.

        November 25, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • sam stone

      why is it hard living your life according to your beliefs?

      November 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Sara

      It wouldbe much more interesting to do an article on how politicians in a democacy cater their faith claims to the voters. AN international angle showing the ways this is done in christian, hindu, atheist etc dominated countries would be cool, especially where, if at all, there are differences.

      November 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
      • Alias


        November 25, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • WASP

      " Jesus was perfect"

      so he was a demi-god and perfect? hmmmmmm i say your god needs to go back to carpenter school. he continues to make faulty products.

      noah and his family
      lot and his incest family
      humans in general

      November 25, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      [angels sing]
      GOD: myrtlemaylee! Oh, don't grovel!
      [singing stops]
      One thing I can't stand, it's people groveling.
      myrtelmaylee: Sorry.
      GOD: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's 'sorry
      this' and 'forgive me that' and 'I'm not worthy'.
      What are you doing now?!
      myrtlemaylee: I'm averting my eyes, O Lord.
      GOD: Well, don't. It's like those miserable Psalms– they're so depressing.
      Now, knock it off!

      November 25, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  15. Rebel4Christ


    November 24, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Madame Laveau


      November 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  16. Charles


    November 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  17. Charles

    The article is too much fluff, a frequent problem when it comes to JFK. Maybe it was the short tenure or the uneasiness of talking about an assassinated president or a catholic president or a non-FDR/LBJ democrat or myth-breaking. However, a honest, thoughtful analysis of Kennedy's faith was addressed by Cardinal Chaput at http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/3489

    November 24, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  18. EX Catholic

    This is like; who cares? Really! An idolater is an idolater by any other name. IDOLATRY is a SIN as simple as that, it is what it is!

    November 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Fan2C

      EX Catholic,

      You're getting there - now deal with that FANTASY IDOL of yours...

      November 24, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • EX Catholic

        Your ignorance of the matter is not surprising!

        November 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
        • sam stone

          come on, EX, time to go meet jeebus.

          do you have tall buildings where you live, or are you just another mouthy troll cvnt?

          November 24, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Observer

      Yep. Time to work on craven images, too. Like the statue that survived the disaster in the Philippines.

      Christian HYPOCRITES need to start taking care of their OWN sins.

      Until they do, it's all PICK and CHOOSE HYPOCRISY.

      November 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • igaftr

        if you look to the statue's left in the picture, you will see a pole...no adornment, still standing . It is a Festivus miracle ! ! !

        November 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
        • a reasonable atheist

          Feats of strength!

          November 24, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Apple is calling

      Give it up.

      November 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • J.R.

      You're right. Not one person cares about you. Troll.

      November 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Ben

      Other Christians still have pictures of Jesus somewhere in their lives and, with their reverence for the Bible being unerring, have made that book every bit an idol worshipped as any statue of a Catholic saint.

      November 24, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
      • hearties

        People don't love the physical book per se, they love that it holds the spiritual words from God, if they read it, believe him, and love him. The bible is essentially a collection of love letters.

        November 24, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
      • hearties

        In that book are the words from God himself, there are no better words spoken anywhere. The president could call on the phone and there'd be no comparison. The bible is the book of all time, because God's words are recorded there. Otherwise, it's just a stack of papers.

        November 24, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  19. JW

    Scholar Charles Freeman answers that those who believed that Jesus is God “found it difficult to refute the many sayings of Jesus that suggested he was subordinate to God the Father.” As a result, church tradition and opinions of later authorities were substiituted for the Gospels. To this day, many of the clergy elevate the uninspired sayings of so-called Church Fathers to a plane higher than the Word of God! If you have ever discussed the Trinity doctrine with a seminarian, you have likely noticed that.

    The New Encyclopædia Britannica describes one major factor that led to twisted reasoning: “Christians who had some training in Greek philosophy began to feel the need to express their faith in its terms, both for their own intellectual satisfaction and in order to convert educated pagans.” An important doctrine that was given a pagan twist had to do with the identiity of Jesus Christ. The Bible calls him the Son of God; the lovers of Greek philosophy insisted that he is God.!

    November 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • EX Catholic

      Well the Trinitarian dogma allows the roman-Catholics to argue that because of Jesus being God, then "logically" to them, Mary was/is the mother of God. This perverted reasoning is the foundation for ALL the other aberrations the roman church has come-up with through the centuries. However Idolatry remains a grave and serious sin till the end of all things.

      November 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
      • Salero21

        EX Catholic is stupidity on full bloom.

        November 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
        • demon or 2

          salero21 is too insecure to handle different opinions that make sense.

          November 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
        • Salero21

          Nope. He, and you, are heretics.

          November 24, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
        • Observer

          I'm atheist therefore I AM TOTALLY STUPID.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          @ Observer,

          No way in Hell you moronic I am more atheist by far than you, that, makes me, by far more STUPID than you.

          November 24, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
      • JW

        I like your reasonings!

        November 24, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
        • Salero21

          You would since you are a heathen and don't believe in the Trinity.

          November 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          A lot of people don't believe in your contrived God, or care about its details, Salero21.

          November 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
      • Ben

        EX Catholic
        Strictly speaking, hanging up a Redskins jersey in your games room is an example of biblical "idolatry". Same goes for all of our money, what with their having president's images on them. So, if you want to play the idolatry card you's better be willing to give up a whole lot more than a few images of saints.

        November 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • igaftr

      Odd that so much of what Jesus allegedly said was actually taught by Buddha 400 years earlier...Jesus never credits Buddha for the foundation of his work.

      November 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • Ben

        Much of what he said was also popular rabbinical teaching of the time, particularly Hillel.

        November 24, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • liz48

      In human reasoning a person cannot be equal to the person he submits to. However in spiritual truth that is not impossible. The bible tells us to submit to one another and yet says that the husband is head of the wife...We are also told that in the spirit there is no male or female, yet the husband is head of the wife...

      In the realms of the spirit Jesus is man and is God and is the first Son of God and brought all those who accept his reconciling sacrifice to be Sons of God just as he is. He is referred to as the first fruits and the first born of MANY brethren.

      November 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
      • EX Catholic

        Your Greco-roman philosophic reasoning is faulty because it ignores the Scriptures.

        The husband is the head (leader/chief) in the household. That's why the leader/chief (head) of the household is not told to submit to the wife. That did not begin with the Gospel but way back in the day when both were Created. Adam was Created first though in the same day, so he had seniority. Also the Commandment was given to him not to Eve his wife.

        In exactly the same manner, the Son submits himself to the Will of the Father; but never ever says the Scriptures, that the Father submits Himself to the Son. Give a second reading to the Scriptures instead on relying only in Philosophy.

        November 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • Salero21

          Or you can shut up and let people interpret the Scripures the way they want to without mouthy trolls bashing them.

          November 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
        • Ben

          So you're saying that the Bible teaches that women are forever to be subservient to men, and that even adult men must submit to their fathers?

          November 24, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  20. Lionly Lamb

    What is Nationalism and who are these nationalists and why should we all nationalize toward someone else's national policies..?

    November 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • what?

      When I first landed on the shores of a yet undiscovered land, I asked one of the inhabitants what his name was. He said Lucy.
      I asked many more people and all said their name was Lucy

      It must have been a Lucy nation

      November 24, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Your "Lucy nation' reminds me of a 'Doctor Who' show where the Master integrated himself into becoming everyone one else...

        November 24, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • igaftr

        Was it a mass hallucination?

        November 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
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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.