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Archbishop Chaput critiques famous JFK 'Houston speech'

Catholic World News - March 02, 2010

Speaking in Houston, Texas-- where Senator John F. Kennedy delivered a famous speech on religion during his presidential campaign in 1960-- Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput has offered a serious critique of the late president's address. The Kennedy speech, which has been widely adopted as a model for Catholic politicians, was "sincere, compelling, articulate-- and wrong," the archbishop concludes.

By setting up artificial barriers between private beliefs and public actions, Kennedy harmed the cause of Catholic influence in American political affairs, Archbishop Chaput says:

His Houston remarks profoundly undermined the place not just of Catholics, but of all religious believers, in America’s public life and political conversation. Today, half a century later, we’re paying for the damage.

Kennedy was right to say that he would be guided by his own conscience in his execution of the public trust, the archbishop argues. But he was wrong to suggest that his conscience could or should be separated from the guidance of his Church.

Archbishop Chaput says that the net result of the "Houston speech" was a gain for secularists who seek to remove religious influence from public life. He remarks that "too many Christian individuals, Protestant and Catholic alike, live their faith as if it were 'private idiosyncrasy' which they try to prevent from becoming a 'public nuisance.'"

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  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Mar. 02, 2010 9:05 PM ET USA

    Finally, a recognition of the source of our Catholic-political problems. Kennedy was the darling of the hierarchy for way too long. He charmed and snookered the bishops and cardinals all the while undermining the exercise of faith in the public square and leading a seriously immoral personal life. The Bishops and Cardinals in America were asleep at the switch for many years, beguiled by their closeness to power.

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