Hard to believe now, but there actually were people in this country who believed that no Roman Catholic could be a loyal American, that deep down, they would always owe their allegiance to a foreign power - the Pope - and a foreign capital - Vatican City.
Those ideas had prevented any Catholic from becoming president before 1960. Whatever else one thought of his performance in office, nobody ever accused President Kennedy of being some kind of puppet for the pope. Those fears vanished, seemingly overnight. Yet here is an interesting puzzle.
In two years, it will have been half a century since Kennedy was elected. So - how many Catholics have sat in the Oval Office since then? Well, zero. We haven’t elected a Catholic since.
And we won’t this year, since both major party candidates are Protestants. Is it just a coincidence that we haven’t elected another Catholic to the nation’s highest office? I don’t think so…
The problem can be summed up in three words: Roe vs. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing abortion as a Constitutional right. This was a decision that divided Catholics like no other in history. The church is also opposed to birth control.
However, that is a doctrine that American Catholics have chosen to overwhelmingly ignore, and the church, for the most part, has mostly looked the other way.
But abortion, especially abortion-on-demand, was something else again. This was not something the church felt it could compromise over. Suddenly, Catholic politicians were caught in the cross hairs of modern society’s ultimate conflict.
The problem was worse for them because the majority of the most powerful and prominent Roman Catholics in government are liberal Democrats. Think Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi.
They are personally pro-choice. That doesn’t present much of a problem for them in their current jobs. They can all continue to be easily re-elected as long as they have a pulse.
The problems arise when they try to operate on a national stage. Nobody who doesn’t support a woman’s right to choose can ever hope to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Yet anyone who does will be regarded as baby-killers by a large and vocal faction of their church, who will try to sink their candidacy. Nobody imagined this in 1960, when John Fitzgerald Kennedy took nearly eighty percent of the Catholic vote.
But this led to John Forbes Kerry losing fifty-two percent of Catholic voters to a Methodist named George W. Bush.
That’s a dilemma that will continue as long as millions of voters continue to cast their ballots on the basis of a single issue.
You know, last time I checked, there were ten commandments. I can’t quite get those who wants to reduce all morality to only one,