I suppose I would be interested in the 50 year mark of the assassination of JFK no matter where I lived, but now that I live and work in the shadow of the JFK library, it’s even more poignant and present. There have been banners with JFKs quotes hanging from the local lampposts for months, and this morning cars were pouring down the driveway to the museum long before it even opened.
Barber’s Adagio for Strings has long been associated with this tragedy, and I am happy to share that piece here, because it puts into sound my firm belief that even that which is wrenching can be beautiful.
A few years ago, on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, I offered some thoughts on his conflicted Catholic legacy. I hope you’ll join me in the archives to reflect on The Catholic President.
Al Javier says
But he could have said something different to reconcile those two loyalties, that, to quote the words of a British parliamenterian faced with the same sort of anti-Catholicism, in paraphrase: “I am a Roman Catholic and every night I go and tell these beads (pray the Rosary). If that offends you that I do that, may God spare me the indignity of representing you in Parliament”. But to say that his faith should not inform how he acted as President would be a lie at best and infamous at worst. A lie because if it did inform his Presidency (to which it did to some extent, I’ll grudgingly give him that), he’d be lying to the nation; infamous because it would mean his Catholicism was just for show. As it was it inspires the Sebeliuses and Pelosis (with adequate counterparts on the Republican side; I just remember them from the top of my head) who use it as a means to pick which parts of Catholicism they like. As we have it the Houston speech is used by one party to ignore issues of personal morality, and by the other to ignore issues of Catholic Social Teaching.
As for your comment in the archives about whether any American Catholic of the time had issues, I recall something long ago about a Catholic Nixon voter who found the Houston speech bad for the very reasons people criticize it now. But the point is that American Catholics were so eager to assimilate that they seemed at times willing to throw the Church under the bus if necessary. It wasn’t a new problem then, either – the historical record shows Catholic bishops concerned that their flock had gotten into Comstockery even with Catholic materials on the family during the 1910s, so eager were they to ape their non-Catholic neighbors. Just because everyone was doing it doesn’t necessarily make it noble. It makes it understandable, perhaps a mitigating factor, but it doesn’t make it a particularly good thing to do.
But perhaps I see it as someone who came of age in the previous decade.
Margaret Felice says
Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment! I agree that the desire to assimilate can’t be overlooked in the history of American Catholicism.