See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cardinal Cushing, chaplain to the Kennedy's.

Cardinal Cushing of Boston, praying at the John F. Kennedy Inaugural.
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Somehow I get the impression Obama is not a religious man. It seems to me that the clerics chosen to 'speak/pray' at his Inaugural may be more political choices than religious.

14 comments:

  1. That may be true. Looking back, I don't think Kennedy was really that religious either.

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  2. michael r.7:41 AM

    Obama seems more like Reagan in this regard. It may be true that his choices are the politcally correct ones, but there is nothing different here from any of the previous presiders.

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  3. Sometimes I wonder if the only god Obama believes in is the one he sees in the mirror every morning...

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  4. Kennedy attended Mass on Sunday regularly - even during the hectic days of the campaign.

    The comparison to Reagan seems appropriate, I liked Reagan however.

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  5. Terry,

    A little more information on JFK's Mass-attending habits. I'm basing this on David Pietruska's very good book 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon, in which the author cites the New York Times, of all sources, that in 1962, JFK's only full year in the White House, he attended Mass only 33 Sundays out of 52. Jack himself said, in response to the question "what kind of Catholic are you," "I attend church on Sunday."

    His relationship with the faith was tenuous at best. He told his inamorata Judith Campbell "I want them to believe in me as a free thinking individual and not to worry about the influence of the Pope. The issues I'm interested in have nothing to do with religion."

    Jackie once told Arthur Kronk, "I think it's so unfair of people to be against Jack because he is a Catholic. He's such a poor Catholic. Now if it were Bobby, I could understand it." (As an aside, Thomas Reeves, author of the excellent Kennedy bio A Question of Character, noted that in his heart, Kennedy was probably an atheist. Pietrusza doesn't go that far, but does acknowledge that Kennedy had grave doubts about his faith, and once threatened to quit the Church.)

    Also, in seeing the picture of Cardinal Cushing, I'm reminded of a quote from Cushing, in which he boasted, "I'll tell you who elected John Kennedy. It was his father, Joe, and me, right here in this room."

    What I mean by all this is that Kennedy likely wasn't any more religious than Obama; however, he understood more than many politicians the importance of appearance, and the role of religion as a civic instrument in society. In other words, he knew you had to pay lip service to it; many politicians today don't even go that far.

    Mitchell

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  6. Mitchell, Thanks - you got me there.
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    I just don't like Obama.
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    I also wish the Kennedy's were good Catholics.

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  7. One more thing though - at least Kennedy went to Mass almost every Sunday - no small matter.

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  8. Terry,

    You're correct about that, and I don't diminish that (although, taken in the context of the times, I wonder if most Catholics - even nominal ones - would have taken 33 out of 52 as a good percentage. I'm not being contrary here - since this was long before my Catholic time, and prior to the true effects of the Second Vatican Council, I wonder if that would have been considered normal or abnormal. I do know that for state occasions and other events, he would make sure to get a dispensation from the local Bishop to eat meat on Friday.

    Speaking of Mass attendance, an interesting tidbit from William Manchester's The Death of a President about how when Kennedy attended Mass, he would process out of the Church right after the priest. He would exit the pew and genuflect, as would Secret Service agents sitting in front of and behind him (whether they were Catholic or not). As they went up the aisle JFK would begin to slightly bend and the knees, until by the time they reached the exit he was nearly crouching, blocked entirely from shooting range (from a gunman in the choir loft, for example) by the agents. A really nice bit of detail that makes a history book come to life!

    Mitchell

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  9. I think Kennedy was one of many Catholics who went to Mass because back then that is what you did on Sunday. And his mother expected it. As kookoo as Rose was - she did have great faith.

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  10. Angela,

    She was a very pious woman. As opposed to her husband Joe, who was - well, not...

    Mitchell

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  11. michael r.7:05 PM

    Interesting history, Mitchell. I wonder about Kennedy genuflecting and crouching down the aisle. If memory serves, Manchesters book was published quite a few years before all of the details about Kennedy's physical ailments were revealed. I'd have to wonder if he wasn't bent over more from pain than trying to dodge a possible assassin.

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  12. Michael,

    That could well be. As I recall, the source of the story was JFK himself, who supposedly told Manchester that it was done to make himself a smaller target.

    And while I have no reason to doubt it, you know that retrospect can be a funny thing. JFK told several people of how anyone who wanted to assassinate a president could do it with relative ease, if they were prepared to sacrifice their own lives. He even is supposed to have said it in the hotel room in Fort Worth the morning of his death. (It was a rainy morning, and he spoke of how someone could have hidden a gun in a raincoat, snuck up in the crowd of umbrellas, pulled the trigger and gotten away in the confusion.)

    So I also wouldn't discount the idea that this story could have taken on more significance after the assassination than it was necessarily worth.

    Mitchell

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  13. Was JFK religious or not? Perhaps he, like so many of us, was lukewarm in his practice, but wanted to do better. Michael Brown posted an interesting article on his website about 5 years ago, “Kennedy’s Secret Devotion,” about the possibility that he went to confession and Mass the morning before his assassination. I can no longer find it on SpiritDaily.com, but you can read the entire article at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1027338/posts. That Saint Pio wept over Kennedy’s death and the remark he made concerning Kennedy’s salvation are particularly striking to me.

    Following the original article, Brown posted several responses that complete the story, adding details that were not available to Brown when he first wrote about it. These comments are still in the SpiritDaily.com archives, at http://www.spiritdaily.com/Kennedy%20confession.htm. These new details would seem to bear out Saint Pio’s assurance.

    And then, in the category of “Just Plain Weird,” at the bottom of the responses to the Kennedy article is “Kennedy Historical Mystery,” which compares Kennedy to Lincoln. Hmmm. Interesting, especially since Obama is being compared to both of them.

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  14. By the way, there was caustic commentary a-plenty following the articles on the freerepublic.com page. Not surprising when you consider some of the over-the-top flaky stuff he posts--and he tends to drop lots of hints, then tells us we need to "discern." But he is a trained journalist, and when he gives facts, they seem solid enough to me.

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