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SPECIAL: Another J.F.K. Hides

3/29/2004 - 2:10 PM PST

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By: Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, L.L.C.

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“Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life”

“It is a question of the lay Catholic’s duty to be morally coherent, found within one’s conscience, which is one and indivisible. “There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual life’, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.…Living and acting in conformity with one’s own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of confessionalism, but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person.”

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I believe it was that great American philosopher /ball player Yogi Berra who coined the comedic expression “Déjà vu Allover Again. It seemed apropos to me as I read a Press Report this morning: “People in Rome are becoming more and more aware that there's a problem of John Kerry and a political scandal with his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of stances, particular abortion," Kerry said, while responding to a statement of a Vatican official to the Time magazine. “I don't think it complicates things at all," he said, "We have separation of church and state in this country. As John Kennedy said very clearly 'I will be a president who happens to be Catholic, not a Catholic president'."

Here we go again.

I write this article as a private citizen. I write as someone who has had disagreements with some of my colleagues on issues of war and peace and social justice. I have upset neo-conservatives, conservatives and, of course, contemporary liberals with my writings. I simply reject all the labels. I am a student and proponent of Catholic social teaching as a path toward true social justice. I really want to have a Catholic President. Not just because he or she is Catholic but because I believe that Catholic social teaching is precisely what we need in the current culture to find our way out of the darkness.

I vividly recall that fateful day, November 22, 1963, when the nation stood still. I was an elementary school student at St. Matthews Catholic School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. I was in my morning class when the announcement came over the P.A. system “President Kennedy has been shot”. We were all shocked and many began to cry.

Sister led us all, hands folded in prayer, across the parking lot to the Church. Once inside the beautiful old Church sanctuary we joined the entire school, local parents and our pastor, in heartfelt prayer for “our” President. That is how we all viewed the late President. After all, he was “ours”, the first Catholic President in American history. We were rightly proud. We were devastated when the dreadful announcement came informing all of us that “President Kennedy is dead”

That defining moment forever changed my personal life. It also changed American history, particularly for Catholics. To this day my mother still keeps the “scrapbook” I made where I kept all of the pictures of the motorcade and of the unbelievable events. I resolved to do all I could to be a good citizen and a good Catholic. This man was a monumental figure, a symbol, for a whole generation.

Unlike some contemporary Catholic cultural commentators, I am not a former Baptist or an evangelical Protestant convert to the Catholic faith. I am a Boston born and bred, infant baptized Catholic. Though I am a “revert” to the faith, having later chosen it as my own after a pilgrimage, a search, a journey after truth. It was after that embrace that I began to more deeply understand the implications of that faith in my daily life and its incredible relevance to the social issues of our age.

Unfortunately, the influence of the Church on my family waned in my teenage years. Years later, as I began to sincerely seek to inform my own political participation by my faith, I discovered something that truly disturbed me, my childhood hero, J.F.K. had failed to grasp the deeper implications of the faith that we shared as it pertained to his own political participation.He espoused an approach to faith that separated it completely from his public service as though his faith were “private”, not meant to inform his public positions or leadership. That is practical heresy and dangerous.

Christian faith may be profoundly “personal” but it is never “private”. Unfortunately, this approach has now become the rallying mantra for another J.F.K., a candidate for ...

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