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Why the Kennedy assassination captures our imagination even today

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (

Today, Nov. 22, 2013, marks the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, the first-and only Catholic president. Even fifty years later, debate rages over who really shot Kennedy and why.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At 1:00 PM, Central Standard Time, with a sheet drawn back from Kennedy's face, Father Oscar Huber administered the sacrament of Extreme Unction. As soon as he concluded the sacred rite, doctors pronounced John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States and our first Catholic president, dead.

At 1:33, a formal announcement was made that Kennedy had died and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson would be taking the oath of office under the extreme circumstances.

Television viewers, those listening to the radio, and children at schools heard the announcement. Everyone who was alive at the time burned into their memory where they were when they heard the news. The president of the United States had been assassinated and the nation mourned.

Now, five decades later, debate still rages over his death. Kennedy had plenty of powerful enemies. The Soviet Union, Castro in Cuba, even the Teamsters, the CIA, and the Mafia have been accused.

Still, an official government inquiry, the Warren Commission, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald sniped Kennedy, firing three shots from an Italian sniper rifle, missing once and hitting Kennedy twice and Texas Gov. John Connally once.

However, the majority of Americans, are either undecided on the question, or doubt the Warren Commission's findings. Perhaps the greatest question is just how Oswald, even as a trained marine marksman, could fire three shots with such accuracy in rapid succession.

The reality of course, is that a trained rifleman can work a bolt-action rifle with a clip much more quickly than people realize. Also, Oswald wasn't as clean and accurate as we think. Oswald missed his first shot, which several people heard, but nobody seemed to react. The second shot struck Kennedy in his back, exited his neck and struck  Gov. Connally. The third shot was the fatal blow, striking the President in the head.

Nevertheless, there is plenty of debate. Was there a fourth shot fired? Why did an officer in the motorcade dismount and run towards a bush? Did he see evidence of a possible second sniper?

Forensic evaluation claims the bullets were all fired from Oswald's rifle, and that conclusion seems to fit the lone assassin theory. Yet plenty of questions abound.

Oswald had previously served in the Marines and it is widely known that Marines are riflemen. The Corps prides itself on the marksmanship of its Marines. Oswald was a trained shot, so was he recruited for the job? Oswald also defected to the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1962. Was he turned into a Soviet agent during that time? Did he return with the intent of serving as a KGB sleeper?

There were plenty of motives, plenty of suspects, but few answers.

Adding to the mystery was the subsequent assassination of Oswald just two days later by Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby. Why would Ruby assassinate the assassin? Was he covering for the Mafia, killing Oswald before he could talk? And why would a man with an established business and a reputation commit a crime he could never hope to get away with? Or was Ruby connected to the CIA somehow? Who was the mystery man "Davis" he mentioned to his defense attorney?

Ruby himself stated that his true motives would never come to light, but indicated that they were tied to men in powerful positions. His request to be moved to Washington DC where he felt could safely testify to the Warren Commission was denied.

Ruby would allegedly later tell others that Kennedy was assassinated in an effort to overthrow the government and that he was forced to kill Oswald.

Bizarre snippets of truth such as these have captured the public imagination and leave people wondering whether or not Oswald was simply a lone gunman who wanted to kill Kennedy for his own personal motives, or if he was part of something larger.

To this day, some artifacts and records surrounding the assassination and subsequent investigation remain sealed. In 2017, the remaining few percent of files will be released to the public. Perhaps they will shed light on the mystery, or perhaps they will deepen it further.

We like tidy endings. Stories that snap shut at the end like a lid on a well-crafted wooden box.

Unfortunately, reality does not afford us many such endings. Instead, mysteries persist and wonder as we might, dig as hard as we can, we may never know all the facts or the truth behind what was really going on that day.

So for now, we remember our slain president, and hope and pray such a terrible thing never happens again.

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