Santorum’s Catholicism, candidacy, and Archbp. Chaput’s address “The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life”

It is timely to haul this old PODCAzT out of cold storage.  In light of presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s comments about Pres. Kennedy and Catholicism and the public square, let’s review Archbp. Chaput’s outstanding address in Houston in 2010.

This could be very helpful for your own discussion of what is going on in the MSM.

The other day Sen. Santorum made a comment about Pres. Kennedy’s speech in Houston on 12 September 1960 to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in which Kennedy effectively said that he would isolate his Catholic identity in solely the private sphere of his life, thus establishing a terrible precedent.  Santorum said that the idea behind JFK’s speech sickened him.  The MSM got out their knives.

What about JFK’s speech was so bad?  Do you even know about that important speech, during which a Catholic candidate tried to allay the anti-Catholic suspicions of Protestants in the South?

Here is your chance to find out.

Archbp. Chaput hits the nail on the head… eloquently.

On Monday evening, 1 March 2010, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver gave a speech at Houston Baptist University called “The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life”.

The lecture was presented in coordination with the Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World at the University of St. Thomas.

He criticized President John F. Kennedy’s historic campaign speech on his faith impacting his possible presidency as “sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong.” Twitter

I think this was a very important address.  As such, I decided to make a PODCAzT by reading the text of the Archbishop’s speech (yes, it is available also on Youtube) with by comments before and after.  I received the link to the Youtube page while I was making this, but decided to post anyway.  And my rendering of the talk section is a bit short that the original.  Check the page of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Kennedy’s speech:


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Andrew says:

    Yesterday, Fox aired a discussion on the Santorum comment (O’reilly) and it was painful to watch because no one understood the fallacy lurking behind the Kennedy speech. If the “conservatives” don’t get this, what hope is there for the liberals to get it?

  2. Captain Peabody says:

    Well, that makes me like Santorum a great deal more. Kennedy’s speech really does almost make me vomit reading it. When I look at it, I can see a thousand Nancy Pelosi’s looking back. Blech! [That image made me throw up in my mouth a little.]

  3. Centristian says:

    To be honest, I’m not quite sure how Rick Santorum’s performance in the last GOP debate allows him to assail President Kennedy’s quote. I cannot help but recall cringing at some of Santorum’s own quotes from the debate regarding his support for Title X funding bills that supported Planned Parenthood:

    “I admit I voted for things I didn’t like” but “I will defund Planned Parenthood when I’m President.”

    “Even though I don’t support it, I voted for the larger bill.”

    “…it was against the principles I believed in.”

    “I took one for the team.”

    President Kennedy, as Archbishop Chaput recounts, at least said, that if his duties as President should “ever require me to violate my conscience or violate the national interest, I would resign the office.” Santorum doesn’t quite seem to measure-up to John F. Kennedy in that respect.

  4. wmeyer says:

    Centristian: I submit that JFK’s conscience appears to have been less strict than we might hope.

  5. HyacinthClare says:

    At least one of us on this thread has never once failed to live up to his own principles. He has never done something he later wished he hadn’t. I’m quite sure I’d be unwilling to tell the entire televised world that I’ve done things that looking back, I’m not proud of, but then I’m not as honest or as humble as Rick Santorum appears to be.

  6. Ezra says:

    Listen from the 9-minute mark when Santorum appeared on Hannity:

    I do have my own religious beliefs, which obviously I believe in. My track record on this is I’ve voted consistently to allow funding for this type of contraception to be available for poor women. My religious beliefs say that that’s not a proper thing to do and we don’t practice that, but my job is not to impose every one of my values and beliefs on the American public. This is something different people can disagree on, and I respect their beliefs, and certainly would do nothing to do to try to get in the way of anybody having access or using contraception.

    Did Kennedy support tax-funded contraception?

  7. Nicole says:

    Whether Kennedy supported tax-funded abortifacients/contraceptive devices or not doesn’t make him a sudden saint… :)

  8. anilwang says:

    Centristian, they’re two different issues.

    To quote Chaput, “too many Catholics confuse their personal opinions with a real conscious”.

    It’s possible to be Catholic and still disagree about this or that policy of the bishops, but one cannot be Catholic if one disagrees with the deposit of the faith.

    Public health care and public education are two things that Catholics can disagree on. It’s possible to disagree whether home schooling or Catholic schools are the right choice. But they cannot disagree on abortion or contraception or forcing Catholics to violate their faith.

  9. Ray says:

    Woe be the day that good Catholics start using JFK as a barometer of being a good Catholic. We, as Catholics, must be more intelligent than that, I pray. All of us should be for our first right in the Constitution and not be for freedom from religion, which this administration is trying to foist on us.

  10. wanda says:

    You are right, wmeyer. JFK is the last person to be held up as any sort of ideal Catholic, President or anything else.

  11. wmeyer says:

    wanda: That is your own judgment, not mine. I meant what I said, which is a matter of discernment. I did not render any judgment.

  12. smmclaug says:

    President Kennedy, as Archbishop Chaput recounts, at least said, that if his duties as President should “ever require me to violate my conscience or violate the national interest, I would resign the office.” Santorum doesn’t quite seem to measure-up to John F. Kennedy in that respect.

    I don’t know. Saying you’d resign if your “conscience” were violated is a pretty easy thing to say. It sounds much more pious than it is, especially if you have a notoriously elastic conscience, as JFK did. And it’s not as though his conscience is interchangeable with Church teaching, as anybody who has ever tried to be a faithful Catholic knows.

    Moreover, it isn’t saying much to claim that you’d resign if your duties required you to violate the national interest, because I can’t think of very many situations in which the President would be required as President to violate US national interests. As head of his party? Yes, certainly. As a career politician? Definitely. Those roles might well compel you to violate the national interest. But not the Presidency itself, unless the circumstances were truly in extremis, such as those Abraham Lincoln faced (who could have made a credible argument that his duty to uphold the national interest required him to violate his oath of office to uphold the Constitution).

    All this ignores the brute fact that politics, especially in a democracy, is all about compromise between competing interests. A man who gets in front of a microphone and swears he’ll never do violence either to his conscience or to what is best for the country is just engaging in one of those gratuitous promises of political virtue that characterize political campaigns. Marking JFK down as somehow “ahead of” Santorum on those issues, on the basis of a desperate JFK campaign speech, is a bit much.

    Santorum may have violated his principles, but he’s atoned for it, and at least he has principles. Find me a two-term US Senator who is a conservative, any time in the last fifty years, who didn’t violate his principles in service to “the bigger legislative picture.” It can’t be done., which is one reason Senators seldom become Presidents. Obama did it by virtually not voting on anything at all for two years and then getting out altogether by running for President.

  13. Charles says:

    Here’s Santorum’s talk at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Sept. 9, 2010:

  14. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    As an aside, why is this man, Archbishop Charles Chaput, not yet a Cardinal of Rome?!

  15. heway says:

    Excuse me while I cringe, and do so everytime someone holds up JFK as a ‘Catholic’ president.
    The word in Boston at that time was that the Kennedy’s went to Harvard and turned ‘left’.
    How about someone like Senator Moynihan??
    Santorum cannot be compared to Kennedy when it comes to religion and all catholic politicians are facing the same dilemma -shall I vote my conscience or uphold the existing law?

  16. wanda says:

    I apologize, Mr. Meyer. I sincerely meant no offense to you.

  17. wmeyer says:

    wanda, no apology is needed. I took no offense; I merely wished to be as clear as possible in what I intended to communicate.

  18. Gail F says:

    I’m sure everyone in office has voted for things they don’t approve of. ALL bills include extra stuff that people want to get made into law. Sometimes these are innocuous things that people stick in so they don’t have to go through the whole legislative process, and sometimes they are “hard bargain” things (often what we call “pork”), and sometimes they are real and serious and BAD things. Most legislation passes with some of the first two things, and some with the third. It’s nasty but that’s how politics works. Whatever you think of it, there is no way to vote only on one item. They’re always a package. This is true at the state level as well; I don’t know about local level. Every once in a while people pledge to stop this, but they never do.

  19. Ambrose Jnr says:

    To Deacon Daniel:

    Is Archbishop Chaput not a cardinal yet, because his predecessor in Philadelphia (cardinal Rigali, if my memory serves me right) is not 80 yet and therefore currently has the voting rights to elect the next pope when the time comes?
    It will be agreat day when Archbishops Charles Chaput and Jose Gomez become cardinals…and even better if Charles Chaput were to be the next Pope, as Gregory XVII…

  20. Ray says:

    The last three or four responses seem like some mutual admiration society. Are we Americans so thin skinned that we can’t say what we think, without worrying about hurting someone’s feelings. Some of the D.C. pols need to have their feelings hurt. Say it like you feel it and let the chips fall where they may. In Jn. 6 40 through the end you will see that Christ didn’t equivocate to those who couldn’t believe in His true presence in the Eucharist. Stand up for what you believe and don’t worry so much about hurting someones feelings!!

  21. Ambrose Jnr says:

    Centristan – does the name Drinan SJ ring a bell? Mere mention of Drinan SJ should be sufficient to disqualify JFK as a model for catholics…

  22. Maltese says:

    Amazing; MI exist polls show the majority of Michigan Republican Catholics support Romney!

  23. pm125 says:

    Small ‘c’ catholic began to be alluring in 1960 and has become a ‘norm’. Just the backlash in response to voices of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, the Bishops and other sincere Christians and Catholics speaks volumes. … and the latest news tonight on the incumbent plan to have ‘congregation captains’ handling political things in churches, (something like that ?) shows a concern growing in the party world of democrats …

  24. frjim4321 says:

    pm125 , not quite sure what you mean by “small ‘c’ catholics.”

    Have you taken upon yourself the right to decide who is a real Catholic and who is not?

    The last I heard, the Sacraments of Initiation determined the Catholicity of a person. It seems that many on the extreme right would like to change that simple truth.

  25. I urge everyone to listen either to the PODCAzT or to Archbp. Chaput himself. There is a Q&A in the youtube video which is quite interesting.

  26. frjim4321 says:

    Looks like the text is here which does not take as long to read as to listen to:

  27. oldcanon2257 says:

    Wow, Archbishop Chaput’s address “The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life” really amazed me. Given the fact how vocal he is about the role of our Catholic faith in the public square, I am praying for Abp. Chaput, that God will not let those “enemies within” in Philadelphia succeed against His Excellency (like they did with the good Bishop Martino of Scranton, PA).

    @ Ambrose Jnr
    I’m actually praying for Raymond Cardinal Burke to succeed our beloved Papa Ratzinger, hopefully as Pius XIII (since the liberals tend to hate popes named Pius such as Pius V, Pius IX, Pius X, Pius XI, Pius XII). I’m sure everybody still has vivid memory of how the liberals (e.g. the Jesuit-run America and certain Jesuit priests there plus hostile journalists and cafeteria catholics) reacted in 2005 when they found out that God had chosen the one whom their hostile propaganda machine had denounced as “der Panzerkardinal” to be the successor of Peter!!! I have already seen how the liberals whined when Papa Benedict appointed Cardinal Burke as the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and through their lies the liberals were secretly hoping for and would try to convince everybody that it was a case of “promoveatur ut amoveatur” (i.e. promoted out, kicked upstairs). I can hardly wait to see the reaction of the abortion-promoting catholic politicians, the fake women “priests” and their supporters if, God willing, His Eminence were elected pope.

    Long live our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, long may he reign.

    @ frjim4321
    Since we’re discussing the “small ‘c’ catholics”, Our Lord did say, “But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:26-27) When those who self-identified as “Catholics” refused to hear His voice and started going against the Deposit of Faith, then they would have effectively stopped following Him thus ceased to be Catholic themselves, would they not? Whenever I heard either “impugning-known-truths” politicians or “pick-and-choose-what-to-believe” laity or “dissenting-against-infallible-teachings” clergy (mis)identifying themselves as “Catholics” publicly and with impunity, it scandalized me terribly. I guess Catholics vs. “small ‘c’ catholics” is just a way to expand upon Our Lord’s parable about the wheat planted by the sower vs the cockle oversowed among the wheat by his enemy? :) Please pray for the conversion of the “small ‘c’ catholics”.

  28. Ambrose Jnr says:


    I like Pius XIII also as a name for the next successor to Peter, when our magnificent current Pope is no longer able to lead us…may that be many years later. I think for Card Burke to ever have any chance at all, he would need to be Prefect of the CDF first or the next Secretary of State…actually, according to Vatican Insider, the next prefect of the CDF will be a native English speaker, to handle Anglicanorum Coetibus well…who knows, there may be a small chance there…

  29. Ambrose Jnr says:

    One more thing…unfaithful catholics remain catholics, since the seal of baptism is indelible…however, this is no guarantee they’ll ever reach heaven though…

  30. Centristian says:

    @Ambrose Jnr:

    “Centristan – does the name Drinan SJ ring a bell? Mere mention of Drinan SJ should be sufficient to disqualify JFK as a model for catholics…”

    Father Drinan’s name does ring a bell, yes, however I’m not sure what that has to do with the price of eggs, to be honest. What I wrote questioned whether or not Rick Santorum really had any business publicly chafing at Kennedy’s speech after his own embarrassing comments about Washington politicians, including himself, having to compromise their principles and beliefs if they want to get anywhere.

    So when you finish deciding potential names for various cardinals to assume when they become pope, I hope you will take the time to re-read my post. If you do you will notice that never for a moment and not in one word of my post did I laud John F. Kennedy or point to him as any sort of a model. Furthermore, I do not pretend to stand in judgment of Santorum’s motives or even of his actions. I merely pointed out that, after his own comments at the last debate, Santorum hasn’t got very much business lambasting Kennedy or other Catholic politicians who have compromised their beliefs in order to get along in the beltway, since, by his own very public admission, he is one of them.

  31. MichaelP71 says:

    I recommend Archbishop Charles Chaput’s book, “Render unto Caesar” very highly. He goes into this subject as well as St. Thomas More, Bob Casey Sr & Mario Cuomo, Stephen Colbert among others. My *NEW* Archbishop challenges us to lives our lives as Christians courageously and without apology. The book is prophetic when it speaks on religious liberty…its’ eeerie almost. IMHO I heard about Kennedy’s speech a while ago and was thinking about it and all of a sudden I was like this guy is a c-o-w-a-r-d. He ran from religion to save his political hyde. Then I heard a discourse on this exact topic on Al Kresta’s show and it cemented it for me.

  32. Rachel K says:

    I am shocked to see that Rick Santorum voted for contraception to be available for “poor women” ! This is very low, a shabby way to treat less fortunate people. How is this better than Obama wanting to provide abortion for poor black women? What is it about being poor that makes people want to deny you your right to get married and have a family if God should bless you so?
    The Kennedy speech is truly awful- it is riddled with euphemism, inconsistencies and mischief. Clearly this man was talking Freemason-speak! Could he ever have become president had he not renounced his Catholic faith in such a way? It sound like he is begging his audience to please vote for him, he sounds desperate.

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