A cardinal's dicing of JFK , Santorum

  • Article by: SUSAN HOGAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2012 - 8:43 PM

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, speaking to the press, in February.

Photo: Jason Decrow, Associated Press

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GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum famously said that John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign speech on the need for separation of church and state made him want to "throw up."

"It was the beginning of the secular movement of politicians to separate their faith from the public square," Santorum, a Catholic, said months ago.

But Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, says he would have "cheered" Kennedy.

"The separation between church and state is good -- not only for the United States; it's also good for the church," the New York cardinal said on Easter Sunday's "Face the Nation."

Dolan declined to criticize Santorum. Rather, in a giant leap of faith, he insisted that Santorum was merely calling attention to the way in which Kennedy's words had been misconstrued over the years.

But it seems to clear by now that Santorum was among those guilty of the misconstruing with his headline-grabbing jab at JFK.

"[Kennedy] did mean a wall between state and church, and I would applaud that one," the cardinal said. "But I would agree with Sen. Santorum that, unfortunately, that has been misrepresented to mean that faith has no place in the public square."

Kennedy's speech to an audience of Baptists was the kind of assurance that voters leery of a Catholic in the White House needed to hear in 1960.

As for Santorum's interpretation of the former president's meaning, well, you be the judge:

"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," Kennedy said, "where no Catholic prelate would tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference -- and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him."


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