By Irwin St. JOHN TUCKER, Chicago
The fact that Kennedy is Catholic was brought up early. Questioned as to whether his obligations to the Church would interfere with his duties as President, he replied that if he took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States he would, of course, fulfil that oath.
His answer satisfied about 69 per cent. of the people, according to poll surveys in all parts of the country.
But the Catholic press kept needling him to assert that, if his Catholic conscience conflicts with his Constitutional oath. he will follow his conscience. This was gleefully aided and abetted by the anti-Catholic press. seeking to show that a Catholic cannot conscientiously be President.
Kennedy tried to quiet all this, but when the birth control issue was flung into the controversy by a pronouncement of the American hierarchy it flared up again. NonCatholic statesmen of both parties — notably former President Truman and Senator Douglas of Illinois—insisted that it is a false issue.
It comes down to this: would Kennedy sign bills appropriating U.S. money for the dissemination of information on artificial methods of birth control in foreign countries whose expanding population brings threat of famine'?
A Jesuit-trained Anglican bishop —James A. Pike of California— intensified the argument by a lengthy article in the immensely popular magazine "Life" (circulation sonic five million weekly). Pike became an agnostic, then an atheist: then embraced the Anglican faith, was named dean of New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, then elected bishop of the San Francisco diocese. He is an official of the Planned Parenthood League,
Pike said the birth control matter brings up a weightier issue: where does Kennedy stand on relations of Church and State? He quotes papal decrees and the writings of many Catholics of lesser stature as setting forth the "official" view—Church supreme over state: he also quotes Fr, John Courtney Murray, S.J., as upholding the traditional American view of Church-State separation; both of these in opposition to the Stateover-Church theory of Hitler and Franco.'
"If a Catholic takes this 'official' view," says Pike. "he should not be entrusted with the office. If he takes the American view, he might be considered." Thus he seeks to impale Kennedy on the dilemma: should he repudiate the Pope or the Constitution?
Kennedy says he secs no possibility of conflict between these two loyalities. He has, personally, a splendid record both in war and in politics. He is a most likeable and effective statesman. if he were allowed to seek office on his personal qualifications he might win —against any one but Nixon.
Personally I hope he does not get the, Democratic nomination this year—because I like and admire Kennedy. If defeated (and he would be) it would be laid to his religious handicap. I hope he is saved to run another day, when the opposition is less united than it now is behind Nixon. Then Kennedy might win.
Of course, he might even yet. It is a long time to the National conventions, and in politics anything may happen.
Pike said, among other things, that his organisation opposes "Vatican roulette"—meaning the leaving of conception to nature and God. It is a play on "Russian roulette"—a suicide-risking game in which all cartridges except one are extracted from a revolver. then the chamber is spun and the trigger pulled, thus taking a chance on whether the hammer strikes an empty chamber or the loaded cartridge.
Comment on this by a seminary professor at Cincinnati: "It seems to me that the phrase 'Vatican roulette' is hitting below the belt."