U.S. Catholic politicians are increasingly separating their faith from their public service
By Joe Towalski, The Catholic Spirit
ST. PAUL, Minn.. Nov. 3, 2006 (www.catholic.org) – During the last 40 years, an increasing number of Catholic politicians have demonstrated a willingness to separate their faith from their public service.
And that, according to Colleen Carroll Campbell, "has been very damaging to the church's witness in the world and in the public square."
Campbell is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., host of the EWTN show "Faith and Culture" and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. She will address the intersection of politics and religion during a talk later this month in St. Paul.
Her presentation, "The Kennedy Compromise: How America's First Catholic President Inaugurated an Era of Compartmentalized Faith in Politics" is set for Nov. 21 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
Campbell's talk is rooted in a speech that then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy delivered in September 1960 to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. At that gathering, Kennedy declared: "I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none ... and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation."
Kennedy may have felt that drawing a sharp line between his faith and public service was the only way a Catholic politician could gain higher office in an era when Catholics felt excluded from the political process, Campbell said.
"But today I think the question is less about anti-Catholicism and more about whether this faith you profess shapes your decisions on a day-to –day basis," she said. "If it doesn't on crucial moral questions, then do you really have a right to appeal to the Catholic vote on the basis of your identity as a Catholic politician?"