The Cold War and the Domestic Response to Kennedy’s Catholicism

  • Thomas J. Carty


Conventional wisdom in the 1960 campaign suggested that John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism would insulate the Democratic Party from charges of softness on communism that had been leveled at its prominent liberals like two-time presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. Several political observers, even conservative Catholics, initially portrayed Kennedy’s religious affiliation as such a political advantage. Conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Robert D. Novak suggested that Kennedy’s Catholicism “is his best weapon” against those who charged the Massachusetts senator with appeasing communism.1 In the liberal New Republic, former Stevenson speech-writer Gerald W. Johnson characterized Catholicism as “the one triple-plated guarantee of a candidate’s anti-Communism.”2 In a publication that featured many conservative Catholics, William F. Buckley, Jr.’s National Review, veteran journalist John Chamberlain admitted that religion assured Kennedy’s anticommunism, saying, “As a Catholic he could hardly capitulate to Communism. That would be letting his coreligionists down!”3 The Roman Catholic Church’s dogmatic approach to anticommunism appeared to protect the Catholic candidate from conservative opponents who might challenge Kennedy’s national security strategy.


Foreign Policy Democratic Party Communist Government Republican Party Federal Loan 
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© Thomas J. Carty 2004

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  • Thomas J. Carty

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