Protestant-Catholic Conflict in the United States: The Cases of John F. Kennedy and Ronald W. Reagan



President-elect John F. Kennedy asked his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver to lead his transition team in 1960. Shriver suggested candidates for the future president’s closest advisers, particularly cabinet- level nominees. As an active Catholic who attended Mass daily Shriver was pleased to hear that one candidate for Secretary of Defense, auto executive Robert McNamara, had recently read a 1955 book, The Phenomenon of Man, by the French Jesuit priest, paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. However, rather than share Shriver’s enthusiasm about the candidate’s affinity for a Catholic scholar’s work, Kennedy wanted to know if McNamara might be Catholic. ‘There mustn’t be too many in the cabinet, the first Catholic President said’, according to Shriver’s assistant Harris Wofford. After searching through Who’s Who, Shriver and Wofford confirmed that McNamara was not Catholic, and Kennedy endorsed the nomination.1


Democratic Party Catholic School Catholic Priest Peace Corps Religious Liberty 
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Copyright information

© Thomas J. Carty 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Holy Cross College and the University of ConnecticutUSA

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