Catholicism In America

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On January 20, 1961, the first Catholic President of the United States of America was sworn into office. John F. Kennedy held the office of the president during one of the most turbulent times in the history of the United States; the Cold War was in full swing, the Vietnam War was underway, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum, and America was undergoing a large cultural revolution. Many important events required a variety of responses, and instrumental in JFK’s administration was his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the driving force behind the focus on Civil Rights, and impactful in his meetings with the Soviet Ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis. RFK continued his political career after the untimely assassination…show more content…
John Cogley wrote Catholic America (1973), which chronicled American Catholic history as well as provided a framework for the 1960s U.S. Catholic culture in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. The early American colonies had a small Catholic population, which was persecuted against by the Puritans. During the 1830s and 1840s, huge numbers of uneducated and impoverished Irish Catholics, of whose blood and legacy descended Robert Francis Kennedy, immigrated to America, bringing with them stereotypes of unruly drunkenness. The proud Irish, separated into the “Catholic Ghetto,” bared harsh discrimination and persecution from political groups such as the Know-Nothings. After the Civil War, the American Catholics were not persecuted as heavily, but continued to be excluded from clubs, private schools, and high ranking positions in some businesses. Towards the turn of the Twentieth Century, Town Hall politics were mastered by the Irish Catholics, and the growth of unions helped give the Irish Catholic voice strength. By the time of the Great Depression and the Second World War, the Irish Catholics had risen solidly into the middle class, with some, such as Joseph Kennedy, breaching into the top political and economic circles of the time, though he was still…show more content…
Being the third son and seventh child, Robert was largely ignored by his father Joseph, who focused on the accomplishments of Joe Jr. and Jack, but received much attention from his devout mother. RFK preformed poorly in school, and was perceived as an awkward loner. Despite this, he developed a keen sense of personal morality, and was very devout in his faith. Trained as an alter boy, an action he carried into adulthood, he attended Mass at his private Catholic school more than necessary, and stayed after to pray, and invited others to Mass as well. Joining the Navy in 1943, not deploying in the war, and being discharged in 1946, RFK “had been sidelined from the greatest test of his generation…while other men were fighting and dying all over the world.” a fact that never stopped haunting the man who valued courage above all else. RFK’s strong Irish Catholic faith was evident in his loving and devoted marriage to Ethel Skakel, and their 11 children. Ethel had “absolute and literal faith in the Catholic Church [that] complemented RFK’s devotion, which was not quite as unquestioning…. In Ethel’s purity Kennedy may have found refuge from temptation.” This spiritual trust and reliance was important to Robert as he worked in politics, focusing on
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