Cardinal Dolan defends Santorum's comments on JFK church-and-state speech

On “Face the Nation” this morning, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he agreed with both Rick Santorum and J.F.K. about the separation of church and state: While the church should not run the state or vice versa, faith should certainly impact individual politicians’ decisions.

“Senator Santorum had a good point, because, unfortunately, what John Kennedy said in September of 1960,” Cardinal Dolan said, “has been misinterpreted to mean that a separation of church and state also means a cleavage, a wall, between one’s faith and one’s political decisions, between one’s — one’s moral focus and between the way one might act in the political sphere.”

“I don’t think John Kennedy meant that,” the cardinal said.

Saying that Kennedy “did mean a wall between state and church, and I’d applaud that one,” he went on to say: “But I’d agree with Senator Santorum that, unfortunately, that’s been misrepresented to mean that faith has no place in the public square. That I would, with Senator Santorum, say is a misinterpretation.”

Rick Santorum has been criticized for once saying that he “almost threw up” when he first read the text of Kennedy’s landmark speech. Dolan’s remarks provide some cover for Santorum’s comment by making the remark less a reaction to Kennedy’s words than to the way they’ve been interpreted. While Santorum clearly was reacting to the text of the speech itself, he likely read it with the common interpretation in mind.

In his TV appearance this morning, Dolan also reiterated his opposition to the administration’s contraception mandate and noted that it represents precisely the sort of intrusion into the life of the Church that separation of church and state is supposed to prevent. As the bishops have noted repeatedly, the mandate intrudes on church territory primarily by defining what constitutes ministry for the purpose of conscience exemptions. By refusing exemptions to church-affiliated institutions and limiting exemptions strictly to churches, the administration has adopted the narrowest possible view of what constitutes “church.” Will it be just a matter of time before the administration says even some churches are not churches? Say those that don’t offer worship services of a certain duration or particular sacraments?