Cardinal Timothy Dolan was a guest on "Face the Nation" on Easter Sunday and the host, Bob Schieffer, immediately got to the issue that is weighing on the hearts and minds of every serious person in April 2012: Camelot! Well, sort of:
BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to talk a little politics with you, your eminence back in 1960.
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN: I'm not surprised.
My guess is that Cardinal Dolan figured there were three places the interview could go: down the "Why does Catholic Church hate women?" highway, up the "When will the Catholic Church catch up with the times?" river, or over to the "Didn't President Kennedy establish for all eternity the Catholic understanding of 'State first, Church silent'?" grill. Considering Kennedy was murdered nearly fifty years ago and that his already flimsy reputation as upstanding, morally superior politician/POTUS has been badly bruised in recent years, the third option was likely the best for Schieffer to pull out of his fraying bag of journalistic talking points. And so he did:
BOB SCHIEFFER: When John Kennedy became the first Catholic President, he made a speech during the campaign, because he said flatly, he wanted people to know and he wanted to assure them that he thought there was a separation between church and state. Here is the way he put it.
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN: Yeah.
JOHN F. KENNEDY (September 12, 1960): I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Now people in both parties have referred back to that over the years as-- as a good definition of church and state, but during this campaign year, one of the Republican candidates, Rick Santorum, said this about it.
RICK SANTORUM (November 11, 2011): If I had the opportunity to read the speech, I almost threw up. He should read the speech. It's-- in my opinion it was the beginning of the secular movement of politicians to separate their faith from the public square. And he threw faith under the bus in that speech.
Which led to a good question from Schieffer: "Your eminence, where do you think the line should be between church and state? Is there, should there be a separation?" It was a wide open question, with many possible answers. Cardinal Dolan responded: