As a presidential candidate who would become the first Catholic nominated by a major party, the New York governor responded to charges that he would be unable to reconcile his faith with his duties in the White House. Though he lost the race, his admonition against religious division blazed a path for John F. Kennedy, a fellow Catholic, and was invoked again this year as Mitt Romney, a Mormon, pursued the presidency.
This is an historic incident, historic for the country and for the Church. Now for the first time in the public's history, under a constitution which forever forbids religious tests as qualifications for office, as candidate for the Presidency has been subjected to public questioning as to how he can give undivided allegiance to his country when his church restricts the freedom of his choice; and the candidate has answered—answered not deviously and with indirection, but straightforwardly, bravely, with the clear ring of candor. It is an issue of infinite possibilities. Is the principle of religious tolerance, universal and complete, which every schoolboy has repeated for one hundred and fifty years, mere platitudinous vaporing? Can men worshiping God in their differing ways believe without reservation of conscience in a common political ideal? Is the United States of America based on a delusion? Can the vast experiment of the Republic, Protestant and Catholic, churched and unchurched, succeed? And this is the converse of the question: Will the churches suffer their members to be really free? 'Thou shalt have none other gods but me,'thundered the Jewish Jehovah from Sinai, and ever since the gods of the churches have demanded that their control be not abridged nor diminished. But as the creeds clash about us, we remember that not in political programmes only may religion have its place separate and apart from politics, from public discussion, and from the laws of society. Quite elsewhere is it written, 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's: and unto God the things that are God's.' The discussion has served its purpose. Not in this campaign will whispering and innuendoes, shruggings and hunchings, usurp the place of reason and of argument. The thoughts rising almost unbidden in the minds of the least bigoted of us when we watch a Roman Catholic aspire to the Presidency of the United States have become matters of high, serious, and eloquent debate. —THE EDITOR