"But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office."
Historical revisionism notwithstanding, Kennedy's speech to the Houston ministers did not settle the issue.
"No matter what Kennedy might say, he cannot separate himself from his church if he is a true Catholic," said Ramsey Pollard, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, after the speech. "All we ask is that Roman Catholicism lift its bloody hand from the throats of those that want to worship in the church of their choice."
Before Election Day, Kennedy forces counted more than 300 anti-Catholic letters sent to more than 20 million homes, not including the "countless mailings, chain letters, radio broadcasts, television attacks and even anonymous phone calls," as enumerated by Sorensen.
When, close to Election Day, Catholic clergy in Puerto Rico instructed their parishioners to vote against the incumbent governor because his "Popular Democratic Party" supported common law marriage and permitted birth control, Protestant leaders in the mainland United States pounced, using the incident to make the case that the Vatican sought to control the United States.
Many of Kennedy's aides thought the senator needed to make yet another address on the subject. Not enough voters knew about the Houston speech, they argued.
Kennedy, of course, won that election. But the lesson for Romney is clear: Those refusing to vote for him because of his faith will not vanish Thursday. And as long as they continue to feel the way they do, the media will not stop asking questions about the issue.
In addition to White's "The Making of the President 1960" and Sorensen's "Kennedy," the author also used information from Gerald and Deborah Strober's "Let Us Begin Anew: An Oral History of the Kennedy Presidency."