Friday March 22: The Catholic Book Club discusses 'The Patriarch'

Just a reminder that tomorrow we will be holding an online discussion of this month's Catholic Book Club selection, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy. Kevin Spinale, S.J., our moderator, will be online tomorrow afternoon to answer your questions. Here is an excerpt from his introduction to the book:

The Patriarch is the mammoth biography of Joseph P. Kennedy. In my conversation with the author, I asked Prof. Nasaw to identify some of the most important lessons that he learned while researching and writing the definitive biography of one of the wealthiest, most influential Americans of the twentieth century. He spoke first of complexity and contradiction. He spoke of Joe Kennedy’s rigid egoism and his unwavering love for his children. He spoke of his unrelenting commitment to the accumulation of personal wealth and the fact that he drilled a strong sense of public service into all his children. Nasaw described Joe Kennedy’s brokenness at the death of Joe Jr., his further pain and sadness at the death of his daughter, Kathleen, while simultaneously cultivating an image of fearlessness and strength.  Indeed, the life of Joseph P. Kennedy teaches us about the reality of urban and national politics in the U.S., the world wars, insights into the workings of American financial system, the personality and genius of FDR, the activity of a presidential campaign and the diminishment of a irrepressible man ground down by a string of personal tragedies. It is the history of a Catholic who dealt with prejudice and exclusion because of his Catholicism as well as a Catholic who was ultimately rejected by the institutional Church in the United States. In short, it is the fascinating life of a man who embodies the complexities of human nature.

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The Book Club exists to cultivate meaningful discussion about meaningful books. In order to facilitate discussion about the book, I offer some questions here for discussion. I welcome everyone to contribute answers to these questions, your own questions, or any reactions you have to Prof. Nasaw’s book.

1.  Having considered the entire life of Joseph Kennedy, from his days as “Honey Fitz’s son-in-law,” to his unrivaled financial success, to the death of his four eldest children and his own death, was Joseph Kennedy a happy man?

2.  Knowing both the affection he showed his children and the way he conducted his own personal life, was he a good father?

3.  Do you agree with Richard Cardinal Cushing’s assessment of the American Hierarchy’s rejection of John F. Kennedy as a presidential candidate in 1960? (Nasaw, p723-725)  How has the 1960 election affected Catholic candidates for political office in the United States today?

You can listen to Kevin's interview wih David Nasaw here.

So read a chapter or two, or listen to Kevin's excellent interview, and join us for tomorrow's conversation.

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David Smith
5 years 7 months ago
I know nothing about Joseph Kennedy except that he has the reputation of having bought the presidency for his son. That's not the sort of thing the Church ought to be proud of. I just finished the most recent volume of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. Like him, admire him, or despise him, Johnson worked like the devil to get where John Kennedy got simply because of his father.

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