Should Jackie Kennedy's private letters on faith been shared at all?
Uncredited, Associated Press
Even Jackie Kennedy, the illustrious and highly fashionable wife of President John F. Kennedy, wrestled with her faith. Her struggle came after her husband was assassinated.
The severity of her struggle was recently discovered in a new set of personal letters that were sent out by a private source, CNN reported. It appears these letters will be auctioned off at the Sheppard’s Irish Auction House next month, The Huffington Post reported.
But they contain more than just her personal thoughts. There’s a religious aspect: She questioned her beliefs in the letters sent to Vincentian Fr. Joseph Leonard, HuffPost reported. She wrote in one letter that she was going to have myriad questions for God if there was indeed an afterlife, HuffPost reported.
“I have to think there is a God — or I have no hope of finding Jack again. God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see Him,” the letter read.
The National Catholic Reporter focused specifically on Kennedy’s struggle with religion that she relayed to Leonard.
“The letters reveal that Leonard rekindled Kennedy's interest in her Catholic faith. In early 1952, she wrote: ‘I terribly want to be a good Catholic now and I know it's all because of you. I suppose I realized in the back of my mind you wanted that — you gave me the rosary as I left Ireland,’” The Reporter explained.
And when she was 22, she told Leonard that she "suddenly realized this Christmas when my sister and I decided — after not going to church for a year — that we desperately wanted to change and get close to God again — that it must have been your little prayers that worked — all the way across the ocean,” according to The Reporter.
Though Kennedy’s private debate about faith is interesting to note, is it something that should be publicized at all?
The auctioneer of the letters, Philip Sheppard, told The Washington Post that there was nothing wrong with showing these private words to the public.
“He has been dead 50 years and she 20. This is in my opinion an exchange between friends, not a confessional thing,” he said Tuesday to The Post. “I’ve never heard of a confession over the Atlantic.”
But Laura Turner of Religion News Service wrote that this is “thorny” issue, and the answer of whether they should have been published and shared isn’t so clear cut.
“On the one hand, these letters give us Jackie in her own words — more on the woman who came as close to American royalty as anyone,” Turner wrote. “But like Mother Teresa before her, Kennedy is also experiencing (however she can, in whatever state she’s in, being dead and all) the publication of words that were very much meant for a specific, and private, audience.”
And priest Thomas Reese, in a separate article for The Reporter, said, quite simply, the letters should have been set ablaze.
“As a journalist and student of history, I find these letters fascinating. But as a priest, I am appalled. The letters should have been burnt,” Reese wrote for The Reporter. “Although nothing in these letters is protected by the seal of confession, there is a presumption of confidentiality when a person writes to a priest about her spiritual life. By making them public, it puts everyone on notice that what you write a priest could become public.”
He sarcastically added, “Thanks. That is just what we needed.”
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