Cardinal Timothy Dolan said religion has a role to play in politics and public life, and John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech on the separation of church and state had been misinterpreted.
In a pre-taped interview that aired Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation," the head of New York's Roman Catholic archdiocese said it is a benefit to politics when people are "inspired by their deepest-held convictions."
Politics "only benefits when religion, when morals, when faith has a place there," Dolan said.
He said he agreed with Kennedy's stance that there should be a separation of church and state to avoid situations like priests telling congregants which candidates to pick, but said people had mistakenly taken that to mean that people should separate their faith from their political choices.
Host Bob Schieffer asked Dolan what he thought of comments Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum had made in 2011, that when the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania read Kennedy's speech he said: "I almost threw up. In my opinion it was the beginning of the secular movement of politicians to separate their faith from the public square."
Dolan said he agreed with both men. "I would also say that Sen. Santorum had a good point."
The cardinal reiterated his stance that the U.S government is engaged in a "dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the church" with recent decisions on contraceptive coverage.
Some religious organizations protested when President Barack Obama moved to mandate that religious-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities include free birth control coverage in their employee health plans. Obama later said religious employers could opt out, but insurers must pay for the coverage.
Proponents say the plan is a breakthrough for women's rights, but Dolan and other leaders say it violates religious freedom.
Dolan's interview aired on Easter, the day after a board member of the city's Catholic Charities told The Associated Press he quit the junior board over the cardinal's stance on gay issues.