By Fr. Dwight Longnecker, Apr. 30, 2015, Aletia.org
As the race for the White House gears up, all eyes are on the presidential contenders, and there has never been a larger crop of Catholics either already in the race, or waiting in the wings. If anyone wants to get a glimpse into the contemporary Catholic Church in the United States, the range of Catholic politicians reflects the amazingly diverse and difficult variety of American Catholics.
The “conservative Catholics” are best represented by Senator Rick Santorum. A life-long Catholic, Santorum became more serious about his faith after marrying. Now a daily mass attendee, Rick Santorum has put his Catholic faith at the center of his conservative political life. With a strong appeal to conservative Evangelical voters, he is consistently disappointed by the lukewarm reception he receives from fellow Catholics. With strongly conservative opinions on defense and foreign affairs, Santorum is also an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion. The sympathy for his family during a health crisis of his disabled daughter revealed a softer side to Santorum and strengthened his pro-life credentials through personal experience.
Also lined up in the Evangelical Catholicism camp is Republican Marco Rubio. A junior senator from Florida, Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants. For a time he abandoned his family’s Catholicism for the Mormon faith and then became more committed to Christianity through attendance at a large Evangelical Protestant Church. Recently, however, Rubio and his family have returned to a regular and fervent commitment to Catholicism. Rubio retains strong friendships within the Evangelical church and like Santorum will appeal to conservative voters in both the Catholic and Evangelical communities. With his Cuban background, Rubio adds to the conservative Catholic brand a strong Hispanic appeal, and as such represents the growing presence of the Hispanic Catholic population in the United States.