John F. Kennedy was the only Catholic U.S. president to date. Among Democrats, Catholic politicians are now not uncommon. Among Republicans, on the other hand, there has long been no room for Catholics. This seems to change a week before the Super "Tuesday".
Catholic Christians make up about a quarter of the electorate in the majority Protestant U.S. But never before has a Catholic been elected the presidential candidate of the Republican Party. The current primaries could change that. Ex-senator and Catholic Rick Santorum has recently been tied with rival Mitt Romney, who for weeks was considered the clear favorite. In third place is Newt Gingrich, also a Catholic and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Romney is a Mormon – this also has novelty value.
Santorum and Gingrich came to the faith by different paths. Santorum, 53, grew up in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania; his father was an immigrant from Italy. Rick and his wife, Karen, have seven children.
Santorum, former altar boy, is darling of social conservatives. As a senator (1995-2007), the lawyer by training took a firm stand against abortion and same-sex marriage. When asked what it meant to be a Catholic politician, Santorum replied: A Catholic, he said, must follow his conscience. However, he said, he would have to adjust his conscience "according to the teachings of the church".
Catholic since 2009
Gingrich may take a looser view of church rules. The 68-year-old attended a Lutheran church as a child. As an adult, he was baptized in a Baptist church. He came to the Catholic Church in 2009, under the impression of Pope Benedict's visit to the U.S. "I was taken by his bliss," Gingrich explained. After two divorces, Gingrich is married for the third time. He therefore has problems with the ie of traditional "family values". But Gingrich is a reliable opponent of abortion and gay marriage – and he complains bitterly about the alleged "war on religion" he says U.S. President Barack Obama is waging.
Gingrich and Santorum have already made it further than other Catholic presidential hopefuls in their party. The few who have tried failed very early in the primaries, including New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator Sam Brownback (both in 2008) and publicist Patrick Buchanan (1992 and 1996). Santorum has addressed this state. It wouldn't be "a bad idea," he said, to run with a Catholic for once, considering the important U.S. states of Iowa, Pennsylvania and Florida, with their many Catholic voters.
Catholic: "normal" among Democrats
The immigrant Catholic community in the 19. and 20. The Democratic Party, which was shaped by the twentieth century, experienced its "great Catholic moment" back in 1961, when John F. Kennedy became the first – and so far only – Catholic president. Democrats ran the first Catholic presidential candidate, Al Smith, back in 1928. But at the time, the Protestant majority wanted nothing to do with a possibly "pope-affiliated" candidate from a "foreign culture," as the Protestant magazine Christian Century warned. Smith lost handily.
Meanwhile, Catholic is "normal" among Democrats. John Kerry, 2004 presidential candidate, is a Catholic. Vice President Joe Biden is a Catholic. There has long been no room for Catholic newcomers from the working class in the Republicans, the party of the Protestant Anglo-Saxon middle class. The prejudices persisted. It took President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) to recognize that Catholics could be integrated into the Republican Party because of their often conservative stances on abortion and some social ies.
No "fixed voting bloc"
In the run-up to the main election on 6. November politicians keep an eye on Catholic voters. Catholics matter, commented Stephen Schneck, director of the "Institute for Politics and Catholic Studies" at Catholic University in Washington. Obama said in 2008 and George W. Bush won in 2004 with help from Catholics.
Catholics, however, are not a "solid voting bloc," Schneck warned on the CNN network. Latino Catholics voted overwhelmingly Democratic, theologically conservative voters Republican and progressive Democratic. But in the middle, there are Catholics who could win over Obama, or Gingrich, Santorum and Romney, respectively.
And should it not work out this time with a Catholic Republican: For the elections in four years possibly the in the party estimated Jeb Bush stands ready, son of George Bush and brother of George W. Bush. Bush. In 2005, Jeb converted from the Anglicans to the Catholic Church.