Is Rick Santorum a Catholic or an Evangelical?
The answer, I posit in my latest, is “Yes.” Kinda:
Santorum’s religious rhetoric is just as important in cultivating his evangelical appeal, and that is something new for Catholic politicians.
He has “an evangelical style,” [Deal] Hudson notes, which can be seen in his references to home-schooling his children, his support for teaching creationism in public schools, and his regular testimony about his personal relationship with Jesus. (Santorum adds that the U.S. needs to have “a Jesus candidate.”)…
…That kind of confessional, public piety has generally been foreign to Catholics, and remains so for many of the older generation. During the 2004 campaign, Democratic nominee John Kerry struggled to make “God talk” while George W. Bush spoke comfortably about his faith.
Yet Santorum is not an outlier. Rather, he represents a new kind of religious hybrid, the result of a kind of cross-pollination between evangelicals and Catholics that has taken place in recent decades.
That interaction began in earnest in the 1980s as conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics began collaborating in the battle against abortion. The visibility and popularity of the late Pope John Paul II gave it a boost.
“It’s the influence of the John Paul II revival in the Catholic Church which encouraged a ‘less urbane’ rhetoric about personal faith,” Hudson said.
The irony of this successful cross-denominational appeal, it seems to me, is that while Santorum is able to draw evangelical votes, he continues to do worse than much of the rest of the Republican field with Catholics themselves. He can’t go far with that kind of formula, and I think it says something about how alien many voters find Santorum’s style, as well as many, if not all, of his policies.
I also mention the influence in the evangelical direction, with converts like Gingrich and Brownback et al, and the adoption of John Paul language by George W. Bush and others.