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Is Rick Santorum a Catholic or an Evangelical?

The answer, I posit in my latest, is "Yes." Kinda:

Santorums 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.Its 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.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Hi, David, I agree with your analysis. I've heard the hybrid you describe referred to as "Evangelical Catholics."There is still a lot that is distinctively Catholic about Santorum - many commentators have pointed out how Catholic social teaching has leavened his politics throughout his career. That Catholics don't rally to him, or to Catholic candidates generally, probably says more about the weakness of contemporary Catholic tribal behavior - and perhaps their ignorance of Catholic social teaching :-( - than it does about theology.

Does it matter?

Robert - probably not. But there is this to consider: the two guys who are doing well this primary cycle, Romney and Paul, were both candidates four years ago, and both have been pretty much running non-stop ever since. Maybe it takes that long to build a brand in the Republican Party. If Romney sews up the nomination early and then gets creamed in the fall, which seems likely enough, then maybe a couple of candidates this cycle will be a step ahead in four years.

David Gibson:Re: Your statement in the rest of your article in the Washington Post. Evangelicals began borrowing some Catholic concepts.Its not just Evangelicals but also the Republican Party. Just look at one of the headings in the Republican Platforms in 2004 (Promoting a Culture of Life) and in 2008 (Maintaining The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life).

All of these sub-groups in the GOP fighting like cats and dogs remind me of France years ago when there seemed to be a dozen political parties there, none of which were willing to compromise. Nothing got done, of course. Same was true of Italy at times. So when Republican start calling Obama "a European socialist" I keep thinking that it's the GOP that resembles the Europeans.(I love Rick Perry's description of Romney's position: "vulture capitalism". )

I wonder what Catholic basis Santorum cites for teaching creationism in public school. I got into a discussion on the subway a couple of weeks ago with the father of my kid's classmate at our parish school. He was under the impression that they don't teach evolution in parochial schools, but I told him that they do teach evolution. In a Santorum future, public schools will teach creationism and Catholic schools will teach evolution!

The author does a good job of highlighting how Santorum's rhetoric and policies are a much easier sell to evangelicals who have bought into the culture war model. What could have been said is that Santorum's style/rhetoric fits (disturbingly) well with much of what is emanating from the American hierarchy in its resistence to Obama administration. Our leaders are creating political space for the rise of Santorums of the world.

Helen --Those are good examples of how the Republican strategists are awfully good at choosing the right words for political gain. George Lakoff, the Democratic theorist and linguistic psychologist, says that Republicans are excellent at that while the Democrats are not good.

JC --I think that one of the big differences between the GOP and the Democratic Party is that the Democrats, especially the liberal ones, have a confidence in science and higher education than the GOP doesn't. Note how the word "elite" for the GOP is an insult -- it is meant to characterize negatively the liberals who attended "elite" schools (as if a Harvard education isn't better for your brain than one from Bohunk College). The Democrats (except for many evangelicals/fundamentalists) do have confidence in reputable science. It's why they are willing to admit the reality of the human factor in global warming, why they support evolution in the schools, and perhaps even why they are willing to support more in the way of health care and medical research. There are a lot of justified complaints about "American schools", but it should be pointed out that those complaints don't generally apply to the better American colleges and especially American *graduate* education -- and far from all of our better universities are "elite" ones. Our graduate schools are indeed the best in the world, the ones the Chinese and Indians and others flock to.As to both college and graduate education, in the QS rating for 2011, of the top 20 universities, the U.S. had 13. the "Shanghi Ratings" 8 out of the top 10 are American. couple of the rating organizations rate 100 schools. Among them are many American public universities and many private non-Ivy ones.So why are so many Americans unwilling to grant the value of even the non-"elite" schools? I don't know, but it is my understanding that, that attitude has been a theme in American history for a very long time. And so far as I can see, the attitude is more pronounced in conservatives, both Republican and Democratic. At any rate, these put-down-higher-education and dismiss-science attitudes need to go. Those Chinese and Indian grad students have already started eating our lunch.

"I think that one of the big differences between the GOP and the Democratic Party is that the Democrats, especially the liberal ones, have a confidence in science and higher education than the GOP doesnt."Hi, Ann, I don't believe the disagreement about science, as exemplified by the evolution-vs-creationism split, runs along the GOP/Democratic Party fault line. There are many conservatives who are just fine with evolution and with science in general. One can be politically or culturally conservative without insisting on a literal interpretation of the Bible. President Obama, in overturning President GW Bush's executive order restricting federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, tried to position it as an act in support of science vs. President Bush's act allegedly in opposition to science. But that clearly is incorrect: President Bush's executive order was motivated by ethical, not scientific, concerns.There are a number of interesting aspects in play:* It seems to me that those who accept religious faith and divine revelation are accepting that there are ways of knowing things that are not amenable to science or the scientific method. Those two ways of knowing - knowing via science vs. knowing via faith and revelation - are often positioned as being in conflict with one another, but they needn't be, in my opinion.* President Obama's statement which I've referenced here suggests that science and the scientific method are not only ways of knowing, but also ways of discerning what is right and wrong. To my way of thinking, this is dangerous overreach. Speaking for myself, I do not want to be instructed in morality by scientists. Having deep knowledge about science does not mean that one has acquired moral wisdom.

"At any rate, these put-down-higher-education and dismiss-science attitudes need to go. Those Chinese and Indian grad students have already started eating our lunch."If intelligence and ability are more or less randomly dispersed across the population, this shouldn't surprise us, as the populations of China and India together are 7-8 times the US population.

More and more I see this:Catholics began borrowing some fundigelical concepts.

Jim P. --No, I don't want scientists teaching morality. But that doesn't mean science has nothing to contribute to moral decisions. Science helps tell us what people *are*, and if you hold to a natural law morality, then there will be scientific premises included in your arguments.

Hello All,Since the topic of higher education has come up, and Im a professor (albeit not working at an elite university), I thought Id Id chime in. I think conservative politicians have little idea what professors actually do to earn their keep, same as I have little idea what conservative politicians do since I am not one and I dont work for one. But I think they are right in believing that in general we professors are not teaching what they want us to be teaching. Im a case in point. When I teach moral philosophy, I dont teach Veritatis Splendor or the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I teach selections from Aquinas, Mill and Kant. When I teach political philosophy, I dont teach Dinesh De Sousa or Laura Ingraham. I teach selections from Aristotle, Hobbes and Rawls. I havent taught applied ethics in some time, but in an applied ethics class Im far more likely to include readings done by Peter Singer (with whom I usually disagree) than Peter Kreeft. In short, Im not catechizing the students I work with in good conservative values. Im trying to help them to learn to think more carefully and critically for themselves. And, at the risk of being smug, I think that requires teaching the young people I work with real philosophy.

Yay, yay, yay, Peter :-)(There's too much patronizing of kids. Or should I say too much keeping them as children.)

Peter Vanderschraaf What a gift you are to higher education!

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