The Future of a Catholic Politician

I've written about Anh (Joseph) Cao, the neophyte New Orleans Republican and former Jesuit seminarian who won a surprise victory over the once invincible but nowdisgraced (allegedly) Rep. Wiiliam Jefferson earlier this month in a storm-delayed Congressional election. Cao is an affecting mix of humility and politics, the latter informed but not dictated by his strong Catholic faith. Whether Cao will have a place or an influence on the future of the GOP, or a role in articulating a more coherent Catholic vision of politics, remains to be seen.But Cao had some interesting comments this week in an interview with Dan Gilgoff, who recently began the "God & County" blog at U.S. News & World Report. Cao speaks movingly and humanly about his past "crisis of faith" andhis current commitment to "the core of my faith and the core of my political view, that politicians are put into office in order to serve."Obviously many people will want to focus on whatthis avowedly pro-life Catholic will do about abortion and homosexuality. Here's what he says:

Q: How important were traditional family values issues, like abortion and marriage, in your race?A: Very little. I was focusing on the need to rebuild the Second Congressional District so the issues of abortion and marriage were not the focus of my campaign at all.Q: Are those values issue high priorities for your first term in Congress?A: My main priority in the first couple of years is to focus on rebuilding the Second Congressional District in Louisiana. Three and half years after Katrina, there are areas that remain devastated. The healthcare system is in need of reform. The educational system is in need of reform. We need to develop economically, need to look at the levies and at coastal restoration. Those are the issues right now that concern the majority of my constituents, so that's what I'll be focusing on.

The next question, for us, is whether such statements will help or hurt his political career, in the GOP and with the Catholic Church.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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