Skip to comments.Catholic Republicans becoming a more familiar sight on the Hill
Posted on 01/10/2005 11:02:56 AM PST by NYer
The 109th Congress that opened this week contains not only solid Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, but also a record number of Catholic legislators, especially Republican Catholics.
There are 154 Catholics in the new Congress - an all-time high - including 87 Democrats and 67 Republicans. While Democrats hold their traditional lead among Catholics, Republicans are gaining, with two-thirds of new Catholic members coming from the GOP.
Political observers say that party and ideology usually trump religious affiliation in casting votes, but they agree the numbers reflect a Catholic drift toward the Republican Party - a trend that could impact debate on such hot-button social issues as abortion, stem-cell research and gay marriage.
They are such members as Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican who holds a theology degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), and Rep. Bobby Jindal, a Louisiana convert from Hinduism who is also the second Indian-American member of Congress. "The church is bigger than any one political movement or party," said Jindal, who succeeded Republican David Vitter, a Catholic who moved to the Senate. "It's a healthy thing that there are Catholics on both sides of the aisle."
The religious makeup of Congress is based on an analysis by Al Menendez, the research director for the Washington-based Americans for Religious Liberty, who has crunched the numbers for each Congress since 1972.
Menendez' survey shows a relatively stable religious makeup since 2002, with Catholics solidifying their status as the largest single faith group, followed by Baptists (72), Methodists (61), Presbyterians (50), Episcopalians (42), Jews (37), nondenominational Protestants (24), Lutherans (20), Mormons (15) and nondenominational "Christians" (14) rounding out the top 10.
The Catholic figures are significant after a presidential campaign in which both parties heavily courted Catholic voters. President Bush, a Methodist, won the Catholic vote - 52-47 percent - against Sen. John Kerry, the first Catholic nominee since John F. Kennedy.
As Democrats struggle to maintain their longtime allegiance among U.S. Catholics, their lead among Capitol Hill Catholics is also falling. During the 1990s, Catholics were about 60 percent Democratic; now, that number is about 56 percent.
About one-quarter of Republican members are Catholic, compared with about one-third of Democrats. Nationally, Catholics are about evenly split three ways between independents and the two parties.
The new Catholics are coming from such places as North Carolina, which a generation ago was the domain of Baptists and Methodists. Of the 15-member N.C. delegation, all three Catholics are Republican.
"I think it's a question of values, and which party embodies the values we hold dear as Bible-believing Christians," said Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Catholic Republican from North Carolina. "I think what you see is a Republican Party in sync, in terms of values, with Catholic faith as well as all strong Bible-believing Christians."
Conservative Catholics said that Bush did more to motivate Catholics than having one of their own on the ballot. They credit Bush's open embrace of religious faith as the main reason Catholics are turning to the GOP and say Democrats are losing Catholics over the party's embrace of abortion rights.
"I think there's definitely a realignment from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party because the Republican Party has embraced the culture of life and a number of other issues that are so important to Catholics," said Leonard Leo, a member of the "Catholic Working Group" that advised the White House and the Bush campaign on Catholic issues.
Many Catholics, Leo said, were unimpressed by Kerry's attempts to highlight his Catholic faith on some issues and run from it on others.
"He tried to say, 'I'm a Catholic, you're a Catholic, we ought to vote together,'" Leo said. "That doesn't work anymore. People aren't impressed with labels."
Not so fast, say some Democrats. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has emerged as the voice of liberal Catholic strongholds in the Northeast. Last year, she conducted a survey that showed that Democrats vote more in line with church teaching than Republicans. Democrats, she said, need to do a better job of showing that religious faith can be bipartisan.
"The fact is, there are many of us in the Democratic Party who are people of faith, and we need to be more explicit, more public, about the convictions of our faith," she said.
I only wish that we could count on the right kind of votes based on a legislator's identification as a Catholic. After looking at the "Catholics" like Leahy, Kennedy, Daschle, etc., I've decided that I should be called "Senator". I mean, if they can call themselves "Catholics", why not?
It makes as much sense...
Even my hard core democratic father and husband (both long hard core democrats) finally realized that the party had left its members in the scramble to the left...in a swath of wrecked and mangled unborn babies, intolerant "calls for tolerance" and other hijinks...
It's high time Catholics went for the GOP. Our family was about 30 years ahead of the curve on this, thankfully.
Santorum for President!
Gov. Jeb Bush is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus from the Tallahassee Chapter.
Thanks for the post! Wasn't aware of this.
2nd degree Columbiette
Hmmmm. Campaign contributions . . . papal indulgences? Anyone see an correlation here? LOL Just kidding, folks. : )
The biggest difference between the Catholic Republicans and the Catholic Democrats in Congress is that over 90% of Catholic Republicans in the House are pro-life while probably less than 25% of Catholic Democrats in the House are pro-life.
That's a great quote from Bobby Jindal. He gets it right without rubbing anyone's nose in it.
No question that there's been a convergence between Catholics and Evangelicals, brought on by the recognition that they have a common cause in fighting the Culture of Death.
Interestingly, most Evangelicals were also Democrats not too long ago. But the Democrats have succeeded in driving any sort of Bible-believing Christians out of their party, whether they were southern Democrats or northern ethnics.
Catholics don't agree with Luther's Sola Scriptura, but they do, or should, have a basic respect for everything in the Bible, as one Catholic politician notes. And I don't know how you can respect the teachings of the Bible and still favor a "right" to abortion on demand.
Thanks for ping. We all remember when "Catholic" was a moniker that joined with "Do not apply".
What does this say about Catholic Democrats?
That should read "87 CINOs and 67 Catholics." I'd bet you dollars to dounuts that every single one of the DhimmiRAT alleged Catholics are pro-abortion and stand against Church dogma in other areas as well.
Expect big things...
-good times, G.J.P.(Jr.)
I thiunk about 20 of the DIM Catholics are pro-life, so a majority of Catholic members are pro-life. The problem is that it has taken the bishops 20 years to begin to break away from the clutches of the Cuomo, "personally opposed" crowd. because most American bishops grew up in Democratic families.
Bless you, Tony! And a very Happy New Year to you and your family.
In 2003, Jindal lost to a Cajun Catholic. Many Bayou voters (especially those rednecks in Northern LA) stupidly thought he was Muslim.
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