The ‘evangelical’ Catholics who are remaking the GOP

The ultimate swing vote
David Brat

David Brat

The following comes from a June 16 story on

How many voters know that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a Roman Catholic? Or that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a Southern Baptist, not a Latino Catholic? Or that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio worships at both a Catholic parish and an evangelical church?

More importantly, does it matter?

Actually, it does in today’s Republican Party, where a number of factors have forged a new religious identity that supersedes familiar old categories.

These prominent Republicans are emblematic of the new religious amalgam that, in many instances, has helped refashion denominational differences that were once almost insurmountable. Look no further than the stunning Virginia primary victory of Dave Brat, a Catholic with degrees from a Reformed Protestant college in Michigan and Princeton Theological Seminary, who took down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week.

Running in a conservative district in the Richmond suburbs, Brat is described as both a Catholic and Calvinist, labels that would be considered incompatible in almost any realm. He’s a champion of a resurgent movement among Catholic intellectuals that seeks to marry Catholic social teaching with free-market economic libertarianism.

Recent presidential elections have elevated several evangelicals, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. But heading into the 2014 midterm elections, several of the Republican Party’s emerging leaders are Catholic, including some who maintain evangelical backgrounds or tendencies.

The challenge for Catholic politicians might be finding the balancing act between a Catholic and an evangelical appeal, said Amy E. Black, a political science professor at Wheaton College in Illinois.

“While the Catholic faith used to be a liability, it might even be an asset now,” Black said. “Evangelicals are a solid voting bloc in the Republican Party, whereas Catholics are likely to be swing voters. Republican presidential candidates know they need to appeal to evangelical voters, and they want to win over as many Catholic voters as they can.”

Evangelicals have been relatively predictable in the past few elections, while Catholics have been less so. Although Catholic voters have historically tended to be Democratic, recent elections have shown them to be the ultimate swing vote. They backed Al Gore in 2000 (50 percent), George W. Bush in 2004 (52 percent), Barack Obama in 2008 (54 percent) and again in 2012 (50 percent), according to the Pew Research Center.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, have been much more consistently Republican — 79 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012, 73 percent for John McCain in 2008 and 79 percent for Bush in 2004.

The newfound Catholic appeal among the GOP can be seen in the number of high-profile conversions to Rome. Jeb Bush, who comes from a classic blue-blood Episcopal family dynasty, converted to Roman Catholicism years ago. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was raised Hindu but converted to Catholicism. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback converted to Catholicism, but his wife and family still attend evangelical churches. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was a Southern Baptist for most of his life, converted to his third wife’s Roman Catholicism in 2009….

What changed? For one, leading Catholics and evangelicals decided they could do more together than working against each other. Twenty years ago, former Nixon aide Charles Colson and the late Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, founder of the ecumenical magazine First Things, started the group Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and the cross-pollination it promoted is having practical effects.

“The alliance forged in the trenches between evangelical Protestants and faithful Catholics in the struggle to defend human life and marriage has blossomed into much greater than a mere marriage of convenience,” said Princeton University’s Robert P. George, the de facto leader of the Catholic intellectual political movement. “What has emerged is a spiritual fellowship that I think was not anticipated at the beginning by anybody.”

Catholics have a lot to learn from evangelicals, George said, pointing to a book by George Weigel, another Catholic intellectual heavyweight at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, arguing for a more evangelical Catholicism.

The challenge, he said, is for Catholic Republicans to speak in authentic ways to a largely evangelical base. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, has figured it out, while others, like 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, struggled. “I’m so goofy with that stuff,” Ryan told Buzzfeed after a service where he sang with extended hands. “It’s just not my thing. I’m Catholic!”

“Ryan’s Catholicism runs pretty deep,” said Stephen Schneck, a longtime Democratic activist and professor at the Catholic University of America. “I’m not sure how he squares it with his libertarianism, but I don’t think he really has the same evangelical style as others.”

Like Brat’s surprise win last week in Virginia, Ryan’s rise within the GOP reflects the rise of the Tea Party within the party and a redirected focus among some conservatives from social issues to economics. As the The Washington Post reported, Brat, an economist at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., is part of a bigger movement in recent years of overtly religious economists….

To read the entire posting, click here.



  1. Yes! But will they outlaw abortion? Not even Reagan could accomplish that!

    • Outlawing abortion would take a change in the law which could be approved at the Supreme Court level.
      Remember, it was the Supreme Court (legislating from the bench) in 1973 that made ABORTION the law of the land.
      Further for the Republicans to change the law, the Republicans would need control of the House and the Senate, and the Presidency (since the President must sign bills into law).

      What we can do is remember that Party Platforms are the goals of each Party.
      We must make ourselves familiar with each current Party Platform on a NATIONAL level as well as each 2014 Party Platform on the STATE level.
      These can be found on the internet.

      Look for support of the Intrinsic evils of: ABORTION, EUTHANASIA, SAME SEX MARRIAGE, (Embryonic) STEM CELL RESEARH, etc.

      INTRINSIC EVILS are not negotiable.
      Since government can not be all things to all people both from a practical and financial standpoint – how to implement other things and priorities are the Prudential Judgment of the LAITY (not Bishops).
      CCC: 2442; 898.
      (Some Diocese Bishops need to be reminded of this.)

      If ever in doubt regarding Faith & Morals, use your “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition”.

      • When Bishops get involved in politics which are not 100% in conformance with all the teachings in the CCC, they damage the Faith by teaching falsely.

        Their own political opinions mean nothing. And they should not use their Church position to push them.
        Remember the CCC contains the Doctrine of the Faith.
        The CCC does NOT:
        1) prohibit the death penalty 100% of the time;
        2) prohibit gun ownership;
        3) Immigrants ARE REQUIRED to obey the laws of the host Country, and this does not exclude immigration laws.
        (These are only 3 where some Bishops have imposed their own political beliefs that are not 100% in conformance with the CCC by their twisting the truth.)
        Read your CCC, you can not trust ALL Diocese Bishops.

    • Hopefully they will not promote abortion all over the world – the way of Obama, and Hillary Clinton (who got PP’s 2009 Margaret Sanger Award).

    • Abeca Christian says:

      To outlaw Abortion? As long as this society continues in the way it is, it won’t happen. We could at least choose those that lessen abortion. Remember our Lord keeps calling out to us “Return to me children.” If we don’t return to God, then we may never see hearts change.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wouldn’t overdue it on Cathilics….their issue base is pretty much the same as most. Evangicals, not matter what Church they speak for, and uncompromising folks who would shut down the government…..something voters overwhelmingly opposed when it last happened. Cahtilics are more mainstream now. Bratt will have a lot to learn but will probably join the far right fringe that does very little to advance legislation and just votes “no” on just about everything. God forbid that the Cathilic members of Congress would walk down that road.

    • Better to vote “NO” when you are out-numbered than to vote for “yes” for “Mortal Sin” and further degrade society.

      CCC: ” 2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
      Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.
      This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,
      or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.”

  3. On VOTING and – – – – “WORTHINESS to RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION – General Principles” – Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) –

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