Assessing Mitt Romney is a matter of reviewing his record, evaluating his proposals, and weighing his intangibles. Since he’s given no indication that his Mormonism will at the heart of his potential Presidency, his religion is a non-issue. Not so with Rick Santorum given his nauseation over the idea of separating church from state. But just what is this church that won’t be separated from the state?
Since Santorum has made it an issue, it was no hit piece when the New York Times recently detailed his religious life, noting that
In a 2002 essay, Mr. Santorum wrote that too many Catholics had been exposed to “uninspired, watered-down versions of our faith” and that it was time for more committed Catholics to reclaim religious institutions, like colleges, schools and hospitals, “for the sake of our souls.”… Mr. Santorum has been a supporter of Regnum Christi, the lay wing of a conservative, cultish order of priests known as the Legion of Christ.
Laying aside the pejorative “cultish,” this is fair enough in showing his ambition and it provides some vetting that the Politico-Evangelicals either haven’t done or haven’t emphasized by identifying Santorum as a supporter of Regnum Christi. Santorum’s involvement with Regnum Christi may explain his Evangelical-like piety:
For each Regnum Christi member, Jesus Christ is the standard, center, and model of his religious, priestly, and apostolic life. A member strives to know and experience Christ in a personal way, especially in the Gospel, the Eucharist, and the cross. He aims to love him with a personal and passionate love, and strives to imitate him and to preach him to others as he carries out his daily activities. [italics added]
So, yes, I guess he’s an Evangelical Catholic. But he has a much higher and central view of the church than the Evangelicals:
The Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi members serve the Church as an expression of their love for Christ, since Christ identified himself with the Church. In fact, Regnum Christi only exists in the Church, for the Church, and at the service of the Church’s supernatural and human mission.
Legionaries and Regnum Christi members strive to work alongside diocesan bishops and priests, as well as the many other congregations, institutions, movements, and Catholic associations that contribute to the beauty of the Church. All are united together in the Church’s common mission of bringing Christ to the world.
In their love for the Church, Regnum Christi members aim to work in the most effective way possible, both in depth and in scope, so as to help establish the Kingdom of Christ in society. They work with uncompromising loyalty to the Magisterium of the Church and in full communion with its pastors.
So, whereas John F. Kennedy seemed to put to rest the idea that a Catholic President would be subservient to the Pope, Santorum has made it an issue all over again. So he must be the choice of Catholics, right? Not according to the New York Times:
Many Catholics take issue with Mr. Santorum’s approach to their faith. Mr. Santorum, polls show, has lost the Catholic vote in every primary contest so far, some by wide margins.
Putting this all together, the Catholics don’t support a Catholic who won’t separate his church from the state, but the Politico-Evangelicals do. And that, my friends, is one more reason why politics is such a great spectator sport.