The National Catholic Reporter goes looking for Catholic reaction to what is happening in Iowa these days:
Religion has had an extraordinary presence in the buildup to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, but Catholics have been distinguished by their silence.
“It’s part of the Catholic culture,” said Deacon Dan McGuire, parish administrator at Assumption Parish in Granger, Iowa. “We get involved in politics. That’s obvious. But as a former excluded minority … we keep faith in our private community. We don’t vocalize it in public.”
The Des Moines Register, the largest and most influential newspaper in the state, has been filled with articles, guest editorials and letters to the editor from the candidates, evangelical pastors and laypersons about the importance of faith in caucus choices. And candidates have been appearing at scores of Protestant churches around the state, eagerly proclaiming their Christianity and dedication to “traditional values.”
But the two Catholic candidates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have made few references to their religion and there have been few, if any, public statements from probable Catholic GOP caucus attendees, let alone the Democratic opposition.
“I have not seen candidates challenged by Catholics,” said Kathie Obradovich, a Register political columnist who is a Catholic and whose spouse, Jim, is a deacon. That’s in contrast to “lots of evangelical Christian organizations … that raise money and get involved in politics.”……Tom Quiner of Des Moines owns a marketing firm with his wife, Karen, and in his spare time writes musicals. He’s just finished one called “The Pope of the People: The John Paul II Musical.” He supports Gingrich, and says Catholics “are not sitting on the sidelines.” They are “energized by life issues, especially the traditional marriage issue and the contraception issue,” adding that he believes Catholics have “a sense that their conscience protection is at risk.”
Quiner said he believes Gingrich’s conversion to Catholicism “resonates with a lot of Catholics” despite Gingrich’s three marriages. That conversion was obviously not a political move, he says, because it has never been a political advantage to be a Catholic.
“We respect him for it because it was done out of conviction,” he said. “We have a sense that he has matured, that he’s a different person, is a grandfather and is more ‘other’-oriented.”
For Quiner and many evangelicals and Catholics, abortion is “the No. 1 issue.” As for other church teachings that touch on politics, he says that “as a conservative, there are certain issues on which I’ll take issue with the church.”
Kim Lehman of Johnston, a GOP national committeewoman for Iowa, is a Santorum supporter. She says it’s true that Catholics may not be identifying themselves as such, but she has lots of Catholic friends who are involved with caucus candidates. She said she believes Catholics and others should vote according to “what’s important to God,” and believes abortion trumps all other issues. “It’s intrinsically evil to advance abortion,” she said.