The question had to be going through my friend Rick Santorum’s mind last week as he was cheered at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.: Where were these people when I was running for president? Where were the Catholics when he was running for the Republican nomination for president?
As I would say when asked, I’d sleep much better than I do now with either Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney as president. I believe both to be good men who have lead on some issues important to me (like liberty and the dignity of man!).
Catholics don’t vote as a clan and there were prudential considerations in picking a candidate during the primary. Lots of them. Electoral records. Experience. But at the Prayer Breakfast Thursday, I wondered: Is there more there for Catholics to consider?
First of all, it’s no secret that a “personally opposed” cloud has seeped into our public practice of the faith, where many Catholics really walk away from our faith in the public square, except when convenient to mention that we were, say an altar boy in Scranton, or taught by nuns at Trinity College. And even those of us who do let our faith inform our civic life, maybe we’ve bought into this secularist mindset, too. We’ve adapted, too. When we find ourselves asking: Couldn’t Santorum keep himself from talking about social issues? Couldn’t he steer off them when asked?
I do wonder if, on some level, Rick Santorum’s poor showing among Catholics isn’t a wee bit of a continued indictment of us. Here I think of folks who are put off by his public witness to his faith, his transparent attempt to integrate his public and private lives. There are plenty of prudential considerations, of course. And even prudential reasons for not wanting to have to have Americans’ hear the media endlessly play video of an interview where the alternative to Obama talks about how he will talk about the dangers of contraception as president at a time where Democrats are cynically, shamelessly trying to scare single women, especially, into voting for them. (Dems lost women for the first time since such things were tracked (1982) in the 2010 midterm elections.) But if you are turned off by his apostolic fearlessness — that would lead to moments like this one and this one — that’s probably worth reflecting on.
We do adapt to our surroundings. Sometimes in ways we don’t even realize.
With some of those thoughts in my head, I call him The UnKennedy in my syndicated column this week.