RNS noticed something others may have missed:
As Julián Castro officially launched his candidacy for president over the past few weeks, he invoked a certain female figure so frequently she might as well have been his running mate.
On Dec. 12, as he declared that he was forming an exploratory committee, Castro, 44, a Texan who served as U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development during President Obama’s second term, stood in front of a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Catholic Church’s patron saint of Mexico. The date was auspicious too: Dec. 12 is the Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day.
A month later Castro formally announced his campaign to a throng in Plaza Guadalupe in San Antonio, where he was mayor before going to Washington. During his speech, he made sure to point out Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church across the street.
“We were baptized just over there, at the Guadalupe church,” he said, pointing as audience members whooped and applauded.
The references weren’t an accident, he said.
“The Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was really where my story started on the west side of the city,” Castro told Religion News Service in an interview days after the event. “I was baptized there, grew up not far from there, and went to school close to there. I wanted my announcement to present to the American people who I am, and my family and I have been Catholic for generations.”
His Catholicism, in other words, is not so much about how often he goes to worship — “I can’t say I go to church as much as I’d like,” he admitted — as it is about his family, his Mexican-American heritage and his progressive values. It’s also a form of the faith that, while sometimes obscured by other popularized visions of Catholicism, is deeply familiar to growing millions of Latino voters.
Castro, whose children are baptized Catholics and attend Catholic schools, diverges sharply from Catholic orthodoxy on significant points.
He was the first mayor to serve as grand marshal of San Antonio’s Pride parade, in 2009. In 2013 he signed a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and while serving as HUD secretary he spoke at LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 conference. And last year he delivered remarks at a Planned Parenthood luncheon in South Texas.
While most American Catholics share Castro’s liberal leanings, supporting same-sex marriage and believing abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to Pew Research, Castro’s family-based Catholicism may irk some more conservative Catholics in eastern cities and the Midwest. Nor will his social-justice Catholicism gain him followers among those who focus narrowly on church prohibitions regarding abortion and sexuality.
Those who are curious can watch his San Antonio speech below.