Jun 23

Convenient Republican Catholicism

Elizabeth Stoker BruenigJeb Bush wants you to know he won’t be taking marching orders from Pope Francis when it comes to political or economic matters. “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” Bush said at a campaign stop Tuesday. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.” Bush’s comments echo similar statements made by Rick Santorum, who said in a June 7 interview that the Church should stay away from matters of science and policy and stick to “theology and morality.” As election season commences, questions about Pope Francis will likely surface repeatedly in candidate question-and-answer sessions, in no small part because the Republican primary field is stocked with Catholics: George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio (who also doubts Francis’s capacity to contribute to political matters), along with Bush and Santorum.

The categories Bush and Santorum rely on to restrict religious reasoning to convenient subjects are, of course, porous and unstable. Bush has shown no signs of attempting to exclude religion from politics per se; during the ugly, protracted 2005 struggle over the life of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman on life support in a persistent vegetative state, Bush campaigned fiercely to keep Schiavo alive. As governor of Florida, Bush was also a reliable anti-abortion advocate. The same is true of Santorum. Both have linked their pro-life politics to their faith. These politicians appear to have no principled objection to religious reasoning governing aspects of political action; the objection that church and state should scarcely mingle only arises when religion becomes inconvenient to capital, as in the case of Francis’s entire papacy.

—Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig
Pope Francis’s Vision of a Moral Ecology Will Challenge Both Republicans and Democrats

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