Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Catholic Candidate

Over 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic." Those words set a tone for his political beliefs which followed the model of our Constitution which is based on a "separation from church and state."

Today we have another Catholic candidate and this time his political ideology is much in lined with his religious beliefs, so much so that it's hard to make the distinction between a man who wishes he was a Priest and the man who wants to be leader of the free world. Unbeknownst to him, not all Americans are Catholic. A lesson I didn't learn until I went away to College (which also happened to be Catholic).

I grew up Catholic and have a fondness for the church. Yet, despite my religious values, I fundamentally understand that as an officer in the military I swore an oath to defend a document which was not the bible. It was in fact the Constitution. It just so happens it is a similar oath that the President of the United States takes.

Unlike Kennedy, he doesn't view the separation of church and state as absolute, but rather intertwined. Throughout his campaign he has made it clear that he intends to move the church into his cabinet thus reversing years of precedence where we as a country have embraced nationwide values, not those of one group. He went as far as to say that when he heard President Kennedy's position on being a Catholic which was separate from his candidacy, it made him want to "throw up."

As a Catholic I detest the notion that Rick Santorum would ever speak for me. Just like America, there are many kinds of Catholics and each of us whose political beliefs contradict our religious ones, understand that our faith ought not to trump the rights of others. Catholics have not voted as a bloc in decades. We are as distinct and independent in our views as any other voting demographic. There is a reason why we are resistant to accept him as "our candidate." It's because he doesn't even remotely represent our values.

Rick Santorum is an arrogant proselytizer who believes he speaks for the church. He does not. If he did, he would surely make it known to all that his mission would be to "feed the poor." Unfortunately his political beliefs says that this is welfare. His plan for the poor? He doesn't have one. The book of Matthew makes if abundantly clear that it would be nearly impossible to reach heaven without doing so. Does he still proclaim to be the Catholic candidate? He rests on so many issues, but on a primary one of helping those less fortunate he is coincidentally silent. Why? Well, because the poor don't vote. They don't contribute money to PACs or campaigns and they certainly don't have a voice in his government.

Jesus said “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me” (Matthew 25:40). Catholicsm is a religion of action. What separates us from Protestants is our belief that "works of charity" brings us closer to the kingdom of heaven. There is little disputing this. It's ironic that Rick Santorum continues to campaign on the idea that he is the Catholic candidate with "Catholic values." The only values that I see, is that he puts himself and his agenda first. He has forgotten about the least of God's people. These are the people who will matter most, not the ones that go to the ballot box on November 6th.

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