Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The First Catholic President?

Rick Santorum thinks Bush is it. See the Washington Post article from today, linked in this post's title, for the whole story.

Shortly after Pope Benedict XVI's election in 2005, President Bush met with a small circle of advisers in the Oval Office. As some mentioned their own religious backgrounds, the president remarked that he had read one of the new pontiff's books about faith and culture in Western Europe.

Save for one other soul, Bush was the only non-Catholic in the room. But his interest in the pope's writings was no surprise to those around him. As the White House prepares to welcome Benedict on Tuesday, many in Bush's inner circle expect the pontiff to find a kindred spirit in the president. Because if Bill Clinton can be called America's first black president, some say, then George W. Bush could well be the nation's first Catholic president.

This isn't as strange a notion as it sounds. Yes, there was John F. Kennedy. But where Kennedy sought to divorce his religion from his office, Bush has welcomed Roman Catholic doctrine and teachings into the White House and based many important domestic policy decisions on them.

"I don't think there's any question about it," says Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a devout Catholic, who was the first to give Bush the "Catholic president" label. "He's certainly much more Catholic than Kennedy."
"I used to say that there are more Catholics on President Bush's speechwriting team than on any Notre Dame starting lineup in the past half-century," said former Bush scribe -- and Catholic -- William McGurn.
Moreover, people close to Bush say that he has professed a not-so-secret admiration for the church's discipline and is personally attracted to the breadth and unity of its teachings. A New York priest who has befriended the president said that Bush respects the way Catholicism starts at the foundation -- with the notion that the papacy is willed by God and that the pope is Peter's successor. "I think what fascinates him about Catholicism is its historical plausibility," says this priest. "He does appreciate the systematic theology of the church, its intellectual cogency and stability." The priest also says that Bush "is not unaware of how evangelicalism -- by comparison with Catholicism -- may seem more limited both theologically and historically."

Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, another evangelical with an affinity for Catholic teaching, says that the key to understanding Bush's domestic policy is to view it through the lens of Rome. Others go a step further.

Paul Weyrich, an architect of the religious right, detects in Bush shades of former British prime minister Tony Blair, who converted to Catholicism last year. "I think he is a secret believer," Weyrich says of Bush. Similarly, John DiIulio, Bush's first director of faith-based initiatives, has called the president a "closet Catholic." And he was only half-kidding.


Anonymous said...

what do you think his chances of converting are?

Brandon said...

About the same s his chances of winning the Iraq War.

Brandon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

So you mean he IS converting?

Anonymous said...

I think he will eventually. Jeb has converted already. And don't forget that his family has traditionally been episcopalian, not methodist or evangelical.

Anonymous said...

is he involved with the Masonic temple? I heard/read somewhere that the only US President to not be involved is JFK, since he was Catholic. does this evev affect anuthing?

Rachel said...

I was going to make the same comment as one of the anonymous posters about his brother's conversion. It does not seem too far-fetched to think Dubya might perhaps swim the Tiber in the future.

Even if he doesn't convert, it would seem that in many ways he deeply respects and seeks to understand the intellectual contributions of the faith.

No one is perfect, but I think it is telling that Bush surrounds himself with the advisers he does, and generally seems quite receptive to Catholic views on a variety of issues.