Gingrich and Santorum Don’t Represent Real Catholics

Don’t let two famous extremists degrade your opinion of Catholicism.

No Catholic I know, whatever their feelings about the canon of righteousness they were imbued with as a kid, is in any mood to stand up for the wonders of Catholicism these days.

You can thank widespread perversion, a pervasive cover-up and the arrogance of Church power for that. You probably heard tell of it.

It was the Church hierarchy and the clerics—not the true believers and cultural Catholics—that stole childhood innocence with the aggression of seagulls attacking unattended snacks.

It’s important to keep our bad guys straight.

It’s one thing for Catholics to have to deal with an ever-burgeoning criminal legacy, but now two candidates for president are increasingly citing Catholicism as a big part of their belief systems.

Problem is, both these candidates—Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich—practice made-up strains of Catholicism so outside the mainstream that it makes anyone who ever put down Marlboros for Lent seem mentally suspect.

Gingrich says he was turned on to Catholicism by Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth (a nightstand fave) and by watching his third wife sing in the church choir.

Santorum, a lifelong believer, takes all the precepts of the Church—including the birth-control-is-a-sin gambit—literally. He also recently said JFK’s historic speech about keeping the Pope out of the Oval Office made him want to throw up, thus losing every Irish Catholic vote in the country.

And we’re supposed to worry about Mormons?

Make note, my non-Catholic friends: There are only three kinds of Catholics in the world today, and none of the three fits into the Santorum-Gingrich schematic.

There are the true believers who go to Mass on Sunday, say their prayers before bed and support Catholic schools. They were brought up as Democrats, veered to the right because of Clinton but believe in birth control because the last thing they want is their daughter to get pregnant.

There are the intellectual Catholics. They like to talk about St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas while fastidiously avoiding all talk of the priest sex scandal. They know a few Jesuits personally and sometimes have them over for dinner. Intellectual Catholics decide which aspects of the faith are worthy of their attention. It’s a select few, trust me.

Finally, there are the cultural Catholics. You probably know a whole lot of these guys. They stopped going to Mass their senior year in high school, but may baptize their kids anyway and just may confess their sins on their deathbed because what’s the sense in not covering your bases?

There you have it. See a place for Gingrich and Santorum?

Maybe the Methodists can claim them.

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