January 13, 2005


Catholic Republicans becoming a more familiar sight on the Hill (Kevin Eckstrom, January 8, 2005, RELIGION NEWS SERVICE)

The 109th Congress that opened this week contains not only solid Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, but also a record number of Catholic legislators, especially Republican Catholics.

There are 154 Catholics in the new Congress - an all-time high - including 87 Democrats and 67 Republicans. While Democrats hold their traditional lead among Catholics, Republicans are gaining, with two-thirds of new Catholic members coming from the GOP.

Political observers say that party and ideology usually trump religious affiliation in casting votes, but they agree the numbers reflect a Catholic drift toward the Republican Party - a trend that could impact debate on such hot-button social issues as abortion, stem-cell research and gay marriage.

They are such members as Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican who holds a theology degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), and Rep. Bobby Jindal, a Louisiana convert from Hinduism who is also the second Indian-American member of Congress. "The church is bigger than any one political movement or party," said Jindal, who succeeded Republican David Vitter, a Catholic who moved to the Senate. "It's a healthy thing that there are Catholics on both sides of the aisle."

It's not your father's GOP, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 13, 2005 8:29 AM

No, it sure isn't, and I'm old enough (54) that some of my very first memories about politics are the anti-JFK sermons our minister preached during the 1960 campaign. Of course, where I lived (and still live), it wasn't likely that JFK would get many votes, anyway.

There has been a rumor that Bush's move when Rehnquist steps down will be to appoint Thomas (Catholic)as Chief Justice and Bill Pryor (Catholic) as Associate Justice so that likely Dem opposition can be painted as Rome-bashing. Which it is.

Posted by: Dan at January 13, 2005 9:50 AM