Past Chicago Catholic Examiner columns have highlighted certain Catholic candidates running for office. For example, a 2012 column titled “An Illinois Catholic for President?” brought attention to Rick Santorum‘s presidential campaign at the time. In 2016, the only column about the Presidential election has been a piece about CatholicVote.org‘s decision to oppose Donald Trump for President. But can’t we have a positive piece about the political process?
Yes, indeed. Today’s column looks at an individual who may not be a good Presidential candidate, but is nevertheless a good Catholic man.
Illinoisans went to bed on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, to learn that Marco Rubio had finished a disappointing 2nd place in his home state of Florida, and an extremely poor 4th out of 4th place here in Illinois, where he won 0 delegates and didn’t even crack 10% of the vote in the Republican primary. To be certain, Rubio was not the only Catholic candidate for President this election cycle (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal were examples of numerous other Catholics who threw their hat in the ring). However, Rubio had the longest lasting campaign, and his exit from the race after losing his home state (where he currently serves as a sitting senator) was bittersweet and embarrassing to him.
Some observers have said that Marco Rubio’s religious faith is questionable. According to numerous reports, Rubio had been baptized Catholic, converted to Mormon, returned to the Catholic church, and occasionally worships as a protestant mega church. Still, there seems to be no dispute that Catholicism is where his heart truly belongs. Rubio’s short lived membership in Mormonism occurred when he moved to Las Vegas in 1979, and seems to have been brought on more by an attempt to assimilate with the local culture of the region than any genuine love for Mormon dogma. In Florida, Rubio re-embraced the faith of his birth. In 2004, he re-read the Catholic catechism in its entirety, and grew a deep understanding for Catholic theology and tradition. Rubio noted: “Every sacrament, every symbol and tradition of the Catholic faith is intended to convey, above everything else, the revelation that God yearns, too, for a relationship with you.” Rubio also cited the consecration of the Eucharist as one reason why he decided he must remain a Catholic. In his book, Rubio wrote: “I craved, literally, the Most Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion, the sacramental point of contact betwen the Catholic and the liturgy of heaven“. As to why he occasionally attends a protestant mega-church, Rubio noted that the pastor at Christ Fellowship Church is able to offer a powerful message about the gospels that he finds lacking at mass on Sundays, but that ultimately he has to attempt Mass on Sundays at St. Louis Catholic Church to fulfill his weekly obligation. Rubio visits Christ Fellowship Church on Saturday evenings for a good spiritual talk, but is raising his children Catholic. Rubio’s children have received their first communion, and will be confirmed in the Catholic faith. On his odd knack for visiting protestant churches, Rubio noted: “I wondered why there couldn’t be a church that offered both a powerful, contemporary gospel message and the actual body and blood of Jesus.”
Rubio’s Achilles heel is his Presidential campaign was ultimately the fact that he had campaigned as a no-compromise, anti-amnesty candidate in his 2010 U.S. Senate race. After going to Washington, he promptly had a change of heart and was part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” Senators that crafted a plan for a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens. For many voters, Rubio’s flip-flop on this issue made it impossible to trust him on anything else. Still, Rubio has been a very staunch conservative Republican otherwise, and maintained a solid 98% conservative rating from the American Conservative Union. At the peak of his campaign, he says he was subjected to an “unprecedented” amount of attack ads from the Super PAC supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
In exiting the Presidential race, Rubio gave a gracious concession speech where he did not harbor any bitterness or anger at his failed presidential bid. Rubio’s campaign manager called on his supporters to rally behind Ted Cruz, whom Rubio had praised as “the only conservative left in the race”. After hearing Rubio’s gracious concession speech, Alfonso Aguilar noted on Fox News Latino that it reminded him of when Ronald Reagan gave an upbeat, optimistic address in 1976 after losing the Republican presidential primary to Gerald Ford: “Just like at that time, I think a lot of people are watching and listening and saying ‘We are about to nominate the wrong guy.” he noted.
Whatever the future holds for Marco Rubio, one can admire the fact he conducts himself with class and graciousness. Rubio may never be President, but there is no doubt he’s a good person inside, and a good Catholic. Adios, Marco Rubio.