Giuliani’s Catholic chameleon campaign


Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani seems to want to have it both ways when it comes to being Catholic. As he campaigns for president, the Republican frontrunner brings up his Catholic background occasionally but refuses to say whether or not he is a practicing Catholic.

When a voter asked this week if he is a ''traditional, practicing Roman Catholic,'' Giuliani insisted his faith should be private, according to the AP.

''My religious affiliation, my religious practices and the degree to which I am a good or
not-so-good Catholic, I prefer to leave to the priests,'' the former New York mayor responded in Davenport, Iowa.

It would be difficult for him to answer yes. Someone who, like Giuliani, divorces and remarries without getting an annulment from the church cannot receive communion or other church sacraments.

Nevertheless, AP-Ipsos surveys in June and July found that about 25 percent of Catholics support Giuliani, with 22 percent remaining undecided.

While Democrats are talking more about faith in the 2008 campaign, Republicans, at least Romney and Giuliani, are not. Yet Giuliani brings up his Catholic upbringing when it suits him.

''My first class without prayers was my first day of law school,'' he said last month in Le Mars, Iowa, drawing chuckles from voters at a family restaurant, the AP reported.

''I believe in God,'' Giuliani said. ''I pray and ask him for help. I pray like a lawyer. I try to make a deal -- get me out of this jam, and I'll start going back to church.''

As a boy Giuliani was a devout Catholic. In fact, after graduating from Brooklyn's Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in 1961, he decided to enter the seminary. However, a couple of months later he changed his mind, deciding he was more interested in girls, he wrote in his 2002 book ''Leadership.''

What is most problematic for the former New York mayor is his marital history. The most controversial relationship was his marriage to Donna Hanover. The relationship was abruptly cut off when Hanover discovered Giuliani’s intention to divorce her from an announcement he made at a press conference. 

There is some debate as to whether Giuliani’s marital life should be part of the campaign debate, but Stephen Dillard, a conservative blogger, responds, ''The way he treated his wife gives us insight into how he views the role of family, how he views marriage, how he views the church's teaching on adultery and divorce.”

Religious scholars say that Giuliani's willingness to talk about some, but not all, aspects of his faith is inconsistent.

''If you identify yourself that way in a public forum and then try to shut down any questions, that's not going to work,'' said the Rev. James Heft, religion professor and president of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California.

Giuliani also finds himself at odds with his sometimes advantageous faith on the issue of abortion. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, RI made news in June when he criticized Giuliani's position, calling it pathetic, confusing and hypocritical.

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