The Surprisingly Very Catholic America Welcomes Pope Francis

Long gone are the days when John F. Kennedy had to deny being a spy in the service of the pope and to swear his loyalty first to the nation and only then to the Vatican in order to convince Americans to vote for him. It is true that since that distant year of 1960, the United States has never again had a Catholic president. However, if in the past it was a stigma for any American politician to declare his Catholic faith — because that could cost him the election, as was the case with Democrat Al Smith in 1928 — nowadays everything is different. Not only does Obama have a Catholic vice president and secretary of state, Joe Biden and John Kerry, but when we look at the candidates for the White House, we encounter a handful of Catholics, whether Democrats or Republicans, from Martin O’Malley to Marco Rubio or from Chris Christie to Jeb Bush. Is it a sign of our times? Perhaps. But it is not only in politics that America is becoming more and more Catholic. In the Supreme Court, whose decisions shape the United States, six out of the nine judges are Catholic. If we think about it, it is a case of over-representation, since the 78.2 million Catholics only represent 25 percent of the entire American population. It is a number which owes its weight to the Hispanic community in America; in 2003, it outclassed blacks as the biggest minority. This America, in which pedophilia scandals in the church apparently didn’t prevent it from becoming extremely Catholic, is welcoming Francis on Wednesday, the first pope from the Americas; an Argentine, Jorge Bergoglio, who waited until he was pope to make his first visit to the United States.

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