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Santorum and the Catholic-Evangelical Alliance Santorum and the Catholic-Evangelical Alliance

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Santorum and the Catholic-Evangelical Alliance

If Rick Santorum does well tonight--and all indications are that he will--it's worth remembering that it wouldn't have been possible without good relations between evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics. It's now considered a non-event that the two groups get along and are willing to vote for candidates of the other faith. But, of course, it wasn't always so. You can go back to the tensions between Catholic immigrants and native Protestants, the temperance movement which divided Catholic wets from native drys. The tensions did not end with the election of John F. Kennedy who famously told a Baptist clergy in the South that he would not let religion play a role in his public life. Santorum is, of course, devoutly religious and makes no apologies for letting his faith guide his public life. The same is true for Newt Gingrich, a recent convert to Catholicism.

In some ways the tensions between the groups are there over issues like proselytizing--the Third World has become something of a battleground for hearts and minds between Catholics and Protestants who have made deep inroads in Latin America. But there has also been a conscious effort on the party of conservatives to put aside their differences. Pope Benedict the XVI has continued the same outreach to evangelicals the John Paul II did.

In 1994, American Catholic and Evangelical leaders came together to sign a statement: Evangelicals & Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium. Its signatories included Chuck Colson, the prominent evangelist and Watergate figure and Pat Robertson, the Christian Broadcast Network found as well as Catholics like the lake Father Richard John Neuhaus and Cardinal John O'Connor. The document pledged the groups to work together in common cause on issues like abortion and to not let doctrinal differences or conflicts over recruitment "give comfort to the enemies of Christ."

In the 18 years since, ties between conservative Catholics and fundamentalist evangelicals have only go stronger. Whether those ties will be enough to propel Santorum or another religiously oriented candidate forward remains to be seen but the alliance is remarkable enough.

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