A John Paul II Catholic Runs for Office in Florida

Tom Rooney is Catholic and pro-life, and he is running for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. Rooney comes from a football family; his grandfather, Art Rooney Sr., founded the Pittsburg Steelers in 1933. Former Army captain and JAG (Judge Advocate General), Rooney will need all his experience — football, military, and legal — to navigate the rough-and-tumble of a congressional campaign.
The 16th District was in the news last September when Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned after allegations he had sent sexually suggestive e-mails and text messages to teenage boys who were serving, or had served, as congressional pages.
In the aftermath of the scandal, this traditionally Republican congressional seat was won by pro-abortion Democrat Tim Mahoney, a Methodist.
Rooney is running for the GOP nomination against two present officeholders, but in spite of his newcomer status, he was named by Roll Call as an early favorite to win the nomination. Thus far, Rooney has raised far more money than his Republican opponents.
I asked Rooney what kinds of difficulties face a pro-life, pro-family Catholic running for public office.
“I look at it exactly the opposite,” he responded. “I don’t think I could run for office without my faith. It’s very difficult to put yourself out there. Going to Mass on Sunday is a time for me to get stronger.”
Rooney is married to Tara, who was also an Army captain and JAG, and they have three small boys, ages six, four, and one. He told me his Catholic faith is something he has never doubted, never been tempted to fall away from. The Rooney family was always devout in its religious practices.
“My grandfather [Art Rooney Sr.] attended daily Mass, and everywhere he went there was at least one priest walking with him. Any picture of him always had a priest in it. Whenever we went on road trips we would say the rosary all the way — it was just the way it was, and it didn’t feel weird at all.
In addition to his father, Patrick, and mother, Sandy, Rooney has four uncles, four brothers, two sisters, and 35 first cousins. Almost all of them have pitched in to help his campaign. Brother Brian has helped to craft the military message; Chris is volunteering full time at campaign headquarters; Pat has taken over the family business; and Joe helped with the campaign finances.
When asked if his family connections have earned him criticism, Rooney replied, “There have been some negative comments, but I tell people if I couldn’t raise money from my family it would be a much bigger negative.”
Money is also a major theme in Rooney’s campaign. He opposes any new tax increases. “More taxes is un-American, it makes us less free. Congressman Mahoney is promising everybody in the District more money to fix their problems, which will raise their taxes.”
If elected, Rooney also wants to work with Democrats, especially those who are veterans, to reconsider the rules of engagement to fit with the kind of insurgency warfare being fought in Iraq. “We need to ask whether we are fighting this war the best way we can.”
Rooney knows this subject very well, having taught rules of war and rules of engagement at West Point for two years. He hears from former cadets via e-mail, worried that what they do in the war will get them court-martialed.
Rooney is also concerned about illegal immigration. As a former assistant U.S. attorney, he wants a congressional mandate that local law enforcement be required to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when an illegal immigrant commits a felony. He thinks it’s a travesty that there are hundreds of thousands of imprisoned illegal immigrants who will not be deported. “We should all be able to agree, if you have committed a felony you should not be permitted to stay.”
At the end of the interview, Rooney apologized for not emphasizing the social issues in our interview. “The pro-life cause is extremely important to me, and being a social conservative is just who I am.”
But the three issues he did emphasize — taxes, immigration, and the military — Rooney believes need immediate attention.
“The future is very uncertain,” Rooney explains, “but I believe what John Paul II taught: that we should ‘be not afraid.’ We should ask God for his help because he is a loving God, and we should never fear him.”
Tom Rooney belongs to the generation of “John Paul II Catholics,” as I call them, who have answered the call to public service. Unlike the Catholic politicians of the last generation, most of whom ignored the Church on the key social and moral issues, Rooney would follow in the footsteps of the late Henry Hyde.
Within a few years, if Catholic candidates like Tom Rooney are elected, the Catholic presence in Congress could go from majority pro-abortion to majority pro-life.

Deal W. Hudson


Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ Formerly publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine for ten years, his articles and comments have been published widely in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report. He has also appeared on TV and radio news shows such as the O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, NBC News, and All Things Considered on National Public Radio. Hudson worked with Karl Rove in coordinating then-Gov. George W. Bush's outreach to Catholic voters in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, President Bush appointed him a member of the official delegation from the United States to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of John Paul II's papacy. Hudson, a former professor of philosophy for 15 years, is the editor and author of eight books. He tells the story of his conversion from Southern Baptist to Catholic in An American Conversion (Crossroad, 2003), and his latest, Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, was published in March 2008. He is married to Theresa Carver Hudson, also a Baptist convert, and they have two children, Hannah and Cyprian who was adopted from Romania in 2001.

  • Eric G

    A John Paul II Catholic politician?

    I guess that means a politician who aids and abets child molesters, does not hold his subordinates accountable for their depravities, and otherwise runs his office in an extreme laissez-affair manner.

    No thanks.

    John Paul II was one of the worst Popes in this history of Catholic Christianity; no more, please!

  • Deal Hudson

    Eric G, I couldn’t disagree with you more — future generations will refer to John Paul II as “John Paul the Great,” and deservedly so.

  • Miguel Miramon

    John Paul II Catholic, eh?

    Mr. Rooney wants to know if we are “fighting this war the best way we can.” Didn’t John Paul II state that invading another country which was no direct threat constitute a violation of just war principles? Has Mr. Ronney heard that John Paul II specifically condemned the invasion of Iraq? What would John Paul II say about the massive death of innocents which has taken place since our invasion? What would John Paul II say about the massive diplacement of Iraqis from their homes since our invasion?

    I fear Mr. Rooney sounds like another politician mouthing platitudes in Catholic format.

  • Deal Hudson

    Miguel, I would appreciate it you would point me to the direct quote from John Paul II where he condemned the invasion of Iraq. I’ve never seen one. Thank you.

  • Tim Shipe

    I think this Zenit interview with Russell Shaw from 3-13-2003 expresses the view of the Pope and the Vatican pretty well- many other such articles are available in the Zenit archive- just search for Iraq War at zenit.org:

    Russell Shaw on Iraq, Just War and Prudential Judgments

    Tells Where the Vatican and White House Concur — and Differ

    NEW YORK, MARCH 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- As part of its ongoing survey of commentaries on the Iraqi crisis, ZENIT turned to American writer Russell Shaw for his perspective on U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein.

    Shaw is author of “Papal Primacy in the Third Millennium” and “Ministry or Apostolate: What Should the Catholic Laity Be Doing?” (both from Our Sunday Visitor).

    ZENIT: The Vatican has said explicitly that the Holy Father is not a pacifist, and the Pope himself has called for Iraq to give up its prohibited weapons. Nevertheless, the Pope has repeatedly come out against a military solution to the issue. What are the main factors behind the different views of the U.S. administration and the Church?

    Shaw: The main reason for the difference lies in differing prudential judgments.

    President Bush and his people believe the consequences of not going to war — especially, the risk that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction would end up in the hands of terrorists — would significantly outweigh the bad consequences of war itself.

    The Holy Father and his people plainly believe that at this time whatever good might come from overthrowing Saddam Hussein would not be proportionate to the bad results, such as provoking more terrorism, adding fuel to the Christian-Muslim conflict between played out in many parts of the world, and doing long-term damage to the United Nations….

    The interview continues- go to zenit for more

  • Miguel Miramon

    Deal, I think a better question would be to ask you to show mw a direct quote where John Paul II supported the invasion of Iraq by the US government. I’ve never seen one. After all, isn’t Mr. Rooney (or you) claiming to be a “John Paul II Catholic”?
    Are you claiming that John Paul II would condone and justify the killing, maiming and displacement of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, men, women and children, DIRECTLY resulting from our actions in Iraq?

  • Brian John

    The Catholic Catechism is clear on who bears the responsibility for the “Just War” determination–the leader of the country–in this case, President Bush. The Pope, if he said anything on Iraq, was not speaking Ex Cathedra. When accussing someone of “mouthing platitudes,” lets make sure we speak from the correct “format” because the format you speak from is not the Catholic one.

  • Deal Hudson

    It’s really not up to any Pope to give authoritative comments on any prudential matter, including the waging of a just war. I remain interested in seeing a direct quote from JP II condemning the invasion. I have heard such remarks referred to, but I have never seen one.

  • Tim Shipe

    Here are quotes from then-Cardinal Ratzinger that should be looked at quite seriously- I doubt that his thinking has been changed by events on the ground :

    Cardinal Ratzinger Says Unilateral Attack on Iraq Not Justified

    Gives Personal Opinion; Favors Decision from U.N.

    TRIESTE, Italy, SEPT. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger does not believe that a unilateral military attack by the United States against Iraq would be morally justifiable, under the current circumstances.

    According to the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — who acknowledged that political questions are not within his competence — “the United Nations is the [institution] that should make the final decision.”

    “It is necessary that the community of nations makes the decision, not a particular power,” the cardinal said, after receiving the 2002 Trieste Liberal Award. His statements were published Saturday in the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

    “The fact that the United Nations is seeking the way to avoid war, seems to me to demonstrate with enough evidence that the damage would be greater than the values one hopes to save,” the cardinal said.

    He said that “the U.N. can be criticized” from several points of view, but “it is the instrument created after the war for the coordination — including moral — of politics.”

    The “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Ratzinger noted.

    “One cannot simply say that the catechism does not legitimize the war,” he continued. “But it is true that the catechism has developed a doctrine that, on one hand, does not exclude the fact that there are values and peoples that must be defended in some circumstances; on the other hand, it offers a very precise doctrine on the limits of these possibilities.”

    The Vatican official appealed to the three religions derived from Abraham to offer the Ten Commandments as the means to dissuade terrorists.

    “The Decalogue is not the private property of Christians or Jews,” Cardinal Ratzinger said. “It is a lofty expression of moral reason that, as such, is also found in the wisdom of other cultures. To refer again to the Decalogue might be essential precisely to restore reason.”

  • Tim Shipe

    The official Vatican newspaper reported that John Paul II repeatedly appealed to end the embargo on Iraq- it seems very unlikely that he supported the bombing/invasion. Also, it isn’t logical that every Vatican prelate I found quoted at Zenit News was expressing negative views to any U.S. unilateral invasion of Iraq- is it possible they were speaking such knowing that the pope’s heart and mind were on the side of the invasion?

    L’Osservatore Romano Notes Wide Opposition to Plan Against Iraq

    VATICAN CITY, AUG. 23, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Widespread international opposition to a U.S. plan to the overthrow the Iraqi regime became Page 1 news in the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper.

    “International positions distance themselves from the hypothesis of a U.S. attack,” reads a three-column headline in the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano dated Aug. 24.

    The article notes British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s comments to BBC. Straw said he believes the best means to reduce the threat represented by President Saddam Hussein is the return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq.

    Straw, member of a government that is traditionally aligned with the United States on such issues, said he believes that military action continues to be an option, but should not be carried out if there are other means to address the danger posed by Baghdad.

    The article also gives extensive coverage to Russia’s position, which is opposed to an attack on Iraq.

    Vatican officials have expressed opposition to a possible military attack against Iraq. In February, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, said that an attack would further destabilize the Mideast.

    John Paul II has repeatedly appealed for the lifting of the embargo against Iraq, since its victims are the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly.

  • Miguel Miramon

    Deal, I suppose I find your position on the inability of the pope to make authoritative comments on the waging of just war to be incredible, coming from a Catholic. If we are not to consider his comments authoritative then what is it you mean by being a “John Paul II Catholic”? A “John Paul II Catholic” as opposed to which kind of Catholic….? The pope obviously is not making dogmatic statements but when he speaks or teaches us, e.g., in the encyclicals, it behooves us, as Catholics, to take very prayerfully and seriously what he says.
    John Paul II spoke out on several occasions in 2003 against any invasion of Iraq. I guess I would just invite you to do an internet search on the subject.
    Before the invasion JP II sent his personal representative, Cardinal Pio Laghi, to attempt to dissuade Pres. Bush from invasion. Pio Laghi said such a war would be illegal and unjust. He was speaking on behalf of the Pope. JP II called the war “a defeat for humanity” and further stated, “When war, as in these days in Iraq, threatens the fate of humanity, it is ever more urgent to proclaim, with a strong and decisive voice, that only peace is the road to follow to construct a more just and united society”.
    When it comes to matter of the taking of human life and the waging of war, I’m afraid that I will listen more carefully to the voice of Supreme Pontiff of my Church, the Vicar of Christ, before I will to that of George Bush.

  • Eric G.

    I say, Who the heck cares what John Paul II had to say about the Iraq war?

    He might have made a fine Polish Archbishop, but he was a poor Pope, incompetent in the affairs of his own spiritual household as it were, and at best showed himself extremely naieve in his running of intra-church affairs.

    And I’m somehoe supposed to acede to his prudential judgment on matters of such magnitude and nuance as the Iraq War?!

    Gimme a break. The old man should have limited himself to articulating general just war principles, and kept his trap shut about his personal opinions on the justice of that war.

    There may be good reasons to oppose the Iraq War, but that a failed, frail, callous mini-monarch halfway across the world opposed it is not one of them.

    By this logic, we should approve of child molestation since, whatever his pretty words to the contrary, the Pope;s actions show he approved it hands down.

  • Eric G.


    Don;t forget that Alexander VI Borgia was once God’s Vicar on earth, as were a whole string of lechers, adulterers, and rapists. Ever heard of the Pornocracy?

  • Jason

    I think the evidence supports Miguel’s claim that Pope JPII was against the US invasion of Iraq. The practical effect of what we do have from him on the subject is the equivalent of condemning it – and I can’t see Deal or anyone else arguing otherwise credibly.

    John Paul’s opinion on the subject is not to be confused with authoritative Church teaching, but that’s not the point. The point is whether someone who supports our invasion and the war in Iraq can be called a “JPII” Catholic, given that pope’s known position.

  • John Jakubczyk

    After reading a very insightful article about an authentic Catholic seeking public office, I was surprised to read such angry and viperous comments about our late pontiff as well as some rather misleading comments about the Vatican’s comments and positions re Iraq.

    Suffice it to say that none of us ha any idea of the pressures and burdens of the papacy. Charity should remind us to consider our words when critiquing the actions of John Paul II.

    As for Eric, you have no clue of history.

    Regarding Iraq, perhaps the pope’s public concerns were prophetic, or perhaps he was as concerned with the possible failure to accomplish the stated goal ( if one was stated) in a way that would present an end better than the beginning. Yet he always refrained from making a definite statement as he well knew that the prudential judgment of nations rests with their leaders. Unlike a war of aggression would should be rightly condemned, the Iraq conflict has been one of these lingering problems that the world never really wanted to completely solve. The decision be the Bush administration to act, coupled with the increasing arrogance of the Islamic terrorist network, may be criticized now in hindsight, but the picture of the Twin Towers ablaze was a clear sign that something needed to be done.

    Reasonable people can differ on the effects of such actions as well as the implementation of the effort and hindsight always supports the current stream of thought. WE still have a lot to do both politically and militarily before the region is pacified and people are able to live in freedom.

    Finally I wish Mr. Rooney every success and prays he will be an example to the fallen away pro-abortion Catholics in the House.

  • Deal Hudson

    Miguel, I think you are to point out the visit of Cardinal Lahgi. As I followed the debate at the time, that visit was the only time that JP II, or his official representative, lobbied against the war.

  • Eric G.

    “Charity should remind us to consider our words when critiquing the actions of John Paul II.”

    I’ve considered my words very carefully. That’s why I’m as generous in my criticism of that poor Pope as I am.

  • John Jakubczyk

    I have a strong sense that you have not read any of the pope’s writings, studied his life or appreciated his contribution to the fall of communism. There is an interesting side to all of us (me included) that seems to delight in finding fault with great men who do great things.
    Yes they are flawed as are we all. Still to what extent we are critical, we may find ourselves asked….so what have you done lately ? A rhetorical question.

  • Ann Hessenius

    I was happy to read Mr. Jakubczyk’s assessments and thoughts.
    I wholeheartedly concur, and I have to believe that the very nasty (and – more importantly – seemingly exceedingly biased) opinions otherwise show an extremely deep lack of actual study of John Paul II, his theology, background, or positive impact on the course of world history. In fact, now that I think of it…I am appalled by some of the posters!!!
    Anyway – Kudos, John. You’re definitely on the correct side of this discussion!

  • Eric G.


    I have not molested any children, not have I turned a blind eye to heresy and dissent in the church and sodomy in the seminaries.

    Oh, and I’m not God’s vicar on earth. I hold that guy to a higher standard.

    That’s nice what JP2 did to Communism (I’ve read the Wiegel biography).

    However, history did not end in 1989. JP2 spend the remaining 16 years basically picking his nose while the church crumbled around him. Good things have happened since then, but in spite of and not because of a man who took as his model of pontification a laissez-affair approach to the market. He simply Christianized it, and applied it to church governance. Though to be fair he was preceded by a Pope just as incompetent, Paul VI. (I’m not counting John Paul I.)

    We wouldn’t give the CEO of a company this much pass; why we hold God’s vicar to a lower standard is beyond me. Honestly, what’s a Pope gotta do, short of sodomizing a puppy over the altar, for him to incur the righteous anger of orthodox Catholics?

  • Tim Shipe

    I would like to suggest that anyone who has the view that Pope John Paul II’s view of the Cold War was joined at the hip of the Reagan doctrine- needs to read JPII’s encyclical “On Social Concern”. If you limit yourself to just encyclicals dealing with Life issues, and filter your knowledge of JPII through biographies from neoconservative intellectuals like George Wiegel, you will not truly begin to capture the mind of JPII, nor will you truly approximate the mind of the Church in a genuine Catholic worldview.

    The path of ever-increasing militarization, the undermining of other nation’s sovereignty through covert and overt destabilizations and broad embargoes, the roughshod treatment of the UN, International Law, Universal Common Good, Destination of Goods and Global Solidarity, the role of the U.S. in the international Arms Trade, and the lack of a moral juridical framework for the global economy- in all of these areas America is in deep need of fundamental reform- dating back to the Cold War and to include the Reagan/Bush years.

    If you are indeed a serious Catholic- then I would recommend that you read as many of JPII’s encyclicals as possible- to also include Centessimus Annus- and read the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the last major work commissioned by JPII himself. There is so much beyond abortion- that relates back to abortion and other Life issues- we simply must be accountable for as the Salt of our Nation and communities. Let’s reach for the high bar- many innocent lives are also destroyed in unjust economies, unjust wars, and untended stewardship of the earth’s ecologies and resources. We should prioritize abortion- yes- but to ignore the totality of our social doctrine must be concerned a huge social sin-

  • NJ

    People like Eric really need some help in all things Catholic – pray for him, in my experience arguing with people like him (hate to generalize but I

  • John Jakubczyk

    NJ, I will take your wise advice and rather than castigate Eric, pray for him. There is an anger that flows deep when one attempts to shock people by making very sick comments.

    Tim, I agree that John Paul II had a deeper insight into the relationship of nations than what might be represented by politically charged positions. After all he saw his own country ravaged by Nazism, Communism and then railed against the sins of materialism. But the failure of the UN and the failure of the global community to live up to the ideals set forth in the UN Declaration on Human Rights only reminds us of our fallen nature and the constant need we have to seek God’s grace. Yet how does one convey that in a post-Christian era?

    As to the issue of priorities, Mother Teresa said it best and I paraphrase; How can there be peace when there is abortion? How can we recognize the rights of any human being when we ignore the tiny baby in the womb?

    We will be more likely to succeed in improving economies, ending hostilities, promoting freedom, ending famines, protecting environments, and aiding the poor, the oppressed and the hungry, once the mass killing stops.

  • tim shipe

    Thank you John for your comments- I am a both/and guy- I think the Church is putting out all of this social doctrine-related teaching/advice/counsel for a godly reason- we are called to fight every fight for justice and mercy- wherever human lives are in the balance- we must be there as believing Catholics- I can’t ignore anything that challenges the dignity of the human person in my community or society- obviously I cannot do it all- I respect that we are all called to focus in on where we feel the most inspiration- but we are not called to ignore the other good causes- we can prioritize issues like abortion- but we cannot just turn away from the other themes/issues of social concern. Let’s not turn against each other- pro-life and social justice are wedded in our social doctrine according to my own reading/study/prayer- I do prioritize life issues, but I am also active on these other fronts-

  • Hohn Jakubczyk

    Tim, I agree that we need to support each other in the MANY corporal works of mercy so needing our hands and hearts.
    I also wish to recall that we are all members of the one body and must work together for the benefit of the whole. What i sense is the frustration of many for having been for the last 25 years the step-child of so many church and charitable organizations. If all the groups that were naturally aligned with the right to life would stand in solidarity( such as when one trade union goes on strike, all the other trade unions join in the strike to shut down the job), instead of being “afraid” to bring up the subject, then I think we would solve the problem faster and Our Lord would be pleased to see His People ALL standing up for life.

    We also need to be kinder (as opposed to nicer) toward those around us. Perhaps during this lent, we all could step back and do a check.

  • Jim PiCKARD

    Let us all pray for the repose of the soul of the Cardinal..a wonderfully wise and holy man whose funeral will be tomorrow at St. Peter’s.
    I rejoice in having Congressman Rooney but I was very upset last month when I attended an event in NYC where Rooney Sr. praised President Elect Obama. How could he support him with his view on enlarging abortion in the US?