- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rudolph W. Giuliani evokes his Catholic upbringing as he campaigns for president, yet he refuses to say whether he is a practicing Catholic.

When a voter asked this week if he is a “traditional, practicing Roman Catholic,” Mr. Giuliani insisted his faith should be private.

“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 Mr. Giuliani, divorces and remarries without getting an annulment from the church cannot receive Holy Communion or other church sacraments.

Candidates try hard to woo religious voters. Surveys show that people who go to church weekly are more likely to vote; that is especially true of Republicans and even more true of Catholics.

Faith is not necessarily their main concern. In an Associated Press-Ipsos poll in March, 4 percent of those surveyed said faith or belief in God was an important quality in a presidential candidate; among Republicans, the number was 8 percent, while among Democrats, the number was 1 percent.

About 25 percent of polled Catholics supported Mr. Giuliani, while 22 percent were undecided, AP-Ipsos surveys in June and July found. Republicans have been more successful with religious voters — President Bush, a Methodist, won the Catholic vote over John Kerry, a Catholic, in 2004.

Mr. 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. An audience member had asked Mr. Giuliani to talk about his faith.

“I believe in God,” Mr. 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.”

Mr. Giuliani’s was a devoutly Catholic boyhood. He signed up for the priesthood after graduating in 1961 from Brooklyn’s Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School. He changed his mind a couple of months later, deciding he was more interested in girls, he wrote in his 2002 book “Leadership.”