A John Paul II Catholic Runs for Office in Florida

FILE - In a Tuesday, June 18, 2013 file photo, Republican Congressman Tom Rooney, R-Fla., questions individuals regarding NSA surveillance in Washington. Rooney, who’s in his fifth term in Congress, held a town hall meeting Monday, March 6, 2017, in Englewood, Fla., during which the majority of the crowd quickly started booing about everything from the environment to health care. Little more than a month into President Donald Trump's administration, Republican members of Congress are returning home to find crowds of concerned and, at times, raucous voters, pressing for explanations of the president's plans for health care, immigration policies and cabinet appointees, among other things. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Deal W. Hudson
February 13, 2008

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 is 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.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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