At Communion and Liberation’s annual Rimini Meeting last week, Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, spoke about why he decided to become a Catholic and of his opposition to those elected officials who think they should keep their faith “in a safety deposit box.”
Bush also indicated he doesn’t think it’s likely his older brother, former President George W. Bush, will convert to Catholicism.
Answering a question put to him after he had delivered a talk strongly critical of big government, Bush said what primarily attracted him to the faith were the “sacraments of the Catholic Church, the timeless nature of the message of the Catholic Church, and the fact that the Catholic Church believes in and acts on absolute truth as its foundational principles and doesn’t move with modern times as my former religion did.”
A former Episcopalian who was received into the Church in 1995, Bush said, “In the United States many people think that to keep your faith, you need to put it into a safety deposit box if you’re an elected official until you finish your service as a public servant, and then you can go and get it back. I never thought that was appropriate.”
Bush added, “As it relates to making decisions as a public leader, one’s faith should guide you. That’s not to say that every decision I made would be completely in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church, but it was a guide post that kept me out of trouble.” He said there were “some instances” of controversy during his tenure as governor, which ran from 1998 to 2006, but he said he “tried to act on my faith as best as I could.”
Earlier, Bush had issued a strong attack on the spending proposals of the Obama administration, implying they threaten to bankrupt the nation and warning that big government comes at the expense of personal freedom. He then suggested viable alternatives to the proposals and gave as examples three faith- and community-based initiatives he developed when he was governor.
The first initiative was a community-based child-care system that, he said, was a vast improvement on a state-run system and that led to more adoptions into loving families, better-trained foster parents, and fewer abandoned kids.
The second initiative was to set up a totally faith-based prison run by volunteers of many faiths, which has a significantly lower re-offending rate compared to state-run prisons.
The third initiative was an award system, with financial incentives, given to schools that showed an improvement in results. Florida schools, Bush said, now have results that exceed the national average and “lower-income students have made the greatest gains.”
Bush said he was honored to have been invited to speak at this year’s Rimini Meeting, and he said it would be “wonderful” to have a similar CL event in the United States. “There are people there who are starving for a higher purpose in their life, so I congratulate the founders of this movement and this meeting, and I hope the United States plays a greater role,” he said.
Asked whether his brother, former President George W. Bush, might appear at a future meeting, and perhaps as a Catholic, he replied, “That would be a great thing, but you won’t see him here as a Catholic — he’s pretty comfortable with his Methodist faith. I’d like him to come here though. It would be fun.”