Substantively, Bush emphasized the issues upon which Pope John Paul II and he agreed, going so far as to borrow the pope’s “culture of life” sound bite to refer broadly to socially conservative positions on abortion, euthanasia, and marriage. Of course, the pope and the president disagreed vehemently on Iraq, the death penalty, and many aspects of economic policy. John Paul II once argued that “savage capitalism” is little better than “savage Marxism.”
Bush astutely chose to ignore such serious cleavages, emphasizing the pope’s socially conservative side. Conservative Catholic leaders were emboldened by the pope’s lead on social issues and, in turn, they encouraged traditionalist Catholics to support Bush and fellow socially conservative Republicans.