Yet Catholic Republicans often share more in common with other Republicans than they do with other American Catholics and even, in some cases, with the pope. When asked whether they agree or disagree with Pope Francis on particular issues, only 38 percent of Catholic Republicans agree with him on climate change, 43 percent on immigration, and 42 percent on the role of the government in reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. In contrast, Catholics as a whole tend to be more supportive of Pope Francis on these issues, with 50 percent supporting his view of immigration, 47 percent supporting his call to action on climate change, and 52 percent in favor of asking the government to play a greater role in reducing income inequality. For example, Rick Santorum expressed admiration for the pope’s teachings on sexual issues, but not his urgent call to combat climate change. The pope, he suggested, should leave “science to the scientists.”

White Catholic Democrats, on the other hand, are more concerned with social justice and helping the poor. They are less likely to attend weekly worship than Republicans, but they believe that their faith calls them to support affordable health care, justice for immigrants, and welfare. Which is part of the reason 40 percent of white Catholics voted for Barack Obama in 2012, helping him to win the overall Catholic vote.