Mitt Romney on the Freedom to Live the Discerning Life

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

The news from Raymond Arroyo’s interview this week with Mitt Romney was that Cardinal Dolan would be leading prayer the last night of the Republican convention. But the whole interview, which aired last night on EWTN, was most interesting as an insight into Romney’s view of religious faith and how it’s important as a political matter. It’s not a matter of cover or winning the Catholic vote. It’s something real and to be encouraged.

Governor Romney talked, of course, about the HHS mandate. And while he has been clear on the campaign trail on the danger and impact of that mandate, declaring, “I feel that we’re all Catholic today. In our battle to preserve religious freedom and tolerance and freedom in this country, it is essential for us to push back against that,” he seemed to feel the need to go deeper here, explaining why rather than being a pander for the Catholic vote in Ohio, his understanding is born out of a radically different worldview than this current administration’s policy represents. Romney expressed his concern for conscience rights more broadly — the protection of which used to be a matter of bipartisan consensus: “The interest of religious freedom is something I support wholeheartedly and will work with [Cardinal Dolan] and with others to assure that each piece of legislation that we consider is thought also in terms of its impact on religious freedom and tolerance,” Romney said. “This is a nation where our first freedom is the right to worship God as we choose, and any effort on the part of the federal government to intrude on religious liberty and to reject tolerance in favor of a government mandate is a violation of that first freedom,” Romney said.

Governor Romney talked a bit about the relationship between religion and democracy, how they need one another: “As you look at the history of this country, the freedom that was unleashed upon the world came as a result of individuals who recognized that our rights came from our creator, not from government. And that observation led to a bursting forth on the world scene of freedom.”

“People have to a sense of right and wrong, a purpose greater than self, in order for the society to work,” Romney said, emphasizing that people having the freedom to live their faith is an “essential part of free nations working effectively and having a productive and prosperous future.”

#more#“Religions should not have imposed on them the diktats of the government,” Romney said.

Speaking more personally, when asked about his prayer life, Romney responded: “I believe that Providence has helped guide me in decisions I’ve made throughout my life. I pray everyday, typically more than once. And when I pray, I pray for guidance. It is not necessarily just a recitation of the concerns of each day but rather asking for help, and guidance, and inspiration. “

He talked about being a father and how God has helped guide him: “One son had a particularly challenging adolescence, and we were finding ourselves drifting further and further away from him. Our natural response was to criticize him, to correct him, to tell him what mistakes he was making.” But after praying about it, “the thought came to me to, instead of criticizing him, tell him how much we love him, how much we appreciate him, how much his life meant to our lives. And that, as the poet said, made all the difference.”

Romney described himself as a “very religious person.” He described he and Ann’s faith as a “confidence that things will work to our eternal benefit if we abide by the covenants we have with God, with each other, if we do our best to live a good life.” He added, “Heaven knows I’ve made mistakes, things I’ve confessed before God and repented up.” And recalled someone advising him that “the difference between a sinner and the saint is not where they are in the ladder toward heaven but instead what direction they’re headed. And I’m trying to head towards the north,” Romney said.

Romney believes being a bishop in his church helped prepare him for public service:

There’s no question that being a pastor, if you will, a small ‘p’ pastor, where you are working with people of all different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different economic circumstances, some employed and unemployed, as you work with those people, as you try to provide for them a positive path forward in their lives, you understand the very real concerns and pains people have, the struggles that they have. You want to help them and that is one of the things that draws me to this race. I want to help the hundreds of millions of Americans who want to see a brighter and more prosperous future, and I think I know how to do that. And, I’ve laid out the plans that would get America doing what it needs to do to give people good jobs and more take-home pay again.

Asked if he feels that God is calling him to be president, Romney answered:

I don’t believe that God gets heavily involved in politics. I believe God’s work is to save souls and bring them to return to him. At the same time I believe that the interest of saving souls is associated as well with freedom. Freedom allows religion to bloom and grow and that people grow closer to God by drawing close to their respective faiths. I don’t pretend to have a religious mandate, I do however believe that a mandate of protecting freedom has a very significant beneficial impact on the ability of individuals to draw closer to Divinity.”

The full interview can be watched here:  

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