Christianity and the Republican Party have stood side by side like animals heading into Noah’s Ark for much of modern American history. Whether it was the Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan’s Cowboy Christianity or George W. Bush’s evangelical surge, the Republicans and the church have had a firm relationship. While white, middle- and upper-class Protestants tend to be the majority of the GOP Christian base, the Catholic Church has fought many battles alongside Republicans, including gay marriage, abortion and other social issues. While I believe in the sanctity of marriage, the rights of the unborn and the beauty of capitalism done right, I feel there are shifts and changes that conservatives need to make, and the reformer of the GOP might ironically be the P-O-P-E.

Catholicism has had a rocky road in America’s history. When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, many felt a Catholic couldn’t win, but Kennedy won and opened a door to mainstream Catholicism in America. Today, there are 78 million self-identified Catholics in the country, compared to approximately 66 million Protestants in America. And over the years, be it Pope John or Pope Benedict, the Catholic Church has become more progressive and conservative at the same time. The Church has been strong on social issues and gay marriage, which is why we have more Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum types running for president. But the Church has been very critical of the wealthy, which causes much debate within the church.

Today, the GOP has been facing a lot of criticism by the media for being out of touch with the other 47 percent that aren’t even considering conservatives or Republicans as political leaders. But I believe that if the GOP were just to listen to the current Catholic Church pope, Pope Francis, the Grand Old Party could reform itself into a winner come 2016.

Francis has gotten quite the amount of publicity lately, washing poor people’s feet, speaking well of atheists and giving up many luxuries that the Vatican allow their highest leader to have. Yet his most recent statements about gay marriage, abortion and big business should really be what Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, and the rest of the GOP Presidential front runners should be listening to.

Recently, Pope Francis said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.” He went on to add, “The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.’’ The GOP should steal from this playbook.

In the last election cycle, the GOP lost many elections due to the “God’s will” argument concerning rape and abortion. Two senators made fools of themselves over abortion; and gay marriage, a losing issue, was brought up way too much as a talking point. Even Santorum condemned condoms and birth control. While these are core values within the Church and the GOP, they really don’t need to be the central message of both groups. Jesus spent very little time talking about homosexuality, only reinforcing marriage between men and women but not speaking specifically against the gentile gay community. If the GOP wants to win a single debate in 2016 it will not make this a primary issue either.

Abortion and gay marriage are issues that are still important but must not be the focal point. When people are out of work and foreign policies are at all-time high tensions, aren’t there other items to create talking points for?

The most condemning comment Pope Francis made recently is claiming Big Business has turned money into an idol and must bring work to the masses. This is the issue the GOP struggles with the most and must reform. Republicans must celebrate capitalism but not make personal profit the end game. Had Mitt Romney challenged the wealthy to hire more and sacrifice bonuses and raises, he would have won the hearts of moderates and Blue Dog Democrats. 

Both the Catholics and the GOP need to reevaluate their approaches, and hopefully Pope Francis just might be their reforming Martin Luther.