Altar boy John Kasich's journey from future 'Pope' to presidential candidate to ... what exactly, religiously?

In case you missed it in the fog of nonstop media coverage of Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich remains in the Republican presidential race. 

For how much longer? Michigan voters will help answer that question today.

But for now, Kasich lingers in the GOP's "Final Four" — as he calls it.

The Washington Post has a in-depth story out this week on "The place where John Kasich went from being 'Pope' to consensus politician." Really, it's a fascinating piece and worth a read.

Yes, there are a few holy ghosts, and I'll get to those in a moment.

But let's start at the top of the story, which sets the scene nicely:

McKEES ROCKS, Pa. — As Johnny Kasich turned 17 years old, many of the strands of his sturdy, sheltered life seemed to be unraveling.
He felt bewildered as race riots tore apart Sto-Rox High School, with police and their dogs called in to keep the peace. He learned that a priest at his Catholic church, to whom he had given confession, was leaving to marry a parishioner. He faced the possibility of being drafted to serve in Vietnam. And wherever he looked, politicians seemed to be corrupt.
It all came to a head one night in January 1970, during Kasich’s senior year at Sto-Rox, as 400 students and parents met to hear complaints from blacks that they were being subjected to de facto segregation. Shortly after midnight, when a black leader demanded at least one African American teacher be hired, ugly epithets were hurled, tables overturned, and fistfights broke out.
Kasich, a scrawny kid who at that time was known for his lifelong desire to be a priest, decided he had had enough. Using speaking skills he had developed at church, he walked to the front of the school cafeteria, where the school board was trying to oust a black protester, and seized the microphone.
“This has got to stop,” Kasich said, according to the account of his friend David Cercone, now a federal judge. “We can’t be doing this, being at each other’s throats.”
This was the unlikely moment that Kasich’s childhood friends say they realized their pal Johnny was shedding his dreams of the priesthood and donning the cloak of politician. When they hear him today pleading for civility among his fellow Republican presidential candidates, friends say they recognize the words that he uttered as he came of age in this hardened city on the banks of the Ohio River.

For those wanting insight on Kasich's upbringing, the Post deftly goes behind the scenes of Kasich "shedding his dreams of the priesthood and donning the cloak of politician."

This section is particularly revealing:

Kasich’s refuge was his church on the hill, called Mother of Sorrows.
As Kasich entered the fourth grade, he put on a black cassock, slipped a white hip-length garment on top, and headed to a new calling to serve as an altar boy. His dream, he told friends, was to be a priest. In this area where most people were Catholic, such dreams were not unusual, and often they didn’t last long. But Kasich seemed different. He would be celibate, leading a flock, with religion always at the forefront. His friends were convinced that the priesthood was Kasich’s life course, and many thought he was aiming even higher.
They nicknamed him “Pope.” Eventually, even the head priest at Mother of Sorrows, the Rev. Joseph Farina, called him that.

However — and I told you a "however" was coming — the Post never gets around to explaining where Kasich's spiritual journey took him. Yes, readers find out where he ended up politically.

But religiously? Crickets. 

As we noted back in September, Religion News Service came up with "five faith facts" about Kasich (as it has for all the candidates):

RNS notes that Kasich describes growing up as "a card-carrying Catholic."
He now belongs to St. Augustine's Anglican Church in Westerville, Ohio — part of the Anglican Church in North America, a group that broke away from the Episcopal Church — reports the story by RNS senior national correspondent Cathy Lynn Grossman.

But reading Grossman's piece, it's obvious that Kasich's religious journey falls somewhat under the heading of "It's complicated."
Of course, complicated makes for great journalism.

The Post's take on Kasich's background is astute and compelling. But without the full religious details, it's also incomplete.

Photo by Andrew Cline, via

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