The following comes from a March 17 New York Times article by Michael Paulson:
Twenty years after Jeb Bush converted to Catholicism, the religion of his wife, following a difficult and unsuccessful political campaign that had put a strain on his marriage, his faith has become a central element of the way he shapes his life and frames his views on public policy. And now, as he explores a bid for the presidency, his religion has become a focal point of early appeals to evangelical activists, who are particularly important in a Republican primary that is often dominated by religious voters.
Many of his priorities during his two terms as governor of Florida aligned with those of the Catholic Church — including his extraordinary, and unsuccessful, effort to force a hospital to keep Terri Schiavo on life support, as well as less well-known, and also unsuccessful, efforts to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a developmentally disabled rape victim and to prevent a 13-year-old girl from having an abortion. He even, during his first year in office in 1999, signed a law creating a “Choose Life” license plate.
“You hear people say, ‘I don’t want to impose my faith,’ ” Mr. Bush told the newspaper The Florida Catholic days after leaving office in 2007. “Well, it’s not an imposition of faith. It’s who you are.”
Jeb and Columba Bush raised their three children as Catholics, and Mr. Bush went to Mass with his family. “It played an important part in our lives,” he said by email.
In 1994, Mr. Bush ran unsuccessfully for governor, employing language that some viewed as mean-spirited, in part because of a comment suggesting that he did not see a role for government in helping African-Americans, and in part because of an ad he ran criticizing the incumbent governor for what he said was slow action on executing the murderer of a 10-year-old.
After his defeat, he acknowledged that his marriage was experiencing some stress and said he was going to take some time to regroup. During that period, he began the formal process of becoming a Catholic, taking classes at Epiphany Parish in South Miami.
Mr. Bush has suggested that concerns about the Episcopal Church, which has moved steadily to the left on social issues and liturgical matters, played a role in his decision.
“I love the sacraments of the Catholic Church, the timeless nature of the message of the Catholic Church, the fact that the Catholic Church believes in, and acts on, absolute truth as its foundational principle and doesn’t move with the tides of modern times, as my former religion did,” he said in the speech in Italy in 2009.
Mr. Bush’s second campaign for governor, in 1998, was characterized by modulated language; he trumpeted a newfound compassion, and won.