Thursday, January 5, 2012

If President Kennedy Wasn't Ruled From Rome, Why Does Santorum Pretend He Is?

I don't think this particular Catholic presidential candidate is much like John F Kennedy, or much of a Catholic for that matter.  Oh yea, didn't he spend time living in a 'Family' residence on C Street in DC?

Seriously, the following article in Faith In Public Life Action Blog by John Gehring is one of the most succinct take downs of a religious right cafeteria Catholic I have ever read.  Rick Santorum is no True Believer Catholic, unless you throw out Catholic tradition on Just War, Social Justice, and a host of other Vatican and USCCB taught concepts.  Rick's concept of Catholicism, and I'll admit that to some extent one can make a historical and traditional case for it, is that Rich White Men Rule And Deserve Too.

The Catholic Case Against Rick Santorum
January 4, 2012, 12:42 pm | Posted by John Gehring
GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a proud Catholic who often speaks about his faith on the campaign trail, is attracting some formidable buzz from pundits who view his strong showing in the Iowa caucuses as a sign that the former Pennsylvania senator might have enough mojo to rally a coalition of religious and blue-collar voters.

New York Times columnist David Brooks waxed poetic Monday about Santorum’s Catholic conservative sensibilities and touted the candidate as an authentic antidote to “the corporate or financial wing of the party.”
Evangelicals are also taking notice. Writing on CNN’s Belief blog, Chris LaTondresse, the founder and CEO of Recovering Evangelical, calls Santorum a post-religious right candidate “whose concern for poor and vulnerable people” is “firmly rooted in his Catholic faith.”

It’s easy to see why Santorum might appeal to some culturally conservative Catholics and moderate evangelicals who are wary of Democrats but also turned off by the Republican Party’s cozy embrace of economic libertarianism and tireless defense of struggling millionaires. Santorum is more comfortable with communitarian language, has been a strong supporter of foreign aid to impoverished countries and connects with personal stories of his blue-collar upbringing.

But it’s a political delusion to think Rick Santorum is a standard-bearer of authentic Catholic values in politics. In fact, on several issues central to Catholic social teaching – torture, war, immigration, climate change, the widening gap between rich and poor and workers’ rights – Santorum is radically out of step with his faith’s teachings as articulated by Catholic bishops and several popes over the centuries.

Catholic bishops, priests and women religious have been at the forefront of the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Catholic leaders have called for an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and consistently oppose draconian policies that break up families. Santorum has publicly challenged the Catholic bishops on this issue, telling the Des Moines Register: “If we develop the program like the Catholic bishops suggested we would be creating a huge magnet for people to come in and break the law some more, we’d be inviting people to cross this border, come into this country and with the expectation that they will be able to stay here permanently.”

While promising he doesn’t want to “break up families,” Santorum recently justified massive deportations that do, in fact, separate parents from children. He blithely said of those facing deportation to Mexico (a country currently ravaged by grinding poverty and gang violence) that “we’re not sending them to any kind of difficult country.” Tell that to the student brought here as a young child who doesn’t remember the country of her birth and doesn’t even speak the language.

Poverty, Inequality and Financial Regulation
Pope Benedict XVI has decried the “scandal of glaring inequalities” between rich and poor, and Catholic social teaching supports a more just distribution of wealth.  Santorum, in contrast, told the Des Moines Register: “I’m for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risks, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality.” As a Senator, Santorum voted for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which greatly exacerbated the gap between the top 1% and the rest of us.

The Vatican also recently released a major document on the need for more robust financial regulation of global markets to protect workers and the common good. Santorum clings to the thoroughly debunked lie that regulation caused our nation’s financial collapse. He told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz that “it wasn’t deregulation…it was government regulation” that in part led to our current economic problems. In Congress, Santorum also voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which deregulated risky financial schemes that led to the economic crisis of 2008.

While Catholic bishops defend vital government programs that protect the most vulnerable, Santorum recently voiced support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s immoral federal budget plan—a plan the bishops expressed deep concern about because it would cut life-saving programs while spending trillions on massive new tax breaks for the rich. Even worse, Santorum said that the poor who receive government aid could learn by suffering more. When questioned about how his economic views clash with the Catholic demand for a “preferential option for the poor” in public policy, Santorum was completely unfamiliar with this bedrock Church teaching.

Workers’ Rights
The Catholic Church has defended the vital role of unions since 1891, when Pope Leo XIII released Rerum Novarum, an encyclical that puts the dignity of work and labor rights at the center of Catholic social teaching. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church clearly states that workers have a right to “assemble and form associations” and that unions are “a positive influence for social order and solidarity, and are therefore an indispensable element of social life.” Rick Santorum, on the other hand, has argued that all public sector unions should be abolished. In a presidential candidates’ debate, Santorum said he would “support a bill that says that we should not have public employee unions for the purposes of wages and benefits to be negotiated.”

Climate Change and the Environment
Pope Benedict XVI, who has been dubbed the “Green Pope” for his attention to environmental justice and climate change, recently urged world leaders meeting for climate talks in Durban, South Africa, to “reach agreement on a responsible, credible response” to the “disturbing” effects of climate change. Catholic dioceses across the country have encouraged Catholics to limit their carbon footprint, and national advocacy organizations like the Catholic Climate Covenant work to educate Catholics about their faith’s teachings on environmental stewardship. Santorum must not be listening. In an interview with Rush Limbaugh, he described the fact that climate change is caused by humans as “patently absurd” and a “beautifully concocted scheme.” Just this week, Santorum blasted a new Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting emissions of mercury and other air toxins from coal-fired power plants. Catholic bishops hailed the ruling as “an important step forward to protect the health of all people, especially unborn babies and young children, from harmful exposure to dangerous air pollutants.”

Torture and War
Many Catholic conservatives ignore the Church’s teaching about “a consistent ethic of life” and excuse a candidate’s position or record on the economy, immigration and the environment by downplaying their moral importance compared to the issue of abortion. Catholics can disagree in good faith on some issues, they assert, but not over “intrinsic evils.”  Unfortunately, even under this standard, Santorum fails. When it comes to torture, which the Church calls an “intrinsic evil,” Santorum is a proud proponent.

The Catholic bishops describe the barbaric practice as an assault on the dignity of human life. “The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism,” they wrote in Faithful Citizenship, a political responsibility statement released before every presidential election.  But Santorum eagerly endorsed  “enhanced interrogation” techniques during the first Republican primary debate.

Santorum’s predilection toward pre-emptive war also clashes with mainstream Catholic theology. When the late Pope John Paul II warned against the invasion of Iraq, Santorum vocally championed the war. And while the Catholic bishops repeatedly called for a responsible withdrawal, Santorum remained a staunch defender of the occupation – blasting the “media” and “liberals” for undermining support for the war.

Catholic politicians across the spectrum will all find aspects of Church teaching that challenge their ideological agendas in discomforting ways. But for too long Catholics in public life have only been scrutinized when it comes to abortion and same-sex marriage. This does a disservice to voters, ignores the Catholic social justice tradition’s broad moral agenda and lets Catholic candidates like Rick Santorum off the hook even when they consistently disregard their faith’s teachings on key moral and political issues.


Nothing has irritated me more this political season that right wing politicians who pull the Catholic card because by saying they are against gay marriage and abortion. Puhleasse.  Those are only two Catholic cards in a deck of far more than 52. What has irritated me even more, is that most Catholic bishops seem to let this little fact pass by them, as if they were playing some sort of card game in which abortion and gay marriage are magical wild trump cards when it comes to politics, and religious freedom--as they define it--is what this card game is all about.  That leaves me at a loss for words and logic.  But then, that does seem to be where I really am when it comes to the official version of Roman Catholicism in the good ole USofA.


  1. It all boils to down to where the money is. The Roman church is a BIG institution and it takes BIG bucks to keep it running. It just depends who is signing your paycheck, so to speak. No doubt many Bishops will support Santorum. Abortion and gay marriage are red herrings to draw in the sheep through fear and manipulation. Jesus talked a lot about the poor, the widows, orphans, those in jail, the sick and suffering. He seemed to say that if we take care of the least, then, we will also extend our charity naturally to any one in need.
    We are in a dark hour.

  2. Somehow the political climate has changed such that the Radical Christian Right can vote for a Catholic provided that he agrees with certain terms - those terms being anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality. Unfortunately I suspect Santorum's candidacy now would not be possible were it not for Kennedy's previous proof that he could not be ruled by the pope. Interesting that those same people who can vote for Santorum despite his Catholic background, can't extend the same to Romney or Huntsman for their backgrounds with LDS.

    And I also find it interesting that Bachmann did so poorly in Iowa. Despite her obvious and compatible faith in common with the radical rightists, she did incredibly poorly. and I have to wonder if the reason was because she is simply female. The radical rightest, when it came to vote, just couldn't bring themselves to vote to put a woman in power like that. She stepped down from the campaign. Perry who did worse than she did goes home to TX to think over his options. After she steps down, he decides to continue his campaign... Really hard for me to not ascribe this to sexism played out behind the scenes.

    As for the torture issue: That goes back to the spare the rod, spoil the child doctrine doesn't it? Why is it these people seem so much more interested in the harshness and hardships imposed by the Old Testament and almost completely overlook the faith, hope and charity upon which the New Testament is based? Must be because they firmly believe that Man is intrinsically evil more so than that Man is created in God's image.

    I honestly don't know who to support in the coming election. I'm not sure that Obama is much of an improvement on any candidate the GOP offers. But that is another topic.

  3. In March of last year the Boston Globe quoted Rick Santorum telling a group of right-wing Catholics that he was “frankly appalled” that America’s first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, once said “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” In characterization, Santorum went further by saying “That was a radical statement,” and did “great damage.” And Santorum concluded, “We’re seeing how Catholic politicians, following the first Catholic president, have followed his lead, and have divorced faith not just from the public square, but from their own decision-making process.”

    Santorum may insist that he is a better Catholic then I am and a better man to be president than John F. Kennedy, but just as freely I view him as a religious bigot that neither speaks for me in matters or conscience nor political affairs. And further, were he to gain the power of the presidency by successfully painting the people’s consideration with his brand of religious fanaticism, it would do “great damage” to our land.

    And frankly, in words of comparative disparagement that Lloyd Bentsen directed at Dan Quayle in their 1988 vice-presidential debate, “Rick Santorum, you’re no John F. Kennedy.”

  4. The question seems to be: Do we want to move forward into the 21st century or do we want to go back to the 19th? I am still searching for a candidate that will honestly confront the change needed so as to enable us to move into the 21st and lead us in resolving the social, economic, spiritual, and addiction issues that increasingly demean and belittle all on the margins.

  5. Excellent observations. Veronica, I think you are right as to why Michele Bachmann did not win in Iowa. The Christian Right might like Michele Bachmann's political, financial and social conservatism, but when push comes to shove, they will take the male candidate every time as they believe in male headship.

  6. Thank you. I have just this week started reading The Handmaid's Tale. I was afraid that maybe the impact of that story was coloring my political perceptions a bit too much... And I'm not sure why I'm reading it other than it came up as a deeply discounted offering on my Kindle combined with hearing so much about the story in various places that I felt I should take a look at what it was all about.

    Of course I'm really shuddering at what it is all about. I'll finish it, but it is anything but an entertaining read.

  7. These are all thoughtful comments to which I can only add what I wrote in my first paragraph--especially when I factor in Michelle Bachman. It is now and always has been about the right of rich white men to rule the rest of us, and given what St Paul had to say about no male/female, slave/master etc, and given Jesus's treatment of rich and powerful and the marginal: All of this is neither about Christianity or the best of Catholicism. Needless to say, I will never vote for Rick Santorum and would seriously consider working for Romney or Huntsman, even though I will vote,reluctantly, for Obama. After all, there is nothing wrong with seeing to it that the best available candidates run for president. :)

  8. This article gravely bothers me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, who would you vote for, as a strong Catholic then? Who is better than Santorum? This article is purposely infammatory and calls Santorum out on small issues. The article tries to marginalize pro-life and pro-marriage stances as just 2 out of 52 cards, but quite frankly, they are the most important issues of our age. Santorum will stand for the life of the unborn and continually has. Santorum will defend marriage as he always has. Whether or not his environmental policy is copy-paste what the Pope's is is absolutely irrelevant. Furthermore, the article seems to think that the opinion of a few bishops seems to encapsulate Catholic doctrine-- well, it doesn't. Don't tackle Santorum with Catholic opinions, do it with Papal bulls (not misusing them like the one you quoted on unions) and councils, not 5 American bishops. Vote Santorum 2012. He is the only choice for real Catholics.

  9. Abon, where is it written that I have to vote for any Catholic candidate? We are talking about voting for the President of the United States, which is a position which has very little responsibility for either US law on abortion or gay marriage. Those are State issues for the most part.

    Rick Santorum quite frankly scares me precisely the way Michelle Bachman and Mike Huckabee scared me. It is short sighted and ignorant in the extreme to offer pro life and gay marriage propaganda in place of real knowledge of domestic and foreign policy issues.

    Personally, I think nuclear proliferation and global warming are far far bigger threats to humanity than gay marriage. But then I don't think I would ever have attempted to make a political career on what people I don't know do in their bedrooms.

  10. All right, at the risk of feeding the trolls Anonymous, I'll bite.

    So to be a strong Catholic, you must do a copy/paste on the abortion/marriage issues, but you can't be expected to do the same for any other issue. Interesting but it seems to me you are similarly talking about cafeteria Catholicism then.

    You might not like the reasoning applied in the post, but it is just a much part of conscience as the bishops' opinions. No, the abortion/marriage issues are NOT the issues of our times just because some people with a bit of spiritual authority wish to misuse same by making that declaration. The issue is treating all humans as the children of God that they are, not as cattle to feed certain religious/political/economic/caste agenda.

    Christ said 'Blessed be the Peacemakers' so how do you justify voting for the pro-war, pro-torture candidate? And quite frankly I'll take Christ's words over any papal bull.

  11. Bravo Veronica. I'd like an answer to your last question myself. How does one vote for someone who advocates preemptive war and torture?

  12. Thank you, Colleen. I've been learning from being here. I'm not a pacifist as I do believe in the right of self-defense, but it is certainly the preemptive part of the GOP pro-war advocacy that bothers me. And the torture thing... I can't find the words to explain how that disgusts me.

    "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent."
    - Hari Seldon AKA Isaac Asimov


  13. I've also seen this one: Violence is the first tool of the ignorant.