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Rick SantorumBy John Gehring
Cross-posted from Faith in Public Life Action

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 "€œthe 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 "€œwhose concern for poor and vulnerable people"€ is "€œfirmly 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.

Immigration

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: "€œIf 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 €œbreak 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 doesn'€™t even remember the country of her birth and doesn'€™t even speak the language.

Poverty, Inequality and Financial Regulation

Pope Benedict XVI has decried the "€œscandal 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 "€œit 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--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 "€œpreferential 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 "€œassemble 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 "€œsupport 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 "€œGreen Pope"€ for his attention to environmental justice and climate change, recently urged world leaders meeting for climate talks in Durban, South Africa, to "€œreach agreement on a responsible, credible response"€ to the "€œdisturbing"€ 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 "€œpatently 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 "€œan 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 "œa 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 "€œintrinsic evils."€ Unfortunately, even under this standard, Santorum fails. When it comes to torture, which the Church calls an "€œintrinsic evil,"€ Santorum is a proud proponent.

The Catholic bishops describe the barbaric practice as an assault on the dignity of human life. "€œThe 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 "€œenhanced 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 "€œmedia"€ and "€œliberals"€ 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.

Originally posted to Bold Faith Type on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 12:29 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets , Spiritual Organization of Unapologetic Liberals at Daily Kos, and Progressive Hippie.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good diary, but you have (4+ / 0-)

    all kinds of symbol thingies.  Wonder if that is just from my side.

    •  I see some of those too n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp
    •  No, the diary is messy looking (0+ / 0-)

      My question is why, if he has this wonderful "mojo" with these blue collar types did he lose his senate seat in blue0-collar Pennsylvania – overwhelmingly? It's not like those blue-collar types are in a better position now to buy the anti-worker, corporate party line Santorum and all the ot her spew.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 01:06:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Because his opponent in that Senate race is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        California06

        also traditional Catholic, also blue collar and comes from a family with a good reputation of service to the state (Bob Casey ... yes, I know we can argue how good that reputation is, but, honestly, it's pretty good).

        And because, during the senate campaign, the Casey folks hammered "home" (sorry  for the pun) that Santorum had stopped living in Pennsylvania and was using Pa tax supported on-line education for his kids in Virginia.

        Santorum doesn't have mojo on the blue collar issues related to the economy as much as he does on the traditional values voting issues ... but Casey met him issue for issue on those.  He has the same mojo on economic issues that all the Republican candidates have, and somehow they keep getting blue collar folks to vote against their best interests.

    •  Excellent but extraneous characters (0+ / 0-)

      Diary is a very cogent explanation of the full range of Catholic social teaching, but could be more readable. How did you compose this diary? That might be the problem.

    •  Way too much "stuff" embedded in this (0+ / 0-)

      probably several others see it too. Otherwise interesting diary.

      Trade always exists for the traders. Any time you hear businessmen debating "which policy is better for America," don’t bend over. -George Carlin-

      by not4morewars on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 01:23:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, the GOP is getting warmer I guess. (0+ / 0-)

    They do need a candidate that will challenge the morality of the current economic system, but I'm afraid that Santorum is not the guy.

  •  Look, if you examine REAL Catholicism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    newfie, catwho, tofumagoo

    You have to start with Thomas Aquinas, who thought a baby became human at 5 months...or the strong catholic positions against capital punishment and pre-emptive war.

    The current pseudo-Catholic politics is based upon an unholy bargain between older hierarchy and the GOP that protected them from these lawsuits. Benedict is doing everything he can to undo Vatican II, including inserting inscrutable language into the liturgy ("consubstantiate" anyone?) to impress the laity with how smart and authoritative the Bishops are.

    Let's ask the guy whose kids outed him today.

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 12:42:00 PM PST

    •  I hate when someone uses REAL as a descriptor (0+ / 0-)

      There is no real Catholic or Christian position on every issue.  Christians, me included, all come at these issues in the best way we can with the best information we have.  

      And a saints opinion on an issue does not hold as much water as something the Church officially teaches.  OTOH, the Just War Theory is Catholic doctrine, and probably too often ignored.

    •  you are aware... (0+ / 0-)

      ... that the Pope publishes in Latin?

      So the terms you have a beef with are the product of your local translator?

      •  No, not at all! (0+ / 0-)

        There was a huge (English language) commission that just finished its work and reversed much of the translation of Vatican II. The pitch is that the laity need "humble obedience." This isn't the Pope's doing at all. (Been to a Catholic church in the last 2 months?)

        Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

        by MrMichaelMT on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 04:33:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It didn't actually reverse the language (0+ / 0-)

          It just made the English language versions consistent with what the rest of the world has been doing since Vatican II.  I did like the English version much better, though, and think the whole thing has a lot more to do with efforts of some in the Catholic Church, as occurs as well in other faiths, to lead through control rather than service than anything else.

    •  "Impress the laity"? (0+ / 0-)

      They seem more annoyed than impressed.

      What's intrinsically bad about "consubstantial with the Father"?

      •  One of a dozen words (0+ / 0-)

        that aren't real English at all.

        This isn't an effort to be more accurate, it's an effort to impress.

        Remember, during the Reformation it was a capital offense to translate scripture into language that the average guy could understand.

        This latest injection of vocabulary that is not just awkward but totally incomprehensible--along with the Bishop's message that the laity must "humbly obey"--is just a message that they hold the key to understanding. It's a complete reversal of the spirit of Vatican II (which Benedict hates) and the idea that the laity ARE the church.

        Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

        by MrMichaelMT on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 04:35:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is an important diary and should be (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catwho, tofumagoo

    applied to Gingrich as well even though his conversion to Catholicism seems like a matter of convenience.

     Santorum would never make a good president of the US because he really wants to be Pope and deliver encyclicals about the all too rangy human sexual behavior around the globe.  He is also too easily frightened to be POTUS.  

  •  Public servants should not be encouraged (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cany

    to tell the public what to do.  Public servants are to serve.  The people govern.  Their agents of government do what they are told or get fired.  The people fired Santorum once.  There's no evidence he's gotten any better.  So why give him another chance?

    What would Jesus do?  Would He hire the unjust steward back?

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 12:57:31 PM PST

  •  Republished to Street Prophets nt (0+ / 0-)
  •  This guy, like (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ahumbleopinion

    the rest of the Republican bunch is a consecrated hypocrite. Wants small government but expect to police every menstrual cycle to make sure that is not an abortion. Wants to cut taxes but is planning to bomb every one who disagrees with our foreign policy, pushes so called "democracy" only to fall off the wagon when democracy brings a regime that does not "suits" us well.  As  far as religion is concerned he reminds me of an acquaintance who admitted to me that church is great to make business connections. On this last issue it does not surprise me that besides the anti abortion/birth control stance he is unaware of the real substance of the Christian philosophy.

  •  "Blessed are the peace makers" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ahumbleopinion, cris0000

    Santorum's incessant warmongering disqualifies him even as a Christian in the most basic sense - and that goes for all other politicians who think recourse to war is the solution to all problems.

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 01:13:15 PM PST

  •  Good diary (0+ / 0-)

    Santorum is out of step with even his own conservative clerical hierarchy. Unlike protestant conservatives, anti-abortion Catholics are not supposed to view that issue in isolation, apart from implications of bringing unwanted babies into the world, & its connection to other "life" matters like, oh, capital punishment, poverty, starvation, war, torture, etc,  As for Gingrich, Catholics have a saying, "Nobody's more Catholic than a convert."

    "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

    by DJ Rix on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 01:35:35 PM PST

  •  The Church doesn't like American Catholics' (0+ / 0-)

    cafeteria-style approach to Church doctrine.  Santorum is just making a different selection from most Catholics.

    And, honestly, what the heck is the world coming to when ex-Cardinal Ratzinger. Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, (that's Inquisition to you. buster) has more liberal ideas than a Republican candidate for President.  

    We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. B. Franklin

    by Observerinvancouver on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 01:57:11 PM PST

  •  Thanks to the U.S. Catholic bishops (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eastsidedemocrat

    most Catholics in the pews don't know the church's opinion on all these other issues and don't know that these issues have the same moral weight as reproductive issues.

    In the last presidential campaign, those in the pews heard repeatedly that abortion was the ONLY issue; that "you have to have life first before you worry about any other issues"; and that anyone who voted for a candidate who supports legal abortion was no longer a Catholic.

    While the US Conference of Bishops put out a longer, more nuanced statement on weighing political issues against faith issues, the distinction was rarely  explained the altar and many, many bishops around the country ignored it and its implications.

    In every church I attended during the last Presidential race, it was all anti-Obama, anti-Democratic Senate and House, all the time, based exclusively on abortion.  

    I expect parish priests to do the same thing this time around, giving cover to people like Santorum who are the real cafeteria Catholics.

    •  I don't know about that (0+ / 0-)

      I went church in 2008, at several different places including where very conservative bishops celebrated Mass.  I never heard once during that whole time that abortion was the only issue or even that it trumped all other issues.  I think most of the noise around that comes from where people like to find scandal and controversy, drawing media coverage because of it makes for great narrative that sells page-views.  

      There are a few more people pretty far out in rightwingdom nowadays, and it is true that the Catholic Bishops Conference, which is a private, civil society lobbying organization, not a church teaching authority, has made a priority out of promoting some, mostly conservative, views over others, but in general people who actually go to church instead of just reading about it online aren't getting the conservative message in the pews.

  •  This is why belief matters. It's why Romney's (0+ / 0-)

    belief, for instance, matters as well.

    While I am neither anti-Catholic (I am Episcopal) nor anti-LDS (Mormon, I was attending this church as a young teenager), I do look carefully at how doctrine does or might influence political opinion, choice and action.

    I'm with Hannah above; we elect these people to serve NOT to informally officiate belief across what SHOULD be a bright line between church and state.

    The bottom line for me is that if I see so much of a hint of theocracy in the positions of a candidate, I run the other way quickly.

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Bernie Sanders 01/02/2012

    by cany on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 02:15:58 PM PST

  •  Don't forget the death penalty (0+ / 0-)

    He hasn't come out against that either

  •  so we should open the boarder (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eastsidedemocrat

    and let everyone in?

    •  Yeah, that's pretty much it (0+ / 0-)

      if you're a Catholic and serious about living your faith.  Barring serious threats to national security or other perverse actors, there is no reason why people shouldn't be allowed to become members of whatever national society they choose to be in, is there?  Why should it matter what country one is born in?

  •  So glad you did this. (0+ / 0-)

    I've been reading the documents recently but didn't feel qualified or able to make a coherent diary.  I have always maintained that if you leave out abortion and related issues, Catholic social teaching reads a lot like the Democratic platform.  Thanks for pointing out some specifics.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 06:05:48 PM PST

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