Santorum must explain views on religion and government

“If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?” GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum asked a student audience at Ave Maria University in 2008.

This was asked well before Santorum launched his bid for the presidency, but probably not before he was thinking of it. It is still relevant because nothing in his campaign suggests he has reconsidered his position.

Unlike John Kennedy, who insisted that his Catholicism would be immaterial to his political decisions, Rick Santorum wraps himself in his Catholic identity and envisions a future when his Catholic Church will replace traditional Protestantism as the spiritual source of America’s greatness as a Christian nation.

Answering his own question, Santorum continued, “There is no one else (for Satan) to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost 200, once America’s preeminence was sown by our great founding fathers.”

Since Santorum’s own political philosophy, sense of history and vision for America’s future, as implied in the Ave Maria address, seems to reflect that of AVU, the context is an important clue to Santorum’s ideas of government and religion.

Founded by Domino’s Pizza mogul Tom Monaghan, with the encouragement of such conservative Catholic notables as Supreme Court Justices Anthony Scalia and Clarence Thomas, AVU proclaims on the university website: “The single most vital task for Catholic academicians (is) to explicate the truths of the faith, and measure against them the evolving societal propositions or practices in politics, the arts, the economy, etc.”

Over the past 200 years, according to the Ave Maria University website, Catholic intellectuals have fought every evil from slavery to laissez faire capitalism and child labor, as well as Marxism, Nazism and Freudianism. (The subtle point that Catholics also engaged in all these activities seems to have escaped the framers of this manifesto.)

Today the evils are abortion, cloning, same-sex marriage, moral relativism and world terrorism. “The graduates of Ave Maria University ... will become the Catholic intellectuals needed to bring the truths of the faith to bear on these issues” the website promises.

Santorum’s vision of American history describes an America founded on the principles of Protestantism, but in which the churches, fallen under the sway of Satan, have failed to protect their people from evil.

In the early days of the Republic, according to Santorum, “our (moral) foundation was very strong,” but “that great, acidic quality of time corrodes even the strongest foundations. And Satan has done so by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants ... so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”

Predictably, it was the poison apple from the tree of knowledge that provided the old snake his opening in America. “The place where he was ... the most successful and first successful was in academia,” Santorum explained. “He understood the pride of smart people. He attacked them at their weakest, that they were, in fact, smarter than everybody else and could come up with something new and different. Pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it because they’re smart. And so academia, a long time ago, fell” under Satan’s power.

“This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war,” Santorum told his audience. Though “this was a Protestant country” founded on “mainstream, mainline Protestantism,” it no longer meets Santorum’s definition of a Christian nation.

The failure of mainline Protestantism set in motion a domino effect that weakened the Protestant religious ethic on which the nation was founded, Santorum explained.

In a final insult to mainline Protestants — generally understood as the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and other churches that have accepted the growing role of women, gays and lesbians in church affairs — Santorum said, “We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”

Santorum’s vision of a Catholic and evangelical Protestant coalition resetting America’s moral compass should not go unchallenged. In the debate tonight, Santorum should be asked to explain his remarks on religion’s role in a government founded on the principle of separation of church and state.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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