In evangelical South Carolina, Perry calls Santorum “a good Catholic”

It was a soundbite that attracted some attention:

Speaking to media during an impromptu press conference Tuesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry twice mentioned rival Rick Santorum’s Catholic faith in criticizing his record on fiscal issues.

“Rick Santorum is a good man, he is a good father, he’s a good Catholic,” Perry, an evangelical Christian, said. “But he hasn’t always been a good conservative.”

The casual but twice-repeated remark — the first time that Perry has publicly pointed to his rival’s faith — attracted the attention of journalists because both men are competing to win evangelical voters in the final days before the South Carolina primary.

Perry attends a nondenominational evangelical church and speaks frequently of redemption and his refocus on faith after feeling “lost” in his late 20s.  After the exit of Rep. Michele Bachmann from the GOP presidential campaign, Perry was left remaining as the most vocal evangelical in the GOP field.

A reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer has more:

South Carolina is one of the most religious states in the nation, measured by attendance at worship services, according to various surveys. Yet only 10 percent of South Carolinians identify themselves as Roman Catholics – one of the lowest percentages in the nation, according to a massive 2010 Gallup Poll analysis of religious beliefs across the nation.

Now, there’s nothing especially nasty about mentioning Santorum’s religion, and it is factually true that he’s Catholic. But the polls show that both Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also a Catholic, are leading Perry overall and among Christian conservative voters.

Maybe the man from Paint Creek, Tex., who often talks about how he accepted Christ as his savior at age 14, just wanted to make a subtle cultural connection with his fellow southerners.

Comments

  1. Eugene Pagano says:

    Perry may well have been trying to evoke some of the anti-Catholicosm that used to persuasive in the SOuth. The hostility has decreased over time, but as recently as John Paul II’s 1987 visit to Columbia SC some Protestant ministers raised to meet him.

  2. Yep, the term “good Catholic” is code for the anti-Catholic prejudices that are present in the bible belt and elsewhere. It brings images of taking orders from the pope and being subversive to American ideals. I believe Perry did it on purpose, knowing that it would be taken by some to mean that his Catholicism made him dangerous.

  3. I guess in a way,yes the heart of Catholicism is subversive to our current culture. Of course not in the way hard core anti-Catholics of the old school think.

    Perry has no chance to be nominated (I think), what does he have to gain by provoking prejudice? Perhaps trying to curtail Santorum’s chance to the VP slot? Neither Perry nor Santorum will be president of the U.S. in 2012.

  4. I would hope that Perry wouldn’t stoop that low. Besides, if the Bible Belt South was going have a religious prejudice, I would think it would be Romney’s Mormonism (which I don’t personally agree with but have observed that many Christians have a big problem with a potential Mormon President). The fact that they don’t clearly shows that the majority at least are not thinking in terms of religion.

    Also, the evanglicials are now kind of into the Catholics, at least the ones like Santorium who want the same things that they do when it comes to social issues.

    Last but not least, I don’t think the “religious” votes holds much wait in this country (including the South), anymore simple because most aren’t religious enough anymore to understand the importance of it. Sad to say, most Americans would throw all social issues under the bus if it meant more money in their pockets.

  5. I am not a Perry supporter but I am willing to give him the benefit of doubt on this one.

    He was the only one during the most recent South Carolina debate to mention specifically how religious freedom in general and specifically the Catholic Church has suffered under Obama. He mentioned the Catholic adoption agencies in Boston having to close down.

    I just take it as he is not a very good speaker, which he isn’t. I am willing to say he did mean it as a compliment. We all know of several “bad” Catholics in politics……

    Let’s not turn it into a “gotcha” out of context attack.

    I don’t plan on voting for Perry and don’t support him, but I think this is making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  6. Anti-catholicism is still very much alive down there among the sola scriptura crowd. I just am puzzled how they never seem to stop and think where the new testament came from.

  7. I lived in South Carolina and my being a Catholic was novelty for most friends who were Baptists. South Carolina is where I heard the term “Papist” first and not quite realize that insult in it until later. Catholics were viewed as following a man, worshiping Mary/Saints, and not really Christians. I was once as if I believe in the Bible.

  8. Fiergenholt says:

    While I think I can understand where the caricatures come from, you might want to take note of the following:

    –During the American Civil War/War between the States, three “border” states actually had large Roman Catholic pockets of population: Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri.

    –Charleston South Carolina, where the firing on Fort Sumter started that fracas, has always had the largest pocket of Roman Catholics in that State. As most of you know, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston is the only such structure in the state.

    –Four very large military bases in South Carolina (Fort Jackson, Shaw Air Force Base, Charleston Air Force Base/Charleston Navy Yards; and the Marine facility at Parris Island) bring in military personnel from all over the country and from every religious tradition. In fact, it would not surprise me that the military folk in and around Charleston amount to a full third of the Roman Catholics in that area — and those Roman Catholics at Parris Island actually far outnumber those who live within, say, thirty miles of that base.

  9. This one doesn’t strike me as especially sinister. In any case, I hope Santorum knows that famous Belloc-qua-candidate-for-Parliament story, and can reshape it for use today.

  10. Michael DePietro says:

    What is interesting and depressing about Gov. Perry’s comments is less that he made them, but more so that a comment that emphasized Sen Santorum’s Catholic faith ( in particular that he views policies through the lens of a committed Catholic) would have no resonance in a primarily Catholic area. For Example Sen Santrorum actually did better in heavily evangelical areas in Iowa, then in Catholic Dubuque county.

    This is sad because it is obviously true that Sen Santorum’s views are the most “Catholic” politically of a major party candidate running for the presidency ever. This means they do not always break along traditional party or even conservative/ liberal lines. not to say he is not a conservative, a genuine “Catholic” political philosophy will be conservative, because of the principal of subsidiarity, ie deferring to smaller entities functions that can be best left to them. This obviously creates a conservative tenor to any Catholic understanding of politics, the USCCB’s doctrinare and unthinking liberalism aside.

    Still Sen Santorum has a number of positions that are not clasically “conservative” at least as understood among the pundit class:
    1) He favors returning the right to vote to felons who have completed their sentences ( Which strikes me as both reasonable and mericiful, especially for non violent felons, ie drug possession etc..)
    2) He was heavily involved in US funding for AIDS relief efforts in Africa, as a conservative defender of PEPFAR and in fact even added an amendment to PEPFAR to double funding for AIDS and malaria prevention.
    3) He has favored economic measures that are not purely aimed at the wealthiest Americans ( such as measures to reduce taxes on manufactoring in an effort to reinvigorate employement in higher wage blue collar jobs)
    4) In fact David Brooks of the NY Times said when Santorum was defeated in his Senate bid in 2004, that the Senate lost one of its important anti-poverty leaders.

    Obviously his stands pleasing to conservatives are well know, Catholics should be united behind him because of his pro-life leadership alone.

    I am not saying that every policy or vote by Santorum was perfect, I disagree with some, and others may have their own beefs, the specifics of which will vary depending on if your political slant . I think what is incontrovertible is that here we have someone making a serious effort to integrate his politics and his Catholic faith in the big scheme of things, yet Catholics appear indifferent to him . This includes the Bishops who one would think, since they advocate considering a mutlitude of issues, have not commended him for any of these stances. One wonders if this is because at the end of the day most Catholics are unserious about Catholicism, at least compared to the seriousness with which Evangelicals take their Christianity.

  11. I am a transport from the northeast who now lives in bible belt territory in northern Tennessee.

    On thing I can say for sure, its very refreshing living in a culturally conservative/religious area. A big breath of fresh air from the typical northeast liberal lukewarm Catholic culture. My son actually had a “gasp” Christmas party in his kindergarten class at a public school. That would have been unheard of from where we moved. Catholic or not. I still hear happy holidays from Catholics back home. Haven’t heard it once down here.

    Also I have never heard (at least up to this point) anything as anti-Catholic from the southern baptist and other “fire and brimstone” protestants as I have heard from lukewarm Catholics in the northeast.

    Just some thoughts….

  12. I suspect its just jealousy over losing the support of the Evangelical leaders who voted for Santorum this week in Texas. Gingrich is suffering from the same syndrome, sour grapes. It was his extra-marital affairs that made him lose to Santourm, Dr Dobson said. You have to walk the walk.
    Santorum has worked hard to bear the mantle of pro-family, pro-life candidate, both in his Congressional career, defending the ban on Partial birth Abortion, and in his personal life, raising his seven children, including Bella with Trisomy 18.
    I am proud to support this 100% Catholic candidate for president, and so will most South Carolinians.

  13. As a native South Carolinian, and a Catholic, i can say without a doubt that anti-Catholic attitudes do exist in my state. While it is much less than when i was growing up in the 60′s, there is still a distrust of Catholics in the more rural areas. Our Catholic history goes back to the late 1700′s, with our Diocese being established in Charleston in 1820. It has been a slow, sometimes lonley growth, but with many folks moving in from up north, and the growth of the Hispanic population, our parishes have grown quite a bit. While i would like to give Gov. Perry the benefit of the doubt on his comments, one must wonder at his timing, and his motives. Pax Christi

  14. This is exactly the thought I had. Here in Central Florida that hostility is sadly alive and well. In this week of prayer for Christian Unity – I join my prayers with others that this stops and that we all reach out to each other in the name of the same Christ whom we all claim to love.

  15. Perry has been a major disappointment for conservatives since he got into the race. It is a joke that any of them would try to make an issue that the other is not a conservative on the economy as any of them is 1000 times more conservative to what is in the office today. They need to focus on why they would be better than Obama and talk about what they would do and less about what they think of the other candidates.

    The other thing they need to do is to show they have the knowledge and fortitude to get their programs through congress. It is obvious that Obama has never had a clue of how to lead. What has gone through was built brick by brick by the democratic leaders who often complained Obama was not providing true leadership. The Republicans were certain of it because there was no effort to force congress to take a hard look at what should have been true bipartisan measures going into the bills. Without this, the bills ended up being horribly flawed driven by one party liberal ideology. If you look at progress on several fronts to balance the budget, it happened when Bill Clinton moved far from the left and HillaryCare to partner with Newt and the Republican Party to reform welfare and other programs. Remember, Clinton said the era of big government was over as they moved to a balanced budget. Newt knows how to do this since he was a part of the solution. If I were Newt, I would be talking about that as the answer no matter what the question asked. I know how to do it, have done it, and will get us out of this mess. No one else including Obama has ever been involved the last time the budget was balanced. When attacked by the Republican establishment folks, Newt should say they were the folks that supported W. Bush moves to the center left and where did that get us. I left congress with a balanced budget and now am coming back to government to take us back in that direction. Over and over and over.

    And when the media comes out with one of his past wives on a hatchet job, I would say I have nothing to add and the woman has my sympathy, but needs to move on with her life. The issue is we need a leader to balance the budget and get the country moving again and no one else has that experience over and over.

    Perry has zero chance. Santorum is fading. Paul offers insight into serious cuts, but does not seem to understand the world we live in and you can’t simply decide to ignore the past 100 years of world history and hid behind our borders. We learned that again on 9/11 as we did in Pearl Harbor. Romney when he grows up will discover what he is and then let us know. But again, any of them is 1000 times better than Obama on every issue.

  16. On several occaisions during this primary Perry has tried to pull the religion card. He thinks he can win because he’s not Mormon or now not Catholic. He’s pathetic. I have no respect for him.

  17. I think there has been a good deal of change. When my parents lived in Northwest Arkansas, roughly 1973-1983, there was plenty of Anti-Catholic feeling. Part of this is due to differences in lifestyle. As Catholics my parents could drink wine, dance, and play cards. These things were not seen as acceptable, at least not officially, for many churches down there. However a fairly big part of it is they saw Catholics as borderline-pagans who didn’t “truly believe” in Jesus or the Bible.

    However I have heard that in the last 20-30 years they’ve become more aware of “common-ground” and are more tolerant or even accepting. So saying Santorum’s a “good Catholic” could actually be positive to many in today’s South. Even those who have a problem with Catholicism I think indicate they’d prefer a “good Catholic” to a “bad” or lapsed Catholic. As they’ll be with them on most social issues. (Exceptions might include the death penalty, gambling, and alcohol. However a “Good Catholic” I don’t think is, yet, required to oppose the death penalty. And a complete ban on alcohol or the lottery is kind of a dead issue, even in the South, nowadays)

    Still I think the older generation back where I was born, Northwest Arkansas, remains fairly anti-Catholic. They “tolerate it” in the sense that you “tolerate” a person’s flaws. And I think there are places where Catholics are fairly plentiful and at least somewhat devout. Much of the Northeast is fairly lax in its Protestantism too from what I can tell.

  18. Doug Pearson says:

    “Rick Santorum is a good man, he is a good father, he’s a good Catholic,”

    I can think of no higher praise. To suggest that it was not meant as praise is silly, especially as it was follow by an actual criticism… which I actually agree with, that Santorum is not really a conservative politically except on important moral issues.

    If abortion and other “non-negotiable” moral issues were not part of the Democratic Party’s foundational platform I think Santorum would be a Democrat.

  19. I don’t know exactly what Perry intended by the remark but the whole issue could’ve been avoided if he had simply called Santorum a good “Christian;” after all, we are the original Christians. Or Perry could’ve said that Santorum is a faithful member of the only church established by Christ!

  20. HermitTalker says:

    The Governor could very easily have said Mr Santorum is a practical Christian and would have satisfied the truth and not be seen as it too obviously seems, bait for Catholic haters!

  21. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I have to wonder what people would have said if an opponent campaigning in evangelical territory in 2000 had described Joe Leiberman as “a good Jew.”

    That’s high praise, as well.

    But I think, in context, the message is clear.

  22. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Perry should just be ignored. We have already had one bad experience with an inarticulate Texas governor.

  23. Thanks Leticia! That is my fervent hope that Santorum can prove the entire establishment Republican Rhinos wrong by winning South Carolina outright. South Carolina, having a lot of conservatives, should be first in the nation to vote, not Iowa and certainly not New Hampshire. South Carolina is more representative of the Republican base and should go first, followed by Iowa. However, people who don’t pay attention to the candidates records, stay informed on the issues, and have no convictions are easily swayed by a corrupt “enemedia”, believe that Romney is the inevitable nominee. We must reject that kind of overt mind conditioning and vote for Santorum! Most of the polls have already declared Romney the winner, even though only 4% of the states have cast their votes and as of today, we find that Santorum won (or tied if you believe the spinmeisters) Iowa. The people will decide and I truly hope they will not nominate Romney. Romney’s record as a liberal , pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, Rhino Republican is well known to fervent Catholics and Christians in Massachusetts. For an excellent resource on Romney’s record there, go to http://www.massresistance.org. There are excellent video links where you can hear Romney for himself and how he is a “notorious flip flopper” on these core, prolife and homosexuality, issues.
    Oh..one other thing.. for those of you who believe in the Message of Fatima and specifically, the prophetic warning of Our Lady about the “errors of Russia” spreading throughout the world, and enslaving the Catholic and Christian faithful, there is a very sobering documentary on how extensive Communism has made inroads in our country..I accidentally stumbled upon it (or rather, led to it by my guardian angel) :) …it’s called “Agenda” and it can be found on Youtube or http://www.agendadocumentary.com. This is the most thoroughly researched video available on how Communists (they don’t call themselves that now..they refer themselves as progressives but their goals are all the same) are now in great positions of power in our country with President Obama being it’s key beneficiary. It is very frightening and does not bode well for this country if we do not recognize the lateness of the hour and change course and put Christ as our first priority. I wholeheartedly and earnestly plead with all Catholics and Christians in this country to get this video (or at least watch the Youtube videos) and recognize the great spiritual and physical danger we are all in. The only thing that can save us now is fervent, prayers to Our Heavenly Father and for those who are Catholic, the most efficacious prayer is the Holy Rosary. Outside the Mass, this is the most pleasing prayer to God and the one most incessantly pleaded for by Our Lady in her approved apparitions around the world. God bless!

  24. Anti-Catholic attitudes from evangelicals in the deep south are alive and well — don’t fool yourselves into thinking otherwise. At best the Catholic religion is abided by them, at worst it is still vilified. Perry was pointing out the “Papist” candidate deemed his rival for a certain segment of voters.

  25. So, now Perry is dropping out of the GOP race and some in the media are saying that he is going to give his support to Gingrich. I guess he considers Gingrich to be a better man, a better father, a better Catholic, AND a better conservative.

  26. If Perry supports Gingrich it will have nothing to do with being pro-Catholic or pro-conservative. It will have everything to do with being anti-Romney and possibly anti-Mormon.

  27. I’m alerted now: If someone calls me a “good Catholic,” I’ll say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

  28. update, Perry out and going to endorse Newt. Then we have his bitter wife who was cheating on Newts first wife going on the air to attack Newt because he cheated on her.

    Saw a post elsewhere that with sexual harrasser/masher/rapist Clinton (depending on what you believe about him) that we got a balanced budget when he worked with Newt. Then we had W. Bush and Obama, neither of whom have a hint of problems with their marriages and massive debt and high unemployment. Seems obvious answer is we need President Newt with his marriage issues in office to tame the problems. maybe it should be a requirement for the office. joking…or not?

  29. South Carolina the most “religious” state? Does that mean SC has the least amount of crime in all the USA? The most working people? The most mom and dad families? If it isn’t the most peaceful, God-fearing people, giving, loving, strong families, working people, not a welfare state, with the least amount of crime…than it might be “religious”, goes to church but the word of God is far from their hearts. Ya see, God wants us to wear and actually do our religion on a daily basis…taking up space sitting on a pew, just doesn’t cut it. There is a big difference in being “relgious”and religious. Please define your term on what religious means to you? If SC was this religious ethopia…more Christians would want to live there, to get away from the othe non-religious states.

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