Santorum and Faith

Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi at CNN.com:

But the hotel Mass, and Santorum’s apparent placidity in the face of an overwhelming defeat, illustrate what confidants say is the key to understanding him as a person and politician: a devout Catholic faith that has deepened dramatically through political and personal battles.

“When I first met him he was an observant Catholic but a fairly privatized one,” says Rodgers, who ran Santorum’s first race for the U.S. House in 1990 and served as a key Santorum aide in Congress for 16 years.

“The journey I saw him on was a gradual awakening to the importance of faith at an operational level within a democracy, the idea that free people need to have a moral foundation.

“The journey was also personal – growing in faith and sharing it with others,” Rodgers says.

Many politicians have ideological concerns about issues like abortion or gay marriage, but “in Santorum’s case, it’s fundamentally religious,” says Richard Land, public policy chief at the Southern Baptist Convention. “That’s the genetic code of his life.”…

Sometime after arriving in Washington following his 1990 House victory, Santorum began attending daily Mass before work.

The Rev. Eugene Hemrick, who frequently leads Mass at 130-year-old St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill, says Santorum led Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback – who served with Santorum in Congress in the 1990s and 2000s – to the church.

“Santorum was always dressed up,” Hemrick remembers. “Brownback was in sweats a lot from running.”

The evangelical Brownback wound up converting to Catholicism, and the two were often joined in the pews by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas….

Faith and politics may have been separate in Santorum’s childhood home and the homes of other American Catholics at the time, but by the 1990s abortion had become the symbol for the infusion of conservative faith into American politics. The issue forged a powerful political alliance between conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants.

On the wall of his Senate office, Santorum kept a picture of William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian whose evangelical faith stirred him to lead the campaign that ultimately ended the British slave trade in 1807.

The senator saw his campaign for the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act as his “Wilberforcean effort,” says Rodgers, now a senior adviser to Santorum’s presidential campaign.

Santorum’s comfort with using his faith to shape his politics was partly a reflection of Catholic intellectuals he had met since arriving in the capital, including Richard John Neuhaus, a priest who edited the Catholic journal First Things, and George Wiegel, a theologian.

For Santorum, such figures and books by Catholic writers like St. Augustine instilled the sense that free societies need citizens who are governed by strong moral codes….

Santorum and those close to him say that impulse motivated his work on welfare reform during the mid-1990s.

Many conservatives “would have taken a fairly harsh view of welfare reform as a waste of taxpayer dollars,” says Rodgers. “Rick’s view was that publicly funded programs are justified when it’s for the least of these, which comes from Catholic social teaching.

“There’s a compassionate side of the Catholic faith that says you prioritize the poor in public policy, and there’s also the side that says work should be a component of that care, that not working strips you of your dignity.”

Santorum championed welfare-to-work programs in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that Clinton signed, as well as the idea of charitable choice, which gave states the ability to partner with religious institutions to address social problems like poverty and addiction.

Success on welfare reform provoked Santorum and a handful of other religious Republicans in Congress to begin discussing conservative solutions to poverty and other social problems that had mostly been the province of liberals.

 

 

 

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://jmsmith.org JM Smith

    If only his faith shaped his foreign policy. Alas, of them all, only Ron Paul’s foreign policy in any way reflects the Sermon on the Mount.

  • Reggie

    Remember the political scandals that dogged him in the past, and lead the people of Pennsylvania to deny him a second term?

    This, from a non-partisan group who ranked the “most corrupt” politicians in 2006. http://www.citizensforethics.org/index.php/press/entry/crew-releases-second-annual-most-corrupt-members-of-congress-report/

    When are Christians going to quit looking at how a politican stands on abortion or gay marriage, and see who he/she takes money from, what political “deals” get made, ahd who gets rich?

  • Amos Paul

    Reggie,

    Santorum isn’t even ‘christian’ when it comes to abortion and gay marriage. He’s publically compared gay individuals to the act of bestiality and wants to violate intimate privacy at a basic level making even their sexuality illegal. Moreover, Santorum wants abortion to be considered murder *even* in cases where the mother’s life being in danger or rape come into play.

    Of course, I think almost all the politicians that play the ‘Jesus’ card as blatantly as Santorum does simply to earn votes are doing nothing more than taking our Lord’s name in vain on the first place.

  • Scott Lyons

    Seems like any other believing politician to me – has a way to go before representing fullness of Catholic faith. And while he may have worked for preferential treatment of poor in the past, he seems to be running from it during this race.

  • DLS

    Citizens for Ethics (CREW) cited at 2 is ‘non-partisan’ in the same way that The Heritage Foundation is non-partisan.

  • Mary

    It’s too bad that though Santorum speaks about his Catholic faith influencing his views, he seems to miss some important things in Catholic Social Teaching.

  • Richard

    @ 5 Way to attack the source instead of engaging with the material presented. Not to mention that you must have a different definition of “non-partisan” since that list contains members from both parties…

  • DLS

    Rush Limbaugh attacks Republicans all the time, therefore he must be non-partisan.

    I need to remember this standard for not attacking the ‘source’ of an argument for future reference.

  • http://anchorforthesoul.org Daniel

    Sure, Wilberforce claims to be a “Christian” politician, but in reality his views are deeply “anti-Christian.” He is a theo-crat. A big-government, Christian statist. He wants to invade our privacy. What gives him the right to tell people what to do with their own personal property? He should worry about his own plantation.

    Politicians that play the ‘Jesus’ card as blatantly as Wilberforce does to earn votes are doing nothing more than taking our Lord’s name in vain.

  • Rick

    Richard #7-

    “But a review of entities against which CREW has filed complaints and information about its donors suggests that the organization may be guilty of the same practice — attacking groups and individuals who are the foes of CREW’s donors. The organization refuses to reveal information about its donors, and Deputy Director Naomi Seligman told Roll Call that “donors play no role in CREW’s decisions as to the groups or politicians we target.” Several news stories — in this newspaper as well as in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and others — have pointed out that much of CREW’s funding comes from liberal groups and big donors to Democratic candidates and causes. And all but a handful of its complaints against Members of Congress have targeted Republicans.”

    http://www.rollcall.com/issues/53_85/-21796-1.html

  • Amos Paul

    Daniel,

    Yeah, Wilberforce actually did advocate for at least a few pretty crappy things other than the whole abolishment of the slave trade deal. For instance, he supported actually making information about contraceptives or human biology *illegal* to distribute to the working classes.

    Yup.

    But did your tongue-in-cheek comparison have any actual content. Do you actually *like* it when politicians go around using Jesus’s name to earn votes and divinely bless all their positions–especially when so many political positions are *not* very Christ-like? Do you actually advocate a specifically Christian state that verges on a pseudo-theocracy (except, not really since God wouldn’t actually be in charge). Is that *really* your political position?

  • Richard

    @ 8

    Rush attacks Republicans when they step away from the party line, not a great comparison. If you want to call CREW biased go for it but get the correct bias if you’re going the ad hominem route.

    @ 10

    Again, the article you quote directly states that CREW has blown the whistle on both GOP and Democrat – the very definition of bipartisan.

    Even if they are partisan, as your article claims, the whole idea of partisan whistle-blowing being a bad thing blows my mind – because they receive money from special interest groups we should ignore ethical violations by US Congressman? They dug up legal documents demonstrating unethical practices by Santorum and other public figures. I don’t care who funds them if the facts uphold their accusations (which in the case of the Philadelphia Trust Company loan, it seems to). Dismissing them because of where they get paid is extremely irresponsible on our part as citizens in a republic.

  • Rick

    Richard #12-

    I was simply pointing out the “non-partisan” issue.

    “the article you quote directly states that CREW has blown the whistle on both GOP and Democrat – the very definition of bipartisan.”

    But as the article points out,
    “…all but a handful of its complaints against Members of Congress have targeted Republicans.”

    Between that and its financial backing, I don’t think “non-partisan” is a proper description.

    As far as pointing out problems with members, I agree with you. That is information we should have.

    But let’s not pretend CREW does not heavily lean in a certain direction.

  • DLS

    No offense, but this is bizarre. There is no question that CREW is a left-wing group. I doubt CREW even denies it. There are several right-wing groups that have gone after Republicans, and I doubt seriously we’d be referring to them as ‘non-partisan’.


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