June 13th, 2011
09:26 AM ET

Site of Republican debate is college run by world’s oldest religion order

Editor's Note: CNN hosts the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate tonight from Manchester at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news about the debate on CNNPolitics.com and @cnnpolitics on Twitter. Watch the debate on CNN TV , CNN.com and mobile devices . And participate with your questions on the live blog at cnn.com/ticker.

By Jeremy Moorhead, CNN

Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) - The staging ground for Monday night’s Republican presidential debate - the first of 2012 presidential cycle in the critical early voting state of New Hampshire - is connected to a history so deep that it predates American politics by a millennium.

Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, New Hampshire, was founded and is run by the Benedictines, a Catholic order founded in the 6th century. It claims to be the world’s oldest religious order.

The school has hosted Republican and Democratic presidential debates in previous election cycles, sometimes drawing criticism for appearing to get involved in partisan politics.

But Dale Kuehne, professor of politics at the college at Saint Anselm, defended the school's role in the political arena.

“Why I think it makes sense to have a debate at a Benedictine University is that the rule of St. Benedict says every visitor should be treated as Christ himself,” Kuehne says.

“If you talk to people about the events at Saint Anselm, they would of felt that hospitality… regardless of their political or religious position.”

Kuehne, who is the founding director of the New Hampshire Institute for Politics, notes that Saint Anselm students are preoccupied with the economy, the top issue of the 2012 presidential campaign.

“Students are really concerned about the future of the U.S. I think they are also concerned about whether or not they will have a job,” he said.

Thirty monks live in the abbey at Saint Anselm.

One of the goals for the so-called Anselmians is providing pastor care for students at Saint Anselm, a liberal arts school.

“What we try to do is develop the spiritual side of the faith dimension, to integrate their beliefs with their life so [students] have an active faith,” said Rev. Anselm Smedile, a longtime priest here.

The school’s website says that “Saint Anselm shapes the kind of leader the world is hungry for; not only smart, but good.”

Saint Anselm was an 11th century Italian Benedictine monk whom Smedile calls “the greatest Christian philosopher or thinker between Augustan and Thomas Aquinas.”

Anselm’s definition of theology was “faith seeking understanding."

Two of the candidates in Monday night’s debate are Catholic: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is a convert, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • New Hampshire • Politics

soundoff (102 Responses)
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    April 6, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  4. Possum

    "...world's oldest religious order." Say what? The Catholic Church might be one of the world's most destructive but they are certainly, NOT the oldest.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • FairGarden

      Secular Westerners don't remember that Catholics and Protestants built schools all over the world and educated Asians, Africans and the peoples in S. America. Arabs( better ones) adopted the educational systems from the Christendom. The West had nothing valuable or superior if they did not have the Christian Church. Europe is fed on what Christians had created and built.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  5. RightturnClyde

    My post disappeared

    June 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • RightturnClyde

      I guess I simply cannot post anything anymore. Oh well. ..

      June 14, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  6. Marie Kidman


    June 14, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Carl

      Why do you post this everywhere? It sucks!

      June 15, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  7. FairGarden

    The West was educated by Christianity and was made wise, strong, civilized, useful and extra-ordinary in every way. Westerners who bash Christianity are the most ignorant, useless barbarians. They should be gone with the primitive Roman/Greek stuff long ago or be enslaved by Mongols and Arabs as they wish.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • AreYouKidding?

      How right you are! Christianity certainly educated and civilized the world. Just look at what Christianity has given us! The Crusades! The Inquisition! A fine scholarly tradition indeed!

      July 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  8. robyncarter

    Maybe Romney can buy GM, sack all of its workers then sell it off at a profit before it goes bankrupt as he did with his other business success stories. Capitalism at its finest http://bit.ly/iWLYbJ

    June 14, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  9. Reality

    A suggestion for the opening statement:

    1. There was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    2. There was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    3. There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    4. There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    5. There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    6. Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    7. Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    June 13, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • KeninTexas

      We all know you love to "cut and paste" little tidbits that you think will enlighten the world, but you're repeating the same things now. You're kinda of boring already.

      June 14, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • The Veteran

      You would sound more intelligent, if you made the statement:

      I do not know if there was an Abraham, or Moses, or that Christianity has no strength or purpose.

      It is because you do not know, that you do not believe. It is your LACK of knowledge that forms your position. The same lack of knowledge about things like, why your body has to sleep, when scientifically, it should not have to, or where did the universe come from.

      A person with a lack of knowledge is hardly an authority on life. Only the person who has complete knowledge can make such a statement.

      My suggestion to you: Before you conclude that anything is wrong, it would be best to study it and prove it is so. That way your decision would be based on something, instead of NOTHING but your gut feeling.

      And in this case, your gut is dead wrong. Your hope must be in your gut. Let your hope be in truth.

      June 14, 2011 at 3:52 am |
    • Reality

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      "Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "

      June 14, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • Reality

      As a good student, you have read the reiterations of the "FEMS" (Flaws, Errors, Muck and Stench) of religion. Therefore the seeds have been planted in rich soil. Go therefore and preach the truth to all nations, reiterating as you go amongst the lost, bred, born and brainwashed souls of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. 🙂

      June 14, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • Possum

      You must, first, delve into what you see as impossible and convince yourself it is possible. Then, you must, successfully, be able to argue the validity of what you could not, at first, believe was possible. Once, you have gained this insight, you must retrace your journey back to where you started and be able to find your way, there and back, with ease. Until you have completed this journey, you are as a beacon, luring travelers to the shores of a desolate island.

      June 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  10. Wordwaryor

    Christianity was the principal and overwhelming religion of our founders. Our nation was founded on religious freedom.
    The separation of church and state prevents the state from interfering with religion .... period. It does not iintend or say that those with religion cannot display their religious beliefs in public places, even government places. Government is prohibited from making any laws that affect religion, and is warned and prevented from prohibiting the "free exercise" of religion. So says the 1st Amendment.

    June 13, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Moreurgent

      Separation of State and Religion! Exactly! So what are the Rep. Pres. candidates doing debating in St. Anselm?????

      June 14, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  11. Eileen

    “Why I think it makes sense to have a debate at a Benedictine University is that the rule of St. Benedict says every visitor should be treated as Christ himself,” Kuehne says.

    Sounds more like a reason NOT to have a US political debate there to me. There is NO way the debators are going to live up to that rule. Not only that, but I think the benedictines are also the order that started the vow of silence. A US political debate? How noisy can you get?

    June 13, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Possum

      So, who was in charge of all the foot-washings? Funny/sad thing is, some of the candidates already think they are like Jesus.

      June 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Student

      Um, no, the Benedictine monks do not practice a vow of silence. The Rule of St. Benedict asks its followers to be humble, casting their eyes upon the ground...but that doesn't mean they have to be silent. Benedict cares for the holiness and generosity of monks while St. Anselm asks everyone to question their faith (or lack of) so that they can fully understand the decision they have made in their life. Both of these saints make for excellent college "mascots".

      I am an atheist...happy attending St. Anselm College. Saint Anselm College has taught me to be more thoughtful and more Christlike...even if I don't think that Christ was anything more than a very nice fraud/madman. If some republican (just to add, I'm a centrist) thinks he's Jesus, that is a whole other problem indeed. What ever happened to the separation of church and state. Politics is a duty to the country, not to any God, and certainly not to the politician himself. And, Eileen, it's not the Republicans who have to be Christlike. It is us, the host of the event. We have a tradition of hospitality.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  12. Willyboy

    Arrogance of the first order – how typical of Christians. Buddhism, Hinduism predate the Benedictines by a millennium. Get over yourselves.

    June 13, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  13. Moreurgent

    The Roman Catholic Church is the state religion of the Roman empire and has very little to do with the Christian faith mapped out in the Bible. The Anglican Church became state religion of England – also very little to do with the Scriptures. Both mingle with politics which goes against Christ's command to 'stay away from the world and its affairs because the world passes'. This means, that the unjust, oppressive human governments that men have set up on this planet will soon be overthrown by the 'Kingdom of God' which will bring back perfect living conditions for everyone on earth.

    June 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Care to add some definition about "soon?". We talking this year or a century or a millennium or two, or are you going to duck behind "no man shall now..."?

      June 14, 2011 at 2:39 am |
    • Free

      Are you suggesting that any of the protestant denominations or splinter groups of today are accurate models of the Christian faith mapped out in the Bible? If they're following the Bible as a guide then they're not at all like the Christians depicted in the Bible because those folks only had the Jewish scriptures and the guidance of apostles to lead them, right? The Bible came about because of the same Roman empire you are claiming ruined the faith and, since they selected only the books that matched their traditional views and teachings then, by your logic, the Bible is also part of that corruption. So, where do you divorce protestantism from the Catholic tradition?

      June 14, 2011 at 8:23 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.