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January 7th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Reversing JFK: Santorum’s bid to marry faith and politics

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series of stories looking at the faith of the leading 2012 presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. We also profiled the faith journey of Herman Cain before he suspended his campaign.

By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors

(CNN) - It was election night in November 2006, and Rick Santorum had organized a private Catholic Mass in a room at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. The senator from Pennsylvania had just lost his re-election bid.

The Mass, held just before his concession speech, included a priest and Santorum’s close family and staff. Though the occasion was somber, the soon-to-be-ex-senator aimed for a celebratory mood, said Mark Rodgers, then a top Santorum aide.

“Life is if full of what can be perceived as disappointments or hardships,” Rodgers said, “but Scripture tells followers of Jesus that we approach those situations with joy because there’s ultimate redemption.”

Santorum’s younger brother, Dan, remembers that many attendees - including the senator’s children - were weeping over Santorum’s landslide defeat at the hands of Democrat Bob Casey Jr.

But not the senator.

“You’d think he would have been crushed,” says Dan Santorum. “But he wasn’t even bitter. He didn’t complain. He just said it was God’s plan.

“That’s when I knew he was going to run for president of the United States,” Dan continued. “Because I think that God had another plan for him.”

It’s unclear if Rick Santorum, whose strong finish in the Iowa caucuses has breathed new life into his presidential campaign, interpreted his Senate loss the same way.

Santorum concedes his Senate seat in 2006.

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.”

It’s also the part that most inspires his political backers - among them the Iowa evangelicals who helped fuel his stunning Iowa finish, eight votes behind winner Mitt Romney - and most enrages critics, who take deep offense at Santorum’s views on divisive issues like homosexuality, which he once lumped together with bestiality in a discussion of legal rights.

“I think it’s fair to say that he’s sometimes harsh in the way he makes those arguments,” says Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush.

Indeed, even Santorum’s own party is seeing a faith-based split around his presidential campaign, with evangelicals who dominate the primaries in states like Iowa on one side and more establishment Republicans in states like New Hampshire on the other.

As he works to convince skeptical voters he has a real shot at winning the White House, Santorum’s religious faith has emerged as both his chief political asset and his biggest liability.

Kennedy's ‘sealed off’ wall

His Catholicism may have deepened as an adult, but Santorum also has deep Catholic roots.

“Three pictures hung in the home of my devoutly Catholic immigrant grandparents when I was a boy,” he said in a speech last year. “I remember them well: Jesus, Pope Paul VI and John F. Kennedy.”

Santorum attended Mass with his brother, sister and parents virtually every Sunday. “You basically had to be on your deathbed not to go to church,” says Dan Santorum.

Both parents worked in a VA hospital in Butler, Pennsylvania. As teenagers, Rick and Dan would push the wheelchairs of patients to Sunday Mass in the hospital’s interfaith chapel. Rick would serve the Mass as an altar boy, wheel patients up to receive Holy Communion, then help his brother wheel them back to their hospital rooms.

Other than that, it was a conventional American Catholic upbringing in the 1960s and ’70s: The Santorums said grace before meals, sent their kids to Catholic grade school and spent absolutely no time discussing how religion influenced their public policy views.

American Catholics at the time were living in the shadow of John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech in which he insisted that neither his faith nor his church would have any influence on his presidency.

Santorum would spend his political life trying to reverse the effects of Kennedy’s pledge. He argued that Kennedy “sealed off informed moral wisdom into a realm of non-rational beliefs that have no legitimate role in political discourse.”

During college and law school at Penn State, Santorum wasn’t especially observant; neither did his religious faith factor much into his political views.

After college he served as an aide to Doyle Corman, a moderate Republican state senator in Pennsylvania. Religion seldom came up.

“My husband and I are both pro-choice,” Corman’s wife, Becky, told The New York Times in 2006. “One of the interesting things about Rick is, the whole time he worked for us, we didn't know what his views were on that issue.”

Dan Santorum says a turning point in his brother’s faith life was his marriage to Karen Garver. They met in the 1980s while Karen was studying law at the University of Pittsburgh and Santorum was recruiting law students for the Pittsburgh firm where he worked.

“There was just a bond between them,” Dan says. “Part of that was that they shared their faith.”

That bond was on display last Tuesday during Santorum’s speech after the Iowa caucuses.

“C.S. Lewis said, ‘A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.’ My best friend, my life mate, who sings that song when I forget the words, is my wife, Karen,” Santorum said before embracing her in a long hug.

Santorum bows his head in prayer during an Iowa campaign rally in January.

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.

“When you know these people are out there, you do a little more homework before you preach,” Hemrick said of his high-profile flock. “You try to make it a little more meaningful to them.”

Moral codes and absolutes

The 1990 GOP freshman class, a small group that managed to win in a poor year for Republicans nationally, took a confident line in airing grievances to congressional and party leaders.

Santorum was part of the freshman “Gang of Seven” that exposed the House banking scandal, and he kept up his penchant for bold, against-the-grain gambits after his election to the Senate as part of the 1994 Republican Revolution.

Soon he was taking aim at the overriding culture-war issue of our time: abortion.

Santorum helped lead the effort to impose the first federal restrictions on abortion that could survive court challenges since Roe. v. Wade - a ban on the procedure critics call partial-birth abortion.

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.

“How is it possible, I wonder, to believe in the existence of God yet refuse to express outrage when His moral code is flouted?” Santorum said in a ’90s-era speech at the Heritage Foundation. “To have faith in God, but to reject moral absolutes?”

For Santorum, legalized abortion represented the ultimate flouting of that code.

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed Congress in 1995, but President Bill Clinton vetoed it the following year. Santorum led a failed Senate effort to override the veto and helped revive the bill after the election of President George W. Bush, who signed it into law.

Such campaigns helped make Santorum a national hero to the anti-abortion movement and a bogeyman for abortion rights supporters.

“On the morning after the Iowa caucuses, there were millions of pro-life voters who woke up pinching themselves that one of their very own had emerged at the top rank of candidates, making sure it wasn’t a dream,” said the Southern Baptist Convention’s Land.

Around the time of the Clinton veto, Rick and Karen Santorum confronted a tragedy that added flesh-and-bone experience to their anti-abortion stance, which had up until then been intellectual and religious.

By that time, the Santorums had three children. While pregnant with her fourth, doctors told Karen her fetus had a fatal birth defect. In his 2005 book “It Takes a Family,” Santorum writes about Karen turning down the option to have an abortion.

“Karen and I couldn’t rationalize how we could treat this little human life at 20 weeks’ gestation in the womb any different than one 20 weeks old after birth,” Santorum writes. “So instead of giving our child a death sentence, we gave him a name: Gabriel Michael, after the two great archangels.”

The premature baby died two hours after birth. The next day, in a move that has widened the public opinion gap over Santorum, he and his wife took the dead body home so their children could spend time with it before burial.

“Gabriel died as a cherished member of our family,” Santorum writes in “It Takes a Family.”

Karen captured the episode in a 1998 book, “Letters to Gabriel,” describing to her late child the reaction of one of his sisters: “Elizabeth proudly announced to everyone as she cuddled you, ‘This is my baby brother, Gabriel; he is an angel.’”

For Santorum, who now has seven kids, holding Gabriel was a lesson about the fragility of human life.

Santorum, wife Karen, and his seven children.

“At that moment, eternity became reality,” Santorum writes. “After Gabriel, being a husband and father was different, being a legislator was different. I was different.”

Conservatism and the common good

Santorum has received a glut of media attention for how his religion shaped his culture-war stances, but allies say his faith has made him a compassionate conservative.

As a senator, Santorum was known for his work on poverty and combating HIV/AIDS. He says such efforts are rooted in the Catholic notion of working for the “common good.”

“Just as original sin is man’s inclination to try to walk alone without God,” Santorum writes in “It Takes a Family,” “individualism is man’s inclination to try to walk alone among his fellows.”

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.

Among the participants in those sessions was Gerson, who would join Bush in Texas as a speechwriter in the run-up to his 2000 presidential campaign and bring some of the ideas of the congressional group with him.

One was a plan to start a federal program to help level the playing field for religious groups applying for government money to address social problems.

For Santorum, employing faith groups in such a campaign was partially grounded in the Catholic idea of subsidiarity, which calls for addressing problems closest to where they are. In many troubled communities, the thinking goes, the strongest local institutions are churches, ministries and other religious organizations.

The notion of outsourcing government programs to religious institutions also appealed to Santorum’s beliefs about government’s limits.

“The problems currently afflicting us reflect an impoverishment of the soul more than the pocketbook,” Santorum has said, quoting conservative education scholar Chester Finn. “Government is simply not equipped to address problems of the soul.”

The idea for a government faith-based program had critics on the left and right, who feared government-backed religion and a welfare system for churches.

“A lot of people have a hard time getting Rick Santorum because they’re used to a debate between liberalism and complete free market approach and he’s not either of those things,” says Gerson, now a Washington Post columnist.

Bush created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships via an executive order days after his 2001 inauguration. Santorum helped organize a conference to tell religious leaders from across the country about the new program.

“It was on that day that I decided to swallow my constitutional concerns about it,” says Richard Land, who attended the conference despite reservations.

“Seventy-five percent of the people attending the conference were either African-American or Hispanic,” Land says. “They wanted people who lived where the problems were making decisions about what should be done. They were in a lifeboat situation.”

Santorum was also a key Bush ally in creating the president's $15 billion global AIDS initiative, with the senator’s staff sometimes lending office space to rock singer Bono while he was lobbying for the program on Capitol Hill.

President Barack Obama has continued support for both the faith-based office and the global AIDS initiative. The programs are evidence that Santorum can be more than a culture warrior, and their staying power suggests he's gone a long way breaking through JFK’s sealed-off wall between religion and politics.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (2,874 Responses)
  1. Frank!

    My problem with Santorum is not that he is catholic. My problem with him is that he is proudly BIGOTED and extremely STUPID.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  2. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Chad is a twit.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Sambo X

      Yu shuldn't beez callin' folks names, Tom. Yo dads a piper an he might git mad at yu.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      At least I know who my daddy was, honey.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Sambo X

      I wish I nos who ma daddy be. Ma momma say it culd be a lot o' diferent guys. I never undurstood dat.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  3. me

    Santorum on why Iran can't have nuclear weapons: "They're a theocracy that has deeply embedded beliefs that the afterlife is better than this life"

    January 8, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Sambo X

      Wat rong wit dat?

      January 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  4. Chrism

    “True religion affords to government its surest support.”

    – George Washington

    “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

    – George Washington

    “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

    – George Washington

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable.”

    – George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1789

    January 8, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Chrism

      “We have this day [Fourth of July] restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His Kingdom come.”

      – Samuel Adams

      “The name of the Lord (says the Scripture) is a strong tower; thither the righteous flee and are safe (Proverbs 18:10). Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better.”

      – Samuel Adams

      January 8, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Chrism

      “The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.” – John Adams

      “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

      – John Adams

      “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

      – John Adams

      January 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Chrism

      It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.- Patrick Henry

      Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is their duty – as well as privilege and interest – of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

      – John Jay (first supreme court justice)

      The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.

      – John Jay

      January 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Chrism

      “I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society. One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law … There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying its foundations.”

      – Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, Harvard Speech, 1829

      God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.

      – Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Memorial

      January 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Chrism

      “I am busily engaged in study of the Bible.” – Abraham Lincoln

      “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.” – Abraham Lincoln

      “This nation under God”

      – Abraham Lincoln, Gettysberg Address and inscribed on Lincoln Memorial

      “And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God … and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

      – Abraham Lincoln

      January 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Rick

      If you are using these dubious quotes to justify a state religion or if you want to legislate religion go elsewere, we never had or will ever need an "official religion" or to legislate morality in these United States of America..

      January 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Chrism

      Rick, the next time you have the urge to tell any poster to "go elsewhere" and presume to speak for all on this board which you don't, go first to the mirror, look the person you see there squarely in the eye, and command them to take the advice you dole out.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • dm

      There have been a whole lot of people in the history of the world who have had the same opinion...all of them were wrong.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Take your own advice, ChrismJi zm.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Chrism

      “Religion is the basis and foundation of Government”

      – James Madison

      January 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The fact is, Chrism, you moron, is that this is NOT a theocracy. Religious laws are not the basis of our Const itution. Never were.

      You are, simply put, an ignorant yahoo.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Chrism

      Tom, no you first. You're the commander, right? Command yourself to take all your advice.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Chrism

      Abraham Lincoln; a prayer for peace (Second Inaugural address, March 4, 1865):

      Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continues… until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid another drawn with the sword… so still it must be said that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and for his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • ThereIsNoGod

      Do not believe every quote you read on the Internet.

      -Abraham Lincoln

      January 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Margot707

      John Adams, Unitarian – "Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it."

      "I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"

      January 8, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Margot707

      Ethan Allen, Deist – "I have generally been dominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian, except mere infant baptism makes me one; and as to being a Deist, I know not strictly speaking, whether I am one or not."

      "While we are under the tyranny of Priests [...] it will ever be their interest, to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in order to establish systems incompatible therewith."

      "There is not any thing, which has contributed so much to delude mankind in religious matters, as mistaken apprehensions concerning supernatural inspiration or revelation; not considering that all true religion originates from reason, and can not otherwise be understood, but by the exercise and improvement of it."

      January 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Margot707

      Thomas Jefferson, Deist – "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear."

      "...Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; ... What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."

      January 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • TR6

      Christians certainly didn't make the consti-tution. If they did, they violated the 10 commandments because they allow people to worship other gods, build craven idols and in fact take the lords name in vain. It also allows people to commit adultery, to covet neighbors goods and not keep holy the day of the sabbath. So, Christians created the consti-tuiton in direct violation of what they have been told to do. Yeah, that's believable. Our country was founded on "Christian Values"?... What values? Oh, you must mean slavery, and the genocidal ethnic cleansing of over 5 million Native Americans? This includes those tribes, that in a "loving Christian gesture of Jesus love and compassion", were given wool blankets intentionally infected with smallpox which wiped out entire villages. I call bs on those Christians that claim any sort of moral or historic "high ground"

      January 8, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • TR6

      Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, which was written in 1796 and the text approved by George Washington, and signed into law in 1797 by President John Adams states, "As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." How do you get the founding fathers meant us to be a Christian nation from that?

      January 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "You're the commander"? Where did you get that piece of nonsense, Chrism?

      January 8, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Margot707

      Just like you pick and choose which bible passages to follow or ignore, you pick and choose the particular Founders' quotes which support your own beliefs and which obviously do not represent those of all the Founders.

      Jimmy Carter is a very spiritual, religious man. He lives his life according to his religious beliefs. But you never heard him prostheletyzing and telling others that they must live by his beliefs. He keeps it to himself. I wish these Baggers would use him as an example of how persons of faith should live their public lives.

      January 8, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • ChrisN

      Chrism, well, our names are close, but that's about it. I can throw quotes too, and here is one, but how about providing some evidence for the claims of your religion instead. Here ya go, treaty of Tripoli
      "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

      January 8, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  5. me

    New Hampshire voters hammer Santorum – A woman holding a Bible asked how his "war mongering" reconciled with his faith."Jesus said to love your enemies and feed them, not blow them up!" she said.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  6. skyjmpr

    Let's see... take a look at the Vatican... Pope Benedict... a shining example of compassion, open-mindedness and universal love for his fellow man...

    And THIS is what you want in the White House?

    January 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Sambo X

      Lawdy! Da pope sound like a good man!

      January 8, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Chrism

      “True religion affords to government its surest support.”

      – George Washington

      January 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • sjenner

      There are many who wouldn't agree with your characterization of Benedict XVI. And no, I wouldn't want the pope or his surrogate running our republican, secular, democratic republic.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Frank!

      HEY! Cut Pope RATzinger some slack. So he's a former Nazi who swore a blood oath to Adolf Hitler. BIG DEAL!

      January 8, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • TR6

      I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.
      – Benjamin Franklin

      January 8, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • ChrisN

      Treat you from Treaty of Tripoli: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

      January 8, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  7. Elio Freitas

    US is in a war against the Taliban....These guys want to impose their believes and type of government on everyone....Some Republican candidates do to some extremes with their religious believes that they come close to the Taliban....US must separate government and religion. Each individual is free to believe on whatever he/she wants and the government should stay out of it.
    Santorum is forgetting the separation of church and state...It is good for him, fine, but don't force it on me and keep it out of the government....Santorum needs to consider and adopt "respect" "tolerance' and "moderation" to be credible....

    January 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  8. Rick

    This individual has the same chance to be elected president of the United States as a snowball has in hell. If he thinks that he could not be re-elected as senator in Pennsylvania so he could be elected president, tear down the wall between religion and govenment and then legislate his brand of morality he is truly a confused individual.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Heather in SoCal

      The article fails to mention the reason that JFK distanced himself: that many voters saw him as un-electable UNLESS he gave extensive assurance that he would separate his faith from politics. Voters (especially Southern Protestants) saw his faith allegiance to the Pope - himself technically the leader of the Vatican city-state - as compromising to his American authority. How soon we forget.

      January 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  9. Santorum Sucks

    Santorum is a racist moron!!!

    January 8, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  10. Sambo X

    I likes da inturnet! I eats ma watermelon n' drinks ma malt likor n' talks ta my inturnet peepos.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • herbie, shut up

      you are missing the gene for humor.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Sambo X

      Yu reel smart, Herbie. Yu a geniologist n' shiit! I bets yu makes lots o' muny!

      January 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  11. newsreel

    The crusaders certainly received their blessings before going. The inquisitors certainly said their prayers before bed, after a productive day of torturing. The 9/11 bombers shouted their prayers before dying. Denying these is just childish, dishonest, unworthy of my discussions. Are religious all this bad when they are out of arguments ?

    January 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      Who are you talking to?

      January 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • herbie, shut up

      you're talking to yourself as usual, herbie.
      just.......shut up.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Time to be held accountable for crimes against humanity

      Hitler was a devout catholic.. Stalin's upbringing from the seminary.

      The religious ignore this. However facts stand – Vatican was never bombed and the pope never scolded hitler.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  12. liz

    Pope urges promotion of social justice – There is an urgent need for "tenacious, lasting and shared efforts to promote social justice" and that "true social justice" must be promoted through "genuine solidarity", Pope Benedict said on Friday.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Sambo X

      I beez needin' mo social justus n' shiit! Powa to dey peepo! Rite arm!

      January 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Sid

      So does that mean he's going to stop actively hiding pedophile priests by moving them around?

      January 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Time to be held accountable for crimes against humanity

      The pope is a dis–gusting p-uk–e who de-nied children in need. Instead he wrote doc-um–ents to demand the silence kept and use threats when needed.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Time to be held accountable for crimes against humanity

      In fact the death penalty would be a wonderful solution for the p-i-g. Maybe little catholick kids will then wear a necklace with a pope with needles stuck in him

      January 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  13. liz

    Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders said it was the moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Time to be held accountable for crimes against humanity

      I agree with that.. except he's doing it because the catholick church rakes in more money from their hospitals with more HC dollars spent.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Sambo X

      Gots ta gibs da bruthus dey aids meds n' shiit!

      January 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  14. Sambo X

    I'm a 12 yr old school girl who like to talk big on this forum

    January 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Sambo X

      how yu no dat? I iz a 12 yer old gurl. Yu a forchun tella!

      January 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Time to be held accountable for crimes against humanity

      but you sound as intelligent as a catholick priest, not very – sorry.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Sambo X

      Dat ok, I nos I aint to smart.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • herbie, shut up

      the stench of your idiocy permeates your every post, whatever the username you try but fail to hide behind.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  15. Reality Jr.

    Reality for President 2012 Who will be my dad's running mate for VP?

    January 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      Rick Santorum

      January 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  16. Catlick Boy

    Santorum certainly does not speak for all Catholics, and he shouldn't take their votes for granted. His hateful views are not consistent with the teachings of Christ.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  17. Porgie Tirebiter

    Does this sweater-vest look good on me? How about from the back – does it make my butt look bigger?

    January 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Sambo X

      Do baggy pants make da nigra look likes a monkey?

      January 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  18. Shawn Irwin

    "One was a plan to start a federal program to help level the playing field for religious groups applying for government money to address social problems." These religious groups already get tax-free status, and then they want to give them our tax dollars . . . . and anyone who thinks that church money is not supporting political candidates is living in dreamland.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  19. Rod from Indy

    As an American, I am deeply offended by the influence of religion upon our government. I do not want the government, a king, or a religion, telling me what to do in my personal life. If you wish to follow such beliefs, that is your choice. Therein lies the hypocrisy of the GOP. They want to remove government from business, to allow the super-rich to do anything they want, but they want the government to rule our personal lives. No thanks.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Time to be held accountable for crimes against humanity

      I keep religion away from kids, let kids be kids without the brainwashing. The again the religious don't like that, they need to start as children so that it sticks better (BTW: same thing the terrorist do)

      January 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • ab

      Yep, I agree with you.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  20. Bumper (In Spirit and Truth)

    Rick Santorum is a stupid, racist idiot.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Dennis

      Don't hold back

      January 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      Well, what are his bad qualities?

      January 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
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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.