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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. Ray

    this fanatic has NO PLACE in public politics.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • ensense

      Any body who does not believe in the communist manifesto like your guy is a fanatic.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  2. Joe

    To paraphrase Tevya the Milkman, "May God bless and keep Santorum...far away from us!"

    January 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  3. Jim3000

    Just another phoney, fake, Christian, who does not really follow Jesus or His teachings, he just uses the name Jesus and Christian to get votes.
    A lot wolves in sheeps' clothing and false prophets out there, from ALL religions.
    The REAL Jesus warned us almost 2000 years ago.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Distopian

      Assuming you are a "true" Christian, why haven't you sold everything you own?

      January 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  4. OpenEyes

    Maybe Rick Sanitarium should join with Mel Gibson, embracing Mel's Orthodox Catholic cult, bashing Jews, and people of color. He certainly doesn't deserve to be in Washington with his extreme agenda, hopefully NH and SC will figure that out.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Jim3000

      Trust me, South Carolina people can't even figure out how to push the vote button, much less see through phonies.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Bill C

      Yes Jim, because we obviously aren't as enlightened as you, because we disagree with your politics. Another "open minded" liberal, whose mind is closed to anything with which he disagrees.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "whose mind is closed to anything with which he disagrees" Bill, are you really that big a Mel Gibson fan? You want us to keep an open mind about Mel Gibson's cult beliefs? Would you, in fact, vote for Mel Gibson?

      January 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Bill, I'm no liberal I'm a libertarian and I agree with Jim3000. Your state will vote for the most religious candidate or whatever the pastor tells them to do and ignore all the fiscal arguments. Social issues will come before the economy and with the state our country is in that is total ignorance. I'm sorry your state is full of sheep that can't think for themselves.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • ensense

      bible clown do you really believe in the communist manifest. lets see how you like the twist.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "bible clown do you really believe in the communist manifest" Is that Karl Marx's laundry list? Or are you trying to spell "Communist Manifesto?" I believe it exists. If you google it, it gets results. But I don't think the Republicans should use it as a blueprint for their own Party, if that's what you are trying so ignorantly to say. Everyone who doesn't live in North Korea knows communism has failed miserably in the real world; it's most humiliating failure is that it can exist only WITHIN the borders of a capitalist state like China or NK. Are you trying in your uneducated way to call me a commie? Excuse me while I laugh at you: ha ha ha.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • realitybites

      I don't know. SC figured out how to lead the country into a civil war over the issue to treating people as people of property. Sound just like Ricks kinda state.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  5. t.sarcastic

    Theocracy seems to be working well in Iran so maybe Rick is on to something.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Gerry

      Ya think?

      January 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  6. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    Rick Santorum... man of the cloth? Or man of the froth?

    January 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  7. loathstheright

    Keep your non-existing magical invisible faerie out of my government.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Kyle

      The writer mentions his disdain for gay marriage as if it were a dislike for butterscotch then glides through to the next topic. He is vehemently anti-gay and would turn gay rights back 100 years if given half an opportunity.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Gerry

      I hate butterscotch. Nasty stuff. Makes me retch and I can't stand the smell. Like the GOP. I can't stand them either.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  8. Angela

    If Santorum is truly Catholic, he should realize that there is not supposed to be any such thing as a "private mass" invitation only. Santorum is radical, and I hope this does not further damage the religion I practice.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Amy

      Are you Catholic? There is nothing he could do to top decades of pedophilia.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • GreenieInPA

      Surely, you must know that the Church can be bought.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  9. augustghost

    2012 and religion still matters...good grief

    January 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Janie

      I could hear violins playing when I read this vanilla piece. Santorum and his ilk would gladly and without reservation stop gay families in their tracks for yearning and desiring the very things that Santorum holds so dear in life. His family gives him meaning to life, yet he has no problem blocking avenues of dissent and setting up roadblocks to happiness for millions of gay Americans. His disdain for the gay population coming out of the U.S. executive office would be a trend setting horror for millions of gay people all over the planet. Santorum is the face of evil. Don't buy this story sweetened with fake sugar.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  10. fofotavour

    Pretty ugly family.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  11. Linda Operle

    All the candidates need to leave religion at home where it belongs. I'm sick of other peoples religious values determining what's right for me and I'm an athiest. Separation of church & state the conservative nut wings need to remember it exists for a very good reason.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • The Woof

      Religion doesn't need to be left at home, that's what wrong with this world now. If we allowed our inner light to shine for the world to see and not hide it in darkness th world would be a better place. I agree a politician doesn't have to publicly shout out his religious beliefs but rather he/she should let there actions show what their beliefs are. If you don't see compassion, a sense of justice, a seeker of peace then that politician is a hypocrite to his/her religion.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • GreenieInPA

      Personally, I would like to see them leave religion not just at home but in the toilet where it belongs.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  12. Barbra Kramar

    I think candidates are putting too much attention on religion Politics, Government and Religion have been, and should always be separated. JFK had problems getting elected because people stood firm about separation of the two. Suddenly, all you hear with candidates is their affiliation with God. Who has turned his life over to God. That is not what our Government is all about. I feel these candidates are hypocrites, they will say anything to appeal to each voter.... even though they know its wrong. They are not in this race for the good of their country.,they are in it for their self-greed.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  13. Jonathan Michael Brouillette

    "Friends, again I ask you, what about today? What are you seeking? What is God whispering to you? The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ. The saints show us the selfless love of his way. As disciples of Christ, their extraordinary journeys unfolded within the community of hope, which is the Church. It is from within the Church that you too will find the courage and support to walk the way of the Lord. Nourished by personal prayer, prompted in silence, shaped by the Church’s liturgy you will discover the particular vocation God has for you. Embrace it with joy. You are Christ’s disciples today. Shine his light upon this great city and beyond. Show the world the reason for the hope that resonates within you. Tell others about the truth that sets you free.
    –Pope Benedict XVI
    Greeting to Young People
    St Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie
    19 April 2008

    January 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Nazi Pope says what?

      January 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • MadCow11

      Yawn.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Nazi Pope

      What?

      January 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • KMW

      Jonathan,

      What a womderful piece. Thank you for the wonderful inspiration as I am a Catholic.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Satan

      Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

      January 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • GreenieInPA

      I heard that whisper once. I was visiting my uncle in the insane asylum. Turned out to be just another nutcase ... you know, kind of like you.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, thanks for quoting the pope, because someone here might be catholic.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  14. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    Rick Santorum would team up with Christine O'Donnell and criminalize m@sturbation.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • ED

      Ohhhh Yes! Rick Santorium, our self-appointed Jesus!

      January 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  15. jim

    This idi0t has to be stopped! I can take hypocrites of all denominations, but someone who actually believes that crap is far too dangerous to allow anywhere near the presidency!

    January 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  16. and...

    The BIG difference between Santorum and Kennedy (and there are billions) is that Kennedy did not find it necessary to shove his religion down the throats of the American citizens.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • ED

      Well stated! OBAMA 2012!

      January 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • joeseattle

      Wouldn't that be just because of what he was too busy shoving down the throats of bimbos and callgirls?

      January 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Madfkr

      Anyone who hates on gays that much is probably in the closet.
      Considering that he's Catholic, I'm pretty certain he got molested.
      Not that it was his fault. Those priests ra.pe kids all the time.
      It's never the fault of the victims. But he needs to get a damn clue.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  17. closetiguana

    It works for the Ayatollahs in Iran why not the presidents of America?

    January 9, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  18. Reasonably

    His cult is better than your cult – just ask him!

    January 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  19. frank

    I don't trust Santorum to keep the catholic church out of the white house.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Cheetah

      For all those that state that religion is not an issue.....that it will not come into play about decisions....then why have these people "chosen" ANY religion........aha....because they have a faith.....a belief in that religion.......and thus that IS the issue. Their "personal" religious faith supersedes what is the heart of the matter.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Joe Rioux

      Wow, Cheetah, your logic is so impressive and irrefutable! I am amazed! I wish *you* were running for President.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  20. Mike, Albany

    ALL religions are wrong and, therefore, they cannot be the basis of a system of government. Morality and ethics (as defined by secular law) have a very large role to play in government, but faith and beliefs do not, as these are very subjective, and no politician has the right to impose theirs on anyone else.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Mike, New Jersey

      That's a pretty bold claim to be making, seeing as how the Judeo-Christian tradition that pretty much shaped the entire Western system of morality and ethics. Church and state should be separated, but it's not wrong if someone's ethics are shaped by religious beliefs. Not all things can be separated entirely.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • mikeLavin

      This has already happened. Just look at the forced closings of stores on Sunday, and making it harder for me to buy my Jack Daniels on Sunday. I think it's totally hilarious that they get all fired up about closing things on Sunday, when the precious bible they cling to actually says day #7 for "rest". I may be a secular "idiot" but I do know the difference between 1st day, and day 7 🙂

      January 9, 2012 at 4:26 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.