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February 21st, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Santorum and Satan - the devil is in the details

Editor's note: Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for the last presidential debate before Super Tuesday, the CNN/Arizona Republican Party Debate hosted by John King. Follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate and on Facebook at CNN Politics. For real-time coverage of the Arizona and Michigan primaries, go to CNNPolitics.com or to CNN apps or the CNN mobile site.

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - A 2008 speech by Rick Santorum at Ave Maria University is making waves this week, in large part because Santorum said Satan had his sights set on America and the country was facing spiritual warfare.

The speech came at the beginning of the academic year at the Catholic university in Florida.  At that point, the 2008 presidential campaign was in full swing.  Then-candidate Barack Obama had recently made a statement about abortion and the issue of deciding when life began, which he said was above his pay grade.

Santorum was using the devil-tinged language after explaining Obama's position on abortion.  He quoted Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, who said at the time, “Catholics who support so-called ‘abortion rights’ support a false right, promote a culture of death and are guarded by the father of lies."

"This is not a political war at all, this is not a culture war at all, this is a spiritual war," Santorum said, according to a recording of the speech on the university's website. "And the father of lies has his sights on what you think the father of lies, Satan, would have his sights on.  A good, decent, powerful, influential country, the United States of America."

The speech gained a new life this week when it surfaced on the website Right Wing Watch and was then picked up by the Drudge Report and a host of media outlets.

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"If you were Satan, who would you attack?" the former U.S. senator asked the students.  "There's no one else to go after other than the United States, and that's been the case, for now, almost 200 years."

Santorum went on to explain how he thought the devil had attacked the United States in several areas: its foundations, academia, the Protestant Church and government.

Asked about the speech on Tuesday, Santorum offered no apologies. "I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil," Santorum told CNN in Arizona.

"If somehow or another because you’re a person of faith and you believe in good and evil is a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president," he said.

"If they want to go ahead and dig up old speeches to a religious group they can go right ahead and do so," Santorum went on. "I'm going to stay on message. I'm going to talk about the things Americans want to talk about."

In his 2008 speech, the Catholic Santorum said that Satan had relatively little success attacking the founders and the foundation of the country. But time, like an acid, wore away America's great institutions, "using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition," he said.

Santorum said Satan was first, and most successfully, attacked academia.  Once academia fell to pride and its own truths, he said, the Protestant Church fell next in the United States.

"We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country, and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it," he said.

From there, he turned to U.S. culture, lambasting the National Basketball Association, rock concerts and movie sets. "They are peacocks on display, and they have taken their poor behavior and made it fashionable," which he said was further evidence of spiritual warfare.

Also fallen to Satan: politics and government, he said.  Specifically, Santorum highlighted a 2004 interview with then-state Sen. Obama did with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Shortly after Obama won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, he sat down with Cathleen Falsani in one of the few extended interviews he has done about his faith.

"What is sin?" Falsani asked Obama.

"Being out of alignment with my values," Obama responded.

In his Ave Maria speech, Santorum seized on this point. "So now we have the first truly post-modern presidential candidate. Clearly, explicitly defining his own reality," he said.

But the reporter who conducted that interview with Obama said Santorum is mistaken.

"Mr. Santorum is conveniently ignoring the fact that was not the opening question I asked him, nor was it the only question I asked. I asked what did he believe, and he articulated his faith and prayer life," Falsani said.

"We had talked about his born-again experience. [Obama's] values are based on his historical Christian faith.  He wasn't talking about, 'whatever I feel like is right in my reality,' " she said.

Falsani said the Santorum-implied dig - that Obama has his own definition of sin outside of traditional Christianity - was wrong. "The answer came in the specific context of having just articulated his Christian faith," she said.

In response, Falsani posted the full transcript of her interview with the president on the Sojourners website, where she now works as Web editor and director of new media.

But what stirred the media and the Internet the most was the notion of all-out spiritual warfare. It made easy fodder for late-night comics.

"If Rick Santorum is the commander in chief, he will do what no other president has had the courage to do: declare war on hell,"  satirist Stephen Colbert said on "The Colbert Report" on Monday night.  "It's simple: All we have to do is take our nuclear missiles out of their silos and put them back in upside-down."

At the time of the speech, Santorum was two years' removed from political office and not running for anything.

Sources who have known Santorum for some time told CNN that this is who Santorum is. He sees the world in black and white, good versus evil, they said.

A big difference between this speech and what he had talked about publicly before, according to some who know him, is that during this time frame, he was out of office and didn't have people with political antennae around him to pull him back from such stark rhetoric.

While his speaking about the devil in a political context may be considered a candidate no-no, Stephen Schneck, a political scientist from Catholic University, says consider the crowd.

"Ave Maria is a unique place," Schneck said. "They are very orthodox in their Catholicism and conservative in their politics."

Donning the language of spiritual warfare can score points with the crowd.  "In some very conservative Catholic circles, that language resonates," he said.

"What he's saying, it's certainly not any heresy," said Father Tom Reese, a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center.

"It's the language some preachers would use that conservative Catholics would be very comfortable with. Is it the kind of language theology professors at Catholic universities would use? Probably not. They would likely see it more metaphorically," he said.

"He's well within the tradition," Reese said of Santorum's talk of spiritual warfare.  Though he added,  "When he starts applying those definitions to specific politicians, those are his own judgments, not the judgment of the church."

As for the candidate today, an aide issued a one-word statement on the flap: "ridiculous."

CNN's Dana Bash and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (1,820 Responses)
  1. Rock Reynolds

    What makes Santorum so confident that Satan is a "He"?
    Rock

    February 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Dr.Fritz

      None of your business. He said it in a Church to a private gathering. OR do you want everyone's religious beliefs on the table and fair game for attack? In which case, let's take a good look at what Mitt the Mormon believes – not the Mormon PR, but what the secretive Mormons realy believe.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Dr.Fritz

      None of your business. He said it in a Church to a private gathering. OR do you want everyone's religious beliefs on the table and fair game for attack?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      @Dr.Fritz
      The man is running for president. He’s beliefs are relevant. It’s not our fault they are so ridiculous.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  2. mickey1313

    Why does anyone listen to these evil thiestic fools.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Dr.Fritz

      Why is it OK to attack Christians, but not OK to attack Mormons?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      @Dr.Fritz
      Apparently you don’t know the definition of Theist. I’ve only read two of your posts and you already sound like a complete moron

      March 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  3. Lily

    ANYBODY BUT OBAMA who is destroying OUR COUNTRY!!! Wake up PEOPLE!!!!

    February 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yet more proof of my contention that any post containing the phrase "Wake up, people" is sure to be full of shit

      February 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Liz the First

      Yeah, by saving us from sinking into another Great Depression, keeping our auto industry from going the way of the dinosaurs. by trying to see that folks have access to healthcare and that folks feel like everyone is paying their fair share of taxes. he's a devil, all right! shame on him for trying to do right by the American people. you're the one who needs to wake up and see the repugs for what they are. there are two kinds of republicans, multimillionaires and suckers. which one are you?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • DeTamble

      We are awake.
      Its you that has been hypnotized.
      See a doctor.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  4. Dr.Fritz

    WHY IS IT OK TO ATTACK CHRISTIANS FOR THEIR BELIEFS, AND BELIEFS UTTERED IN A CHURCH FOUR YEARS AGO NO LESS, AND YET TABOO TO MENTION THE BELIEFS (THE ACTUAL BELIEFS, NOT THE PR) OF THE MORMON CULTISTS?

    February 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, people need to remember that the FLS is the real mormons, the book of mormon is what they follow, moderen mormons follow a watered down text, because they new that americans would never allow there crap to continue.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • DeTamble

      Mitt isnt pushing his faith down our throats.
      Santorum is.
      Believe what you want, but keep it to yourself.
      Got that ?

      February 22, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  5. Liz the First

    Our president is right, deciding when 'life' begins is above his and everyone else's pay grade. it is a matter of personal belief and should not in any way be part of our laws. bottom line: iif you believe personhood begins at conception, don't have an abortion!!! but you have no right whatsoever to make people who do not share this belief live by it. if the Catholics had tried to keep everyone in the country from eating meat on Fridays back in the days when that was their rule, the evangelicals would've screamed bloody murder. but they think it's perfectly ok for them to impose their rules on the rest of the country. This is not a theocracy! at least not unless we elect a Taliban clone like Santorum. he's the wackiest of the wackos running. his ideas should scare the pants off any sane person.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Sorry, I have an objection. Murder is not 'up to personal choice'. That child is a unique human being. It has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just like the rest of us. Just because it is currently growing and striving towards physical maturity (another 15+ years down the road) and totally dependant on its mother, doesnt make it any less human.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  6. JohnR

    The easiest way to pop Santorum's GOP bubble is to ask him on camera if he thinks Evangelicals are saved.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • 21k

      i think in 2002, the pope wrote that while other religions are nice, none of their followers will get into heaven. only the rc folks will. you are right about asking the question though; if religion is going to be such a big part of our government, they should make that a debate topic.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      This is the great problem of having a leader that puts religion above all else. Christians always assume it will be their franchise that is in charge. If they took a look at history they would see that no group persecutes, tortures and kills Christians like other Christians do. But then again the troubles in Northern Ireland were such a long time ago....

      February 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • mickey1313

      agreed, I bet these thiest fools would havwe a hell of a time when they must say who the believe will get into the magic land of heven.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Doesnt matter what the Pope thinks, he's not infallible. Jesus spoke the words, "No one gets to the father but through me". Jesus is your gateway into heaven. There is no other.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  7. allens

    oh one more thing, that sweater vest thing only works for mr. rogers. i knew mr rogers and you are no mr rogers

    February 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      I like how he has his name embroidered on it. I think that is so he does not lose it at bible camp.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  8. allens

    santorum is the devil. he is the most dangerous person to american citizens and america it self.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • nuwansam

      Of course the Satan is eying this country. Satan is nothing other than this toxic extreamism GOP is spreading. Satan is probably has taken over GOP and sending people like Santorum in disguise to deceive people and destroy the freedom and rights of the people. From 2000-2008 Satan was somewhat successful. But I think his time is over. Majority of people of this country will prevent Satan taking this country over the cliff again.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  9. Paulo

    Rick Iensaneatorum and Franklin graham must be the true spawns of satan. I bet poor old Billly Graham is wishing he would have used contraceptives about now.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  10. judith

    The only good thing about Santorum is that he will further radicalize the GOP and independents won't vote for him. If he gets the nomination, Obama is guaranteed a second term.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      Not to mention the damage he will cause to GOP candidates for the house and senate. And best of all, this will be the legacy of the GOP for years.

      Santorum 2012 (BC that is)

      February 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  11. BADGUY

    Bachman?....NO!....NEXT?......Perry?......NO!....NEXT?.....Cain?.......NO!.....NEXT?......Gingrich?.....NO!....NEXT?....Romney?.....NO!.....NEXT?......Santorum.....ABSOLUTELY NO!.....NEXT?.....

    February 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Kelly

      No kidding, eh? Scary stuff.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • DeTamble

      The Koch Brothers are getting desperate.
      The clown car is empty.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  12. PLF63

    Mr Santorum s be entering the priesthood instead of running for president. And even then, Jesus would shake his head and ask, "When I died, who made you boss?". Jesus preached love. I don't hear love from Mr Santorum. Mr. S, there is the sin of pride!

    February 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  13. Ronald Reganzo

    Barak Obama won a peace prize by not being George W Bush. Rick Santorum can win the Presidency by not being Barak Obama.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      If that were the case the nomination would have been decided months ago.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • bob

      Santorum is running for pope. Those of us in PA know he's an idiot, more at home in Saudi Arabia than the US. Of course, so are you.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • mickey1313

      I agree that obama should not have goten the peace prize, but no republican has a chance at beating obama, thay are all jokes.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Do Not Disassemble

      Come November, you are going to be one sad puppy.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  14. shankar

    So Santorum wants to be jesus in the white house?

    February 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  15. The Dude

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eqKb5ViN_Q&w=640&h=360]

    February 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • scrollman

      Wonderful! If only everyone could see this. The church vs. state argument is getting so tiresome! You might be interested in my novel The Fallujah Scrolls. I tried to knock the sanctimonious bastar*s down a notch with the discovery of gospel written comtemporarily, which doesn't fit the current dogma. It hasn't taken off yet, and probably never will, as it would seem that the dumbing down of America has taken root. Everyone knows who the Quarterback of their team is, but try to explain to them that the person known as "Jesus" was only an ittinerant Rabbi by the name of Yeshua, and you get blank stares. I could go on and on , but a person of your intellect already knows the details. Thanks again for posting this...truely enjoyed watching it!

      February 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Do Not Disassemble

      Great video.
      This should pizz off a lot of christians (chuckle).

      February 22, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  16. alfranken

    Alla, Alla, praise Alla, Santorum praises Alla, Alla, Alla, 73 virgins Alla, Alla,

    February 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  17. The Dude

    Satan is in the Catholic church diddling our children with impunity.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  18. Prayer makes stupid people even fatter

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you fat.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out about his frothy rear entrance efforts.
    Prayer dulls your senses.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Muneef

      You are lost with the winds

      February 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Muneef

      I get lost because I break wind so intensely near my boyfriend.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Muneef

      Hmm.
      Using my screen name is a cheat...but am lost her are you a female or a gay...?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Muneef

      I think I should pray that Santorum gets into the white house might we at last see some more discipline in the US

      February 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Lena

      You're sooooo incredibly ignorant

      February 21, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Muneef

      Lena.
      I withdraw my angry comment just because some one convinced me in a better words which I will post for you all to read;

      myweightinwords
      Muneef, his devil is not a person or party. It is not a living breathing thing that we can hold up and examine. It is an idea, an insidious idea that something evil lurks behind every shadow, influences anyone who doesn't believe as he believes, infiltrates the hearts of those who are different and steals the souls of those who will not turn to his understanding of god.

      It is a dangerous game that allows him to demonize anyone he chooses and label them as being "not good enough" or "evil".

      February 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |

      February 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Duck Dodgers

      That was funny.
      Thumbs up !

      February 22, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  19. petena

    I sure hope this Santourum gets the nomination. Please, please, please. The debates would be a comedy.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  20. thegadfly

    Is a return to Christian values really going to help our economy? The Chinese don't hold Christian beliefs, and their economy seems to be doing just fine.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Muneef

      Cheap labor and no consideration for human rights or nature.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Laughing Now And In The Future

      And the Chinese are different than the Republicans, how?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Muneef

      Whoops sorry didn't know you suffer the same problem in the US.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • mickey1313

      that is because they use slave labor and treat there populous like trash. But, you are right, there is no room for the vevil of christian "values" in america.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
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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.