home
RSS
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.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

"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. Raja Drambo

    Ha. Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  2. Thatguy371

    "I'm going to talk about the things Americans want to talk about"

    Well if that's the case, then let's talk about WHEN will you abandon this wacked prez run? How 'bout it chump? You're wacked. You'll never win. AND RIGHTLY SO.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • jon

      You mean there's a candidate who has values and isn't afraid to state them? Could this be for real?

      February 22, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      *** "I'm going to talk about the things Americans want to talk about"

      Americans want to talk about jobs, the economy,debt,iran.....

      All this guy gives us is religious crap about gays and abortion.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  3. curtis

    1. there is no devil
    2. all religions are made up
    3. if anyone is a devil–it would be this guy

    February 22, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  4. Deej59

    Note to anyone who wants to see this country ruled by religion: Please knock it the heck off. One of the main reasons this country is great is that you can be Catholic and that guy over there can be Mormon and I can believe in what I want to believe in, even if I don't believe in God, and that's okay. That's how it's always been. Any church that gets enough power to force their beliefs on others must be stopped. Any politician who wants to make this kind of oppression happen must be stopped. So hey, if you're a person who finds this terrifying and you rarely vote, please take the time to vote against this clown if he gets the nomination. If you think voting is too inconvenient, just imagine how inconvenient the outlawing of birth control would be.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  5. Dave Long

    Being a person of faith does not require one to see the world in stark terms like good and evil, though both clearly exist. Various shades of gray that conservatives seldom see, are nevertheless quite real. Feel free to broaden your horizons – comfort with gray comes with exposure to gray – it really is that simple. Then, you would not be.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  6. Michael Naranjo

    good job, CNN. this article exposes the full blown Santorum. he's a religious nut trying to peddle dogma from an Executive pedestal. this guy is not going to get elected, and this article is part of the reason...

    February 22, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  7. pamela j reynolds

    I do not want a judgemental, manipulative, ignorant, religious fanatic for president. If you saw him on Face the Nation this past Sunday morning you would know truly stupid he is. I agree with NoKidding – Santorum seems to be off his medication.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  8. mmi16

    Santorum is the Devils tool – in all the uses of the word!

    February 22, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  9. michael

    It's a safe bet the abortion count is much higher in sanctorum's family Klan but as usual with his kind is don't let ur women do what mine has done plenty of times

    February 22, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  10. joe

    Santorum just showed himself to be a religious nutcase. Last thing we need is another President who thinks in terms of his God and beliefs against the Devil.

    Sealed his defeat.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  11. rtbrno65

    Santorum must have seen a can of Underwood Deviled Ham and then drawn this conclusion.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  12. MakeThemEatCake

    The problem, I see, with the whole "love one another" thing is that to qualify as "one another" requires that you be of the same faith.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  13. Just me

    only evil thing that exist right now is religious extremism...and racism ofcorse.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  14. Oh Yeah

    I wonder how many students, when asked what they would do if they were Satan, would say that they would take what they can read from Revelation and come up with a Plan B?

    February 22, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Andrew

      From everything I've read in the bible... I honestly don't see Satan as that bad, I mean, god commits mass-genocide way more times than Satan. I wouldn't mind reading a book by Satan's perspective, I feel like god just had a much better publicist.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • bobcat

      I too have long believed that the Devil-God thing was a mix-up too.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      BINGO !!!!!!!

      Andrew

      From everything I've read in the bible... I honestly don't see Satan as that bad, I mean, god commits mass-genocide way more times than Satan. I wouldn't mind reading a book by Satan's perspective, I feel like god just had a much better publicist.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
      bobcat

      I too have long believed that the Devil-God thing was a mix-up too.
      -------------------------------------------
      I dont personally believe this stuff, but if there is to be an anti-christ
      would the most perfect place to put him be at the head of the catholic church ?
      Have you seen any pictures ?
      That guy has the most evil look on his face,
      upside down cross, wears the fish head (pagan) on his head
      bloodshot sunken eyes.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  15. Mark

    the guy downright scares me. not fit for a US president...vatican or iran, maybe....

    February 22, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • badlobbyist

      Yeah, he's move to Canada or take your chances with the drug cartels in Mexico bad.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  16. FrankSpeech

    Santorum is Satan. He is evil, self-righteous, wants us to all live by his view of religious extremism, and denial of womens rights on every level. Goodbye Rick. You are an extremist backwoods lunatic. The Republican Party is full to the top with nuts like him. I will stand with President Obama who stands up for me and every other America regardless of race, ethnicity, wealth or station in life. He serves ALL of America. Not a single Republican can do that and therefore none are qualified for the job of President.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  17. westward

    Santorum is sick in the head. This guy is just outright scary.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  18. LMD

    At this point in time,IF,it were to be a choice between Santorum and Satan,then please,bring on Satan. This sanctimonious jerk has alienated more people in the last few months than I think the politicians over the last 15 yrs have. His views are so one sided,so biased that if he truly believed in this country,and what is has stood for all these yrs,he would know and understand that the last person the founding fathers would have wanted was someone like him running this country. I have no problem with anyone's faith/religion,but this is supposed to be America,the right to have freedom from.freedom to engage,not the damned Middle east where it is crammed down the throats of every citizen.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  19. FritzfromPa

    If Karl Rove doesn't stop this nutcase, he can kiss the Republican party goodbye. There are plenty of sane Republicans who cannot believe what they are hearing and seeing and they are horrified that they are being lumped in this bum. No one's God would ever stand beside this evil fool, thinking that he can speak for God. This is what Rove brought about and now he is stuck with the monster he created. Bachmann, Perry's wife, Palin, Bush, they all claimed that God personally spoke to them about running for the Presidency. Can you imagine how they diminished the God they claim to follow, by making Him appear so shallow, that he would be more interested in Republicans running for political office, while His children all over the world are dying, starving and begging for His help.

    And Sanctorum places himself above God by calling our President filthy names and smearing our President's reputation. The Ten Commandments make it a Mortal Sin to bear false witness against anotherand yet this religious fraud is doing it every time he opens his mouth. Where are those Catholic Priests who will not step in and call him out for continuously committing this Mortal Sin? Where are all decent Catholics for not calling him out? What he does to bring harm to another might just come back to his children and he will pay for the evil bile he is foisting upon all of us citizens, disgracing our country for his dreamed of chance for be elected again and to again live off the government's payroll.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • David Myers

      Bravo FritzfromPa. Very well stated. Nothing less than the soul of the Republican party is up for grabs this election.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:33 am |
  20. NoKidding

    Santorum belongs in a sanitarium. The guy is insane.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:01 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Advertisement
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.