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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.

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. Naitop

    Santorum is supported by nutty conservatives like Palin. levin and Rush. They don't know what they are doing. They are destroying the GOP. his Satan remarks are more divisive than the class warfare promoted by Obama. He is mixing politics with politics as is the case in theocracies a la Iranian. Attacking Protestants who support the conservatives is a stab in the back of conservatives. Santorum blames the media now. He is hypocritical. His words hurt. he want to become Queen Victoria with trousers.

    February 22, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  2. OrangeW3dge

    Testing...is this thing on?... hey, God, if you're still listening..I just wanted to say thanks for making me win back there, and me and Adrian is gonna be in Church on this Sunday, and every Sunday as long as you keep making me win....and, Thanks, God I know you're a real good guy.. keep up the good work there

    February 22, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • jeff

      Fail

      February 22, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • OrangeW3dge

      Ricky Balboa was from Pennsylvania, right?

      February 22, 2012 at 2:11 am |
  3. ushonor

    Wow. Just happened to find this on yt watch it pretty amazing whether you are for him or not. Mitt Romney Gives Service to Fire Victims in San Diego

    February 22, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • darkow

      Holly R,Saint O Rum can do a miracle, he will cure their burns and wounds, even bring them from the death (sorry again,my bad) from the debt!

      February 22, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • OrangeW3dge

      St. O'Rum has already healed the blind and ministered to the the poor blaaaa.....'s (I'm pretty confident that I didn't say black) people. I would imagine that he will speaking with a burning Bush next and produce some stone tablets with his new tax plan on it.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  4. Kingsley

    Let keep closewatch of santorium's word cos he mayb right bcos d speech he made is more convicin;if u take a look our country is goin 2ways(evil nd bad),nd it's very bad we should stand up nd focus 4 d betament of our country cos dis is wat our forefathers has worked 4.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • darkow

      all hell (sorry,) hail holly R. Saint O Rum!

      February 22, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Tellmenolies

      What??English please

      February 22, 2012 at 3:17 am |
    • Doobie Wah

      Go back to school son, you need it bad.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  5. perrrob

    ... and Obama got Bin Laden ...

    February 22, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • darkow

      don`t you see, he is holly R.Saint O Rum, he will fight Satan and put a cross on every door!

      February 22, 2012 at 1:52 am |
  6. ushonor

    Rick Santorum was named among the most corrupt politicians in 2005-2006 by a Washington watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The Gang of Four starring Rick Santorum has a different side to him. Shocking what occurred to women and young girls in this.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • darkow

      Sure, the devil has many faces, one is "santorum face"!

      February 22, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • bobcat

      Compulsion in religion is distinguished peculiarly from compulsion in every other thing. I may grow rich by art I am compelled to follow, I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgment, but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve & abhor. Thomas Jefferson.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • bobcat

      sorry that was not meant to be a reply, I was showing how Rickky treads all over our founders.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • miscreantsall

      Amen………..hello!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      The dude is the Anti-Christ!!!!

      February 22, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  7. All Mighty God

    I quit working on the planet earth and on humans a long time ago. I'm in other parts of the universe judging other types of life forms. Humans are my weirdest creation. Do you actually think I'm going to help the US or christians more than I would help any other religion? I don't care what country or what religion you are as long as you are a GOOD human being. But, there aren't many and I'm not helping anyone or anything on the planet earth. I'm busy in other parts of the universe. Take care of it yourselves and don't blame me. K???

    February 22, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • Pishaw

      Glad you're here, I have a question.

      As the creator of the universe, it's said (by you, supposedly) that Earth and mankind are 'perfect', created in your image. Well...

      How is it you effed this up so bad? Were you drunk? Maybe you're just about half-bright, like so many of your followers.

      Look, take a few days off. When you come back, we'll talk. But seriously, don't be afraid to pass out a few resumes. Because it looks like we're heading in a different direction.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Anunaki

      We are the Anunnaki.
      We rented planet earth to you.
      You have destroyed it.
      We are coming to evict you.
      We will clean it up and find a better occupent.
      You have been warned.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  8. Jude

    this man is bad in so many levels...awful he has managed to actually be in a position of power, worse he has is this close to totally destroying our country. amazing what a white male can get away with in good ole usa. he belongs in some cloistered church compound...they love him, he loves them, they can take advantage of living in our wonderful country, come out to see the diverse and secular civilized community america really is and then turn around and run back into their compound.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Petey

      Agree – don't want this man with his finger on the button.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  9. shw627

    Usual double standard. Congresswoman Waters calls Boehner a "demon" and "Lib-Heads" applaud!
    Santorum talks about Satan and the very same "Lib-Heads" all freak out!

    All "Lib-Heads" are cowards! They can dish but just can't take it!

    February 22, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • Petey

      Regardless of what side of the fence you're on, this guy is one scary person and I don't want him running this country. He can have his personal faith. Don't push that stuff on me.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Really?

      There's a difference. Speaker Boehner does not treat the podium as a pulpit from which to espouse his spiritual beliefs Mr. Santorum does. I can't speak for all, but the thought that he would deign to lead the country with policy based upon rejection of facts and a narrow spiritual perspective is more than unsettling

      February 22, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      None of us Libs ever called the President a liar on national television.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      Bottom line there are not enough of you to make a difference. President Rick Santorum, get used to it.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  10. max

    These idiots are making an Obama victory certain ... can't wait to watch all the tea publican heads explode when it's over ... at least we'll be able to get something done without these retards f'ing up the system ...

    February 22, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • shw627

      Failed in Iran, failed domestic oil, failed in jobs...Jimmy Carter!

      Obama, just another one term flip-flopping peanut farmer!

      February 22, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • perrrob

      GOP: 2 useless wars, 2 trillion wasted, 4,500 dead US soldiers, 20,000 injured, Motgage crisis, financial crisis, big gifts to Wall Street to bail them out ... and Dumya Busch. Need I say more.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • Zombie Squirrels Will Feast Upon Your Nuts

      @perrrob – you forgot the concentration camp, the torture, the suspension of habeas corpus, the illegal mass wiretapping of Americans, the secret renditions, the black prisons, the reduction of free speech into "free speech zones", the blockage of stem cell research, and just so much more.

      All by an openly Christian president. To vote Christian is to ignore the disasters of the worst president in history: George W. Bush.

      As Mencken once said, "Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good."

      February 22, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      *** Obama, just another one term flip-flopping peanut farmer!

      Who is going to replace him ?
      Moe, Larry or Curley ?

      February 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  11. GeorgeMc

    Wow!!!!, ...Excuse me!!??, ...But, does anybody else think this dude is NUTS!!???, ...What is he talking about? What about Education, Jobs, Health Care, Taxes, Crime, and Foreign Affairs? This is foolishness!

    February 22, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • Satan

      I agree, if Rick is elected we will have to start wearing tin foil hats.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Petey

      Yeah – this guy is insane. He would put our country back into the dark ages. Might even see witch trials again.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Terry

      Put GOD first and you will not have to worry about all the other problems as He will take care of them for us, I do not understand how human beings can be so arrogant and pompous to believe they are the highest power on Earth and the Universe, you think the stars just are? the ocean? some dust blew-up? no, I know I was fashioned by GOD Himself and He loves me, He made me I did not just happen. I worship and love GOD, when all is said and done He is all I have and all I want.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Brett

      Terry, go kill yourself then, and be with your God. It's not forbidden in the Bible, as long as you don't murder someone else while doing it. I bet you don't have the conviction that there is a heaven.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      *** Put GOD first and you will not have to worry about all the other problems ....

      I might think about it when god starts paying my rent and puts food on the table.
      Then again, maybe not.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  12. Satan

    God and me aren't helping the US above any other country. You humans on earth are on your own. Don't blame anything on us. And Rick, please quit playing politics with my name. No one believes your bs.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  13. God

    Santorum needs to get wasted in a plane crash.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  14. Niclas

    I am not worried about santorum, 1 person using faith based demagogy is not an issue, i am worried about the retards who buy into it and vote for him, yes YOU the turbanless taliban in the back with limited grasp of science and reality.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • jeff

      Niclas: bout a 9 on the tension scale. Oh and when did you look in the mirror and realize you are a fascist?

      February 22, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Niclas

      Jeff: Facist ? do you actually know what the definition of that is or are you simply throwing big boy words out there hoping i get offended ?

      February 22, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • jeff

      Attack people for their beliefs much do ya?

      February 22, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • Michael

      @Jeff: While I dont agree with what the poster said, how in the world is that facism? Do you even KNOW what that word means?

      February 22, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Niclas

      Jeff: No i dont attack their belifes as in i do not directly attack any of the major religions in that post. I do however attack politicised demagogic rethoric based on fundamendalist approach to a religion which infact is verry verry similar to how the taliban appeared/preached.

      You have the right to be a beliver all you want but dont think that is an unassailable position.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • jeff

      It is a belief system that says that all others are inferior and should be done away with. When you attack somebody for their deepest held religious convictions; is that not a form of fascism?

      February 22, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • shw627

      Fascism ( /ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology.[1][2] Fascists seek rejuvenation of their nation based on commitment to an organic national community

      Also see Obama II, Barack Hussein

      Anything else I can explain to you???

      February 22, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Niclas

      @Jeff: No sport it is not. Facism is a political ideology which does not take stances on faith. It is a system where the elite rule, the ideology you are looking for is Theocracy which is one of the few politicesed religious ruling systems that realy reaaly goes big on the whole "supressing" other ideas/thoughts part, it comes from always beling you are right.

      Your faith is not unassailible if you bring it out like a demagocial tool like santorum does, if you want to belive in goblins and boogy men by all means do and we respect your right to that BUT if you use it activly then prepare to get attacked over it. If you actually had any intrest in how this works especially the parallels with the taliban i suggest you read up some, the similarities are astounding.

      So by large, the people who buy into santorums demagoging are infact people with a shakey grasp on both reality and science and CAN be likened to the taliban whom they share more traits with than ANY other political/social system.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • jeff

      Not to mention a classic fascist manuever is stripping things like religious liberties and the free expression thereof from people and expecting a sort of group- think national mindset. I thought liberals were supposed to be an open-minded lot?

      February 22, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • jeff

      @niclas: I don't need a wikipedia crib note version of the specifics of fascism. You are the one calling people that adhere to a deeply held set of convictions "retards". I work with school children who have enough tact to refrane from using that word.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • Niclas

      @jeff

      Who said i was a liberal ?

      And yes people who subscribe to santorums rethorics are retards and thats one of the nicer words i would use to describe something as un-american as the theological agenda he proposes. They are a danger and their lucid grasp on the realities of the world is an even bigger danger as you can expect politicans to pander to them.

      Apperently you do need the wiki tab to apperently educate yourself on what i consider baseline knowledge of ideologies.

      And yes your faith is just as assailible as any other facet of character you want to involve in ruling the nation, if you dont want to talk about it then stop bringing it up.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Keefster

      Jeez, Jeff. Give it a rest. Whether someone agrees with you or not, you sound dumber with every post.
      Some of us are embarrassed FOR you. Of course, if you're just thirteen, and up past your bedtime....

      February 22, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      *** Not to mention a classic fascist manuever is stripping things like religious liberties and the free expression thereof from people and expecting a sort of group- think national mindset. I thought liberals were supposed to be an open-minded lot?

      We are.
      In the name of religious freedom, the christian conservatives
      are walking us down that path right now, but you are so busy
      defending them that you dont see it.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  15. Lanny

    What we should all be concerned about in this country is the fact that some of the best thinkers are not religious and one cannot be elected to a high public office in the United States without a professed deep belief in God. This eliminates a large number of great people and is simply another form of discrimination that only hurts us. Until we as a people in this wonderful country agree to truly take religion out of the political fray we will continue to be subjected to the kind of nonsense in this article and following blog entries. We simply have to rise above this to begin to address the larger problems that will haunt us in the future and be increasingly difficult to address the longer we put off discussion. An example being how we are to maintain a healthy world economy when fewer and fewer percentages of our population are needed to grow all the food, manufacture all the goods, and service all the needs of society during a time, within the next 60 years, of ultimately a shrinking population. These are the big questions and we keep arguing about nonsense issues.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • Name*sebastien

      I understand your point of view but there are spiritual side to our world that many people dont believe in, however our unbelief does not make it untrue. Even if all these issues you mentionned were resolved, there would still be issues unresolved and others that we would create. We have to look at the root of the problem: ourselves, our selfishness, our pride and our lack of love for ourselves, for each other and for God When it comes to these issues only God could really change us. It might be difficult to believe but If we take God out of the equation, it would only make matters worse.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:23 am |
  16. ushonor

    Santorum used to be pro-choice – Abortion, he wrote, requires "a sensitivity to the genuine concerns of both sides." While "government must be on the side of human life" he recognized that " it is very difficult to criminalize any activity once a large portion of society comes to see it as a 'right.'"

    February 22, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  17. Mike

    The biggest thing about this story of Santorum that CNN absolutely needs to question him about is his characterizing Protestants (which includes his beloved Evangelicals) as no longer in the world of Christianity! That and him admitting in 1995 that he was Pro-Choice most of his life! CNN you need to question him on these two things!

    February 22, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  18. Paul

    These guys are great. Never a dull moment when it comes to the GOP. Get out your guns, your bibles, and let's party. Please don't mind if we like to watch and laugh.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  19. Amen

    Praise the Lord for Santorum. Someone who knows what is going on and has the courage to do something about it. His comments are the truth, and we should all take a stand to protect our country and our faith.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • JohnZ

      Save yourself, it's not too late. You are deeply deluded, but you can change.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • John

      The truth is all the money you put in the collection back goes towards the catholic church funding the abuse of children by priests, bishops and popes.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • Rick

      Please shut up the insane nonsense.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • tom

      I didn't know Santorum supporters read the news or can write

      February 22, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • FlyontheWall

      LMAO.....too funny!! that was great.......oh. um. You were serious? ..... Houston we have a problem!

      February 22, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • perrrob

      "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." – Sinclair Lewis

      February 22, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • Petey

      Maybe the rapture will happen before the election and take this guy away. One can only hope.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      Its ok folks, Amen was being sarcastic. He did a pretty good job of catching the nonsense tone though I will admit.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      *** Praise the Lord for Santorum. Someone who knows what is going on and has the courage to do something about it. His comments are the truth, and we should all take a stand to protect our country and our faith.
      ---------------------------------------------

      Yup, praise the lord and pass the ammunition.
      By the way, protect who's faith ?
      Yours or mine ?

      His comments are the truth ?
      Gays back in the closet ?
      Blacks back to the end of the bus ?
      Woman back in the kitchen barefoot and preggers ?
      Sorry, too late.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  20. Cheeses

    More free entertainment from the GOP...with no commercial interruptions!

    God (one of them, anyway) I love this country.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:39 am |
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About this blog

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