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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. govspy

    Like the "terrorist" boogey-man isn't bad enough, Ricky here had to go all old school and bring up the old schooliest boogie-man in history, the great Satan himself!

    Vote for Rick or the Devil's gonna getcha!

    February 23, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  2. Abercius24

    Oh my gosh! I can't believe a Catholic politician said something Catholic when speaking at a Catholic university! How dare he practice his faith! Please...

    You people have seen the Exorcist! It's no secret the Catholic Church believes itself to be at war with Satan! Really, you're making a big deal out of nothing but someone's personal faith! What matters to you and me is what he intends to do as a politician in the public sector, not what he believes in his religious life! Do you realize this bigotry is why this country has only had 1 Catholic President despite the fact that Catholics make up 33% of the population?? Let the guy be Catholic, for goodness sakes!

    February 23, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • ufadoof

      The question is... Who wants a pedofil catholic for POTUS?
      Pedofil he said? Why yes. If Santorum gets to say he talks to "god" I get to say he is a pedofil. Neither statements are based on fact. I "believe" my concept makes more sense.

      February 26, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  3. I.M. Rijus

    If the republicans are crazy enough to nominate Santorum, then they deserve what they get. He wants to prescribe his brand of religion for the whole country. In short, he is dangerous - he's the worst kind of dangerous. I'm tired of religion getting mixed with politics. The discussion should be about fixing the problems of this country - not about religion.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  4. Byrd

    According to the story, Jesus, knowing death was on the line, refused to defend himself before the Pontius Pilate. As such, he essentially committed suicide. And again, according to that black book, we all know what happens to those guys, now don't we. Perhaps that's why Christians bow their heads when they pray: They're looking in the right direction.

    Guess he's at least right about the devil being in the details.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • err

      You are partially correct, Jesus did go to hell. Ill let you look up what happened next.

      February 24, 2012 at 6:03 am |
  5. truth

    Some people think that they can imagine a world where creatures have free will but have no possibility of doing evil. I cannot. If one does not have the choice of doing evil then one does not completely have free will. I can choose to love someone or choose to respect someone, both being good things. I have the ability to choose to do one or the other. But unless I am able to choose to hate that person as well as love or respect them, then I do not truly have free will. If I cannot choose to hate that person then I do not have every choice available, thus I do not completely have free will. To completely have free will, I must be able to make an evil choice (to hate the person) as well as good choices (to love or respect the person).

    If the existence of evil makes the existence of God improbable, then wouldn't the existence of good make the existence of God probable? The existence of evil makes the existence of Satan probable, not the existence of God improbable. There is evil in the world because there is a completely evil being that constantly causes suffering and pain. Satan influences people to do evil, thus people commit evil acts and many suffer as a consequence of those evil acts.

    Not a great deal is known about animal evil, but it is obvious that some animals suffer because of evil acts committed against them. Man has the ability to choose between good and evil, and he has the choice of helping or harming other species as well as his own. Thus, some animal suffering is caused by humans. God gives animals free will also, and many times they use it to afflict pain on other creatures. The evil actions of one animal may affect many, such as a bobcat killing a mother duck may lead to the death of her newborn ducklings. Satan influences human beings to commit evil acts and afflict pain on others, thus Satan may have also corrupted the animal creation.

    February 23, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • Garrett M-

      "truth", you are absolutely wrong. There is no evil in the animal kingdom, least not forget we are animals are selves but we (humans) are only capable of "good and evil". Animals is just one big ol' food chain, one eats the other and so forth, it's not because they’re evil but because its sustenance to survive. For animals, that's all that matters, surviving. Please become educated the next time you try and theorize something.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • err

      So If I were to take a new born baby and chop it in half as soon as its born that is not evil? How bout Hitler killing jews? How bout The millions killed by communism? How bout raping a women is that evil or are you still hiding behind the Athestic Dogma that there is no good or evil in humanity?

      February 24, 2012 at 6:00 am |
  6. IamSam

    I don't think Santorum reads his Bible that much. According to the Bible.
    1 John 5:19 Whole World lying in the power of the wicked one.
    Matt 4: 8,9 Satan offers Jesus all the Kingdoms of the World. You can't give something away that you don't own.
    Luke 4: 5,6 Satan runs the governments and he can give it to whoever he chooses.
    John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 All scriptures show the Devil rules the world.
    Daniel 2:44: God destroys the governments of the Earth.
    So what makes US not owned by Satan already? The Bible that Santorum quotes from says that Satan is in control of the world.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Kate Johnson

      Excellent post. I would add that Galatians 5 talks about the works of the flesh( immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, ENMITIES, , Jealousy, OUTBURSTS OF ANGER, DISPUTES, DISSENSION ,FACTIONS envying, drunkenness, carousing) and the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). Given what we know of politicians, do any of them display anything but works of the flesh? Don't they manipulate the truth for a living? That's why it annoys me to hear them talk about God, it's like they're whipping Him out for a photo op. It's so profoundly disingenuous.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  7. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    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 you secretively flatulent and embarrassed about it.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer gives you knobbly knees.
    Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out.
    Prayer dulls your senses.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 22, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  8. guitarharry

    So when President Santorum gets that "3am phone call" is he going to drop to his knees and pray to God for guidance?! Will he consult priests to make sure Satan is not deceiving him? This is all so ridiculous. If the GOP is going to beat Obama, they need to jettison all these religious weirdos and get down to business.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  9. MaryM

    Satantorum will never be President of the U.S. He is the evil one spreading all that hate.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  10. menoc

    Let's play question and answer:

    1. Which nation has actually killed the greatest number of middle eastern people?

    A. Iran
    B. America
    C. England
    D. Russia

    2. Which nation has actually invaded a country not in their own continent? (Select all that apply)

    A. Iran
    B. America
    C. England
    D. Russia

    3. Which nation has actually dropped an atomic bomb on another country?

    A. Iran
    B. America
    C. England
    D. Russia

    4. Which nation currently has weapons of mass destruction and has used used them in the past?

    A. Iran
    B. America
    C. England
    D. Russia

    5. Which nation has been invaded the greatest number of times by other foreign nations?

    A. Iran
    B. America
    C. England
    D. Russia

    6. Which nation is considered to be the greatest superpower in modern times?

    A. Iran
    B. America
    C. England
    D. Russia

    February 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  11. Dennis Mace

    Tonight's debate in Arizona John King / CNN / American taxpayers should ask Rick Santorum his complete "pre-Presidental answer about the "gay sheriff" who quit overnight when hie treathened Mexican lover was going to be deported and now the same x-sheriff is running for Congress "no matter what", like it's his prior closest illegal employment tattic's which is why he quit ?? !! So ask the Presidental bassher (R.Santorium words went after the Presidents religion and belief's) , so lets see Santorium's belief with no, hum, hum, lets change this important American issue / answer. He should have no problem @ question ?

    February 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  12. Mike in Orlando

    Totally agree with Rick. Actually Satan is attacking the entire world. Read the Bible. It is God's word.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Guest

      What can we do Mike? What can Rick do? We are talking about Satan and Rick's probably past his prime.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by Mike in Orlando is an instance of a circular reasoning fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#H6

      February 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • sam stone

      mike: it is only god's word to people who accept it

      February 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  13. zajenremansher

    hello ladies and genteman, please test it duds

    February 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  14. Colin

    I don't know why, but belief in the big dadday baddie (satan) is even sillier than belief in big daddie goodie (god). It is all childish, supernatural krap, but it just seems somehow more absurd.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • One one

      What's even more absurd is big daddy goodie created big daddy baddy and let's him run amuck causing all sorts of problems for his little kiddies.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  15. Carter

    JPS,
    Thanks for your candid remarks. But you might want to check out this site. It is dedicated to the idea that the earth is probably not millions of years old. http://creationmuseum.org/

    February 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Chubby Rain

      Carter, that website seems more like a children's daycare than a serious scientific endeavor. Look up radiometric dating of uranium isotopes. They have found rocks over 4 billion years old. How did these rocks get here if the earth is only millions of years old?

      February 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Guest

      You see Chubby, it's like this: Satan has been given the world as his playground. He probably created radioactivity to begin with, so isotope ratios are likely just some of his lies. The fossil record too. He is the father of lies, you know.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • JustIn

      Did you pet the real live dinosaurs there? Careful with the t-rex.

      That site is a disservice to the word "museum" and insults the people who do honest work in authentic museums.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Chubby Rain

      Wow, I forgot about satan. That explains how helioseismic dating, cosmic ray dating, and radiometric dating all point to the solar system being 4.5 billion years old, and instead its a couple thousand.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Guest

      That's right Chubby. All those techniques depend on perversions of the natural order. That's always a giveaway when Satan's involved.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Guest..you should be "guessed" which is what you have with your comments. what exactly is a perversion of the natural order?.how would you know..what was the natural order before it was "perverted"..and how do you know it ? How do you know it was not god that perverted it so that you would blame satan? why is it always the other way round.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  16. Iconoclast

    @Leo, from your very same source: "Scholars have also debated the issue of hearsay in the reference by Tacitus. Charles Guignebert argued that "So long as there is that possibility [that Tacitus is merely echoing what Christians themselves were saying], the passage remains quite worthless"
    Good try, go again?

    February 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Leo

      Icon, Tell me what is your criteria for historical records to be accurate? If they are only wrtten within how many years?

      February 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Leo

      My link was from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus where you find the following:

      This narration has long attracted scholarly interest because it is a rare non-Christian reference to the origin of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the Canonical gospels, and the persecution of Christians in 1st-century Rome. Almost all scholars consider these references to the Christians to be authentic.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  17. Carter

    Real Deal,
    But, what if the Bible is true. Do you really want to take that chance?

    February 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • What IF

      Carter,

      - What if the real "God" is Allah, or Vishnu, or Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl, or Ra, or any of the other of thousands which have been dreamed up over the centuries? Some of them are very jealous and vengeful and will relegate you to nasty places for not worshiping them. Do you want to take that chance? You'd better cover your butt by believing in ALL of them and fulfill their wishes and demands. Not sure how this is done, however, since each of them wants to be #1, but in the fantasy world, all things are possible, I suppose.

      Your statement is a form of Pascal's Wager - you can look it up and learn its fallacies.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • menoc

      One more proof that all religion has to keep people chain in its grips is one thing and one thing only – "FEAR". Nothing more.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Carter

      If the bible is true, and the only way to get into a supposed "paradise" (which would be a highly subjective thought) was to kowtow to a supposed almighty being of eternal love that still seems to need attention like a 5 year old with separation anxiety, then you can have that place.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Root post by Carter is a form of the flawed argument known as Pascal's Wager.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#H6

      February 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  18. Sapient

    And this guy wants to be President? No thanks. The last time religion was the law in this country dozens of people were accused of witchcraft, hanged and or simply left to die in prison. Santorum would have made a great candidate if he were running in Salem, MA in 1692 but in 2012, he's just another psychotic religious fanatic.

    "A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." — Friedrich Nietzsche

    February 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Carter

      So what do you think should be the basis for our laws and the ways we should interact with each other?

      February 22, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • One one

      @Carter. The laws and justice system that the folks agree to. The golden rule is a good start. It's really pretty simple, no gods or religion necessary.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Here is a scarier representation of the death toll of the witch trials.

      The total recorded executions during the witch trials are 12,545 worldwide.
      The estimated total is much higher. Some areas, like Belgium and Denmark, didn't even bother to record the exact number of executions.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • BL

      Not true. In a recent medical journal, 4 out of 5 doctors preferred Atheism to the leading fantasy mythology.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things,
      Proven

      February 22, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • panger

      "Prayer changes things. Proven." one question: proof? typically, when people make outlandish claims, others of undoubtedly more rational thinking, prefer to see said claims substantiated with some evidence. what's that? you don't have any? that's what i thought. do yourself a favor and refrain from posting on message boards. if not for your sake, for mine anyway, as it would, at least, save me the time of having to reply, yeah?

      February 23, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  20. Shawn Irwin

    Insanitorum wants to go to war with Iran, and he will back Israel right or wrong. He is a George Bush clone . . . or worse.

    February 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Carter

      Winston Churchill was one of the few leaders of his day that was willing to stand up against Hitler. Apeasement was greatly practiced. The, then, prime minister, Neville Chamberlain got a signed agreement with Hitler. He thought he had averted war, but merely prolonged the misery of millions under Hitler's rule. The question is do we stand up to Iran or make peace? I'm guessing Iran will not moderate their militant views without strong pressure from the free world which is led by the US.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:02 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.