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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. Linnea

    I'm a liberal Christian, and I think fundamentalists use Satan as an excuse. They'd rather blame Satan for evil than understand what's really happening in the world, and get their hands dirty bringing about real change.

    February 26, 2012 at 3:19 am |
    • ufadoof

      "liberal Christian" Translation please.

      February 26, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  2. Coug9

    He is absolutely right. The real weapon of Satan is too trick us into thinking "everythings ok". We are tricked into thinking we can justify our actions: "Its ok if....." or, "Well, I'm not like that",.......or, "In today's day and age"...etc. "Sin" is the pervesion of God's will. Think about it! All "evil" things are exactlly the opposite of very good things. The trick of Satan, is getting us to buy into the idea that our actions are not preverse. A murderer does not think he has sinned, nor does a thief. They justify these actions in their own mind, attempting to form their own reality outside of the one God hs made for us.

    February 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by Coug9 incorporates a number of common fallacies, including multiple false dilemmas, the black and white fallacy, the straw man fallacy, and the false cause fallacy.

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

      February 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Coug9

      @fallacy: Do explain. Dont give me your book definitions.......explain how I am wrong?

      February 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Derek

      Your statement is not a question, stupid.

      February 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Coug9

      @fallacy: BTW........you've made an irrelevant conclusion. (same for you Derek)

      February 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Coug9

      @fallacy: You have also confirmed my point. What Satan convinces us of, are fallacies

      February 25, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • SN-California

      Coug9

      He is trying to point out the Fallacy [the flaw in your argument based on presumption and misrepresentation] of your position. He explained exactly where he felt the holes in your statement were. A nice, logical, fact-based retort. Let me offer a further elaboration of the fallacies he mentioned:

      1. False Dilemma – You present only these few choices and then imply that these are the only ways that actions may be justified.
      [we can justify our actions: "Its ok if....." or, "Well, I'm not like that",.......or, "In today's day and age"]

      2. Black and white fallacy – You unfairly limit the choices to these polar opposites.
      [All "evil" things are exactly the opposite of very good things]

      3. Straw Man fallacy – You attribute an easily refuted position to your opponent, one that the opponent wouldn’t endorse, and then proceed to attack the easily refuted position.
      [A murderer does not think he has sinned, nor does a thief. They justify these actions in their own mind]

      4. False Cause Fallacy – Improperly concluding that one thing is a cause of another.
      [The real weapon of Satan is too trick us into thinking "everything's ok"]
      so, if we think everything is ok, then we live in a [reality outside of the one God has made for us.] and influenced by Satan.

      How you feel about this issue may be quite valid. It may serve you to reformulate your argument without fallacy if possible. This will make your argument iron-clad and quite possibly the basis for real dialog rather than a quick dismissal based on how flimsy the position is (which is the case with your post). Good luck!

      February 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Kathy

      obvious your reality isn't on this planet.

      February 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  3. Tynnon

    Satan is behind the secular godless teaching of evolution.

    Rick Santorum was correct when he claimed Satan is targeting America, and as our next president, we need his help in defeating Satan. One of the key strategies of Satan is to secularize America by influencing what is taught in our schools and universities, and the teaching of evolution is key. Why? Because evolution takes the credit we give God for His miracle of creation and assigns it to chance. Further it undermines our Christian belief in original sin – as described by Paul – by replacing our original parents – Adam and Eve – with some unsubstantiated notion of descending from ape-like creatures in Africa. The truth of our existence is described in great detail in the Bible, the infallible word of our Creator, and any teaching that contradicts His account is clearly the work of Satan.

    Remember, it is our tax dollars that pay for the schools and universities of this great country and we need to stand against the secular tyranny that Satan is aiming directly at us. Take up this challenge and support Rick Santorum to begin the fight against Satan and his assault on our Christian beliefs.

    February 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by Tynnon contains the straw man fallacy, the false cause fallacy, plus multiple instances of the loaded language fallacy and circular reasoning.

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

      February 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Kathy

      And I bet you believe the earth is 6,000 years old too!

      February 25, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • ufadoof

      Until we have an atheist society we will never have real democracy.

      February 26, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  4. Frightened American

    Wow this guy is scary

    February 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  5. gwats

    Beware the false prophet, seen recently wearing a Rick Santorum suit.

    February 25, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  6. mickey

    GOD: God is the Creator of the universe in all its dimensions and the source of Knowledge in all sentient beings.
    God has sent a New Revelation, a Teaching and a Pathway to rekindle humanity’s relationship with the Creator as we face living in a declining world. The New Message comes with the Will and Power of God to unite the world’s religions, to end our ceaseless conflicts and to call forth the greater gifts that each person has brought into the world. The New Message is the largest Revelation of its kind ever to be given to humanity.
    We stand at the threshold of Great Waves of environmental, economic and political upheaval and change which will alter the face of Earth. Humanity must unite to prevent collapse from within and subjugation from without.
    Each of us has been sent into the world for a greater purpose, waiting to be discovered. This greater purpose resides beyond the realm and the reach of the intellect, in Knowledge that lives deep within us.
    KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge is the core reality within us, a deeper mind beyond the intellect, and is our direct connection to God. Knowledge represents the part of us that has never left God. Instinct and Intuition are at the surface of Inner Knowledge.
    We live in a Greater Community of intelligent life in the universe for which humanity must prepare.
    We live in both a mental and physical environment. The mental environment contains forces that affect our thinking and emotions and that can dominate us until we become strong with Knowledge.

    http://newmessage.org
    http://alliesofhumanity.org
    http://greatwavesofchange.org

    February 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Derek

      Cosmic. Aren't those purple crystals cool?

      February 25, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  7. Tiffany

    What terrifies me is that people that are politically ambivalent could potentially allow this man to become president. A man who believes in Satan...this creature/being/influence that specifically targeted...the educational system of the US? Really?

    Our world isn't just black and white. Any attempt to see it as such does a great disservice to the people within it. Or, in the case of Santorum, a disservice to anybody that isn't a conservative Catholic.

    February 24, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  8. hey tcros

    You are one sick mofo! What a flamin fairy!! I guess some dudes just like it in da pooper!!

    February 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  9. tcros

    I iz a fairy and I iz a fruit !! I luv dem dudes and I luv to recruit....all da young boyz dat just be new, to dis gay stuff which they don't have a clue. I'll hit da poop shute and pack dat fudge, when I pound dat rear it will barely budge. Cuz I want them plumpers and dem lil dongs, when I slide it in I will bust out a song! Give me dem jigs and I will swallow it whole, bend me over and then I'll smoke your pole!!

    February 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  10. Kayla

    You all know I luv dem jig-a-booos!! I be luvin dem cooons and just wanna get pumped in da keister by a monster sized beef stick!! Let's get it on you freaky bros! I want schlob your knobs!!

    February 23, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  11. tcros

    Santorum would get along good with the devil. He has the false religtion, hypocrisy, and proselyzing down pat.

    February 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • gwats

      You've got that right!

      February 25, 2012 at 4:20 am |
  12. Santorum es un diablo

    Yo estoy el diablo y voy a destruir los Estados Unidos!! Voy a creer las leyes que dice todas el mundo va a chupar mi pene pequeno. Me gusta chingar sus esposas muy gorda y fea!! Yo soy Santorum y me gusta todas las chicas que estan gordas y estupido!! Chupa mi pene, no es una problema si es el hombre o mujer!!

    February 23, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  13. Kayla

    After the rude comments that Santorum made about all blacks, someone ought to just throw him into a food processor and feed him to the dogs.

    February 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  14. oneSTARman

    PHONY THEOLOGY – The kind of Christianity of the Tea Party; which worships
    WEALTH and Dismisses the Poor as Undeserving – Whereas JESUS, like the Buddha or any ENLIGHTENED Being teaches that COMPASSION (for, as Jesus said 'The LEAST among you') arising from Respect and Love of GOD and His Creation – is 'The Whole of the Law and the Prophets'

    February 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  15. Vic of New York

    So if Santorum is so "Seriously" Catholic - where was his forehead smudge at Wednesdays debate? And where was "born again" Gingriges smudge?

    February 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      It is ashes not a tattoo.

      February 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  16. Siege268

    This all comes down to FREEDOM OF RELIGION. Santorum believes his way is the way and good for him, but there are many of us who don't believe his way and we are just as American as he. I am a Christian, but I wouldn't associate with those who use hate in Jesus' name. This includes Santorum. He's so busy hating Obama he doesn't have time to actually promote real Christian values-you know, love, kindness, FORGIVENESS. I look forward to voting against this rich, hateful man.

    February 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  17. Ronald Reganzo

    Rick Santorum , the next President of these United States

    February 23, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." -Abraham Lincoln

      February 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • jimtanker

      We can only hope that he gets the nomination. That will all but garuntee President Obama getting reelected. I sure with that Pailin would jump in. I miss all of those SNL skits.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  18. beautyforashes89

    Sagain,

    And where exactly do you get these ideas of good and evil? I can guarantee your answer isn't at the deepest level. Just think about it. People from very different cultures can all agree on many stances of what is "good" and what is "evil". That's not just by accident.

    February 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • momoya

      Of course it's not by accident. Humans are a separate species, so we have similar desires and problems no matter where we live or what time period we live in. Obviously, moral codes are going to be similar wherever thee is a society of humans living together.

      On the other hand, if there was a god who wanted to be known, there'd be much more agreement on the fella. Why does an extremist terrorist and a young-earth creationist use the same math? Because the principles of math are constant and obvious. Why are there so many beliefs about god's nature, and why can't any believer prove his existence? Because there's no universal principle at work. God is invisible and doesn't care to be as obvious as math or gravity; we should honor his decision and treat him like he does not exist.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  19. MrSmithx

    хм.. интересно

    February 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  20. Sagian

    "I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil,"

    ... and what, exactly, does one have to do with the other?

    I am not a person of faith, but I believe in good and evil. The difference is my versions are based in reality. You know, good people, evil people... Get the idea? It's not some goblin-looking dude sparring with a white-robed old man in the sky.

    Religious nut-jobs = evil people

    February 23, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • panger

      couldn't agree with you more Sagian

      February 23, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Abercius24

      If you knew anything about religion apart from your biases and bigotry, you'd know that nobody religious believes in that fairy tale stuff. It's much more real than that. But I laugh at your attempt to pose your opinion as being "reality". Who are you to judge others as "good" or "evil" without some kind of standard to point at? At least people of faith like Rick Santorum point to the Natural Law as their basis to justify the relationship their faith has with moral public policy. That's where reason and logic come into play. Reason and logic have nothing to do with opinions. Opinions are just bogus popularity contests. That's not a way to build a society.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      You have to accept it "whole truth" ...if you do not then it can have no integrity. You can't believe in parts when it comes to the words of a god.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • momoya

      There's no subjective moralist like god!! "Love your enemies; I'm going to torture mine forever and ever. Don't kill; but go kill all those people who have been living on the land I want you to have."

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44ilZq3R900&w=640&h=360]

      February 23, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Sagian

      @Abercius24 Say what? If they don't believe in that fairy tale stuff, then what, precisely, do they believe in? it's only real to them – like an invisible friend. There is a word for that: "crazy". Good and evil are self evident without the religious goggles. Who are *you* to dictate what 'standard' should be used? Pointing to Natural Law to justify the relationship between faith and policy is just the typical circular reasoning used by religious nutbags. One shouldn't need the boogy man to tell them the difference between good and evil unless there is something terribly wrong with their own moral compass. Natural Law does not require or imply faith. That's just Santorum and his ilk pointing at something self-evident and claiming the sky fairy has a hand in it. Give me a fricken' break.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:17 am |
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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.