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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. mikey

    Psalms 2

    February 28, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • mikey

      pslam 2:10-12

      completely relevant.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • mikey

      haha forgive me I can't spell this morning.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Think Instead

      Go Dog Go, page 5 line 3.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  2. jack leddy

    It is hard to believe that we still have candidates running for the presidency of the USA in the 21st century who believe in Satan. Religion is myth people, get over it. Call me when they find the Ark of the Covenant, the stone tablets of the ten commandments, Noah's Ark or a shread of physical evidence that the Israelites wondered in Sinai for forty years etc, etc It is all myth!

    February 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Gary

      Thank you.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • SeanM

      @JackLeddy

      check out this site it will change your life

      6000years.org

      proof of everything

      February 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • SeanM

      You know what is disturbing, the fact the some people actually believe what is on that website.

      Jackleddy i gave the same arguement you just did before and someone sent me that website as their proof the bible is literal. It is a good laugh.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  3. FL Jimmy

    How are Stuart and Cobert going to make a living when Rick "IN" Santorum has all the big laugh lines ?

    February 27, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Think Instead

      pfft. In that nightmare scenario, the American Taliban is in power, and the right to say anything about them will be outlawed.

      February 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  4. Anthony

    I am was raised Catholic, and raised Republican. More recently I have found myself sawying toward Libertarian viewpoints. I voted for Bush twice, and McCain last time around. I can guarantee you this: if Santorum gets the nomination, and only if Santorum gets it, I will cast my vote for Obama, which would normally make me sick to my stomach. Keep in mind that I would only do this because I believe Santorum to be completely dangerous and completely hostile to Liberty, yes even moreso than Obama. This would be my way of expressing disgust in a party that has let me disenfranshised. Go for it GOP......see where it gets your! Change your social platform or you will disappear into history. ~My Two Cents.

    February 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Ohplease

      Then why don't you vote for Ron Paul the libertarian on the GOP ticket?

      February 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Jeff

      @OHPLEASE: I second your comment and wonder why this country isn't smart enough to elect Ron Paul. The timing couldn't be better for RP, and pose the argument that turning our backs on Ron Paul is analogous to the colonists turning their back on our forefathers. If our great, great-grandchildren have a country to live in 200 years from now, it won't be because of our ability to manage leadership, rather the work of subsequent generations that have the ability to repair the damage of our selfish stupidity. I don't like our chances...

      February 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  5. j mann

    Satan. Now there's something an intelligent man, a man worthy of leading our country and commanding our troops should believe in. Satan, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny – very important to realize what these beings are up to. I did not mention the Tooth Fairy, as Santorum (don't Google me please) has made his stance on fairies quite clear.

    February 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  6. Code

    Santorum is not Christian, is not American, is not honest, is not respectful, is not worthy, is not intelligent.

    February 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  7. Sinjin Smythe

    Santorum is Satan!

    February 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  8. R christian

    This man is a good example why so many moderates (which most in America are) have such a problem with the GOP. The party ignores truly good and just conservatives like Huntsman and Paul (and Gerald Ford in his time) and go after people like Santorum, Palin, and Bachman who could never possibly win against the all-inclusive Democrats. Just saying.

    February 27, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • j mann

      and you are 100% correct. heck, I usually vote Dem but would have welcomed a good challenger to President Obama, and would have voted for the right one – but the list of inappropriate ideologues that the GOP has put forth starting with Bush have made them completely irrelevant to moderates, which, as you said, is what most of us are.

      February 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  9. Keith

    In a shocking case out of Pennsylvania, an American judge has thrown out an assault charge against a Muslim immigrant based on Sharia law.

    The assault victim was the head of the Pennsylvania chapter of American Atheists, Ernest Perce V, who was marching in a Halloween parade as “Zombie Mohammed” next to a fellow atheist dressed as “Zombie Pope.” The former depiction didn’t sit well with Muslim onlooker Talag Elbayomy, who then attacked Mr. Perce. And with an admission of guilt by the assailant and video of the incident, it should have been an open-and-shut case.

    But that’s not how it turned out.

    As Andrew McCarthy at National Review reports:

    Magistrate Judge Mark Martin, a veteran of the war in Iraq, ruled that Talag Elbayomy's sharia defense — what he claimed was his obligation to strike out against any insult against the prophet Mohammed — trumped the First Amendment free speech rights of the victim.

    Yes, you read that correctly.

    Al Stefanelli of American Atheists provides some more information, writing:

    The defendant is an immigrant and claims he did not know his actions were illegal, or that it was legal in this country to represent Muhammad in any form. To add insult to injury, he also testified that his 9 year old son was present, and the man said he felt he needed to show his young son that he was willing to fight for his Prophet....

    The Judge not only ruled in favor of the defendant, but called Mr. Perce a name and told him that if he were in a Muslim country, he'd be put to death.

    I wonder, if Elbayomy had put Perce “to death” not knowing that such an action in response to an insult to Mohammed was illegal in America, would Judge Martin have thrown out the murder charge?

    Stefanelli also reports, “Judge Martin's comments included, ‘Having had the benefit of having spent over 2 and a half years in predominantly Muslim countries I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam.’ ”

    I’m sure. But it appears Judge Martin knows only a little bit — at most — about American law. Perhaps he should consider the benefit of spending time in a Muslim country permanently.

    February 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Keith

      What it shows is that Sharia law, whether you like it or not, whether it is consti-tutional or not, is HERE. Thanks to cnn and others for promoting it. The law was broken. Justice was not served. I'm a Christian and I support the right of the atheist to do what he did. God gives us free will. If he wants to reject the forgiveness of sins and the grace of our Lord, he's free to do so, albeit to his detriment. I hope he'll reconsider. What I'm afraid of is the support the US is giving in the UN in terms of blashemy laws on an international scale. This is happening. If it continues, no one-atheists included, will be able to speak out against islam in the US. Therefore, this case is extremely relevant. Why does cnn refuse to report on it? This judge needs to be removed. Cnn ignores this because their "pet religion" is exposed for the ugly, horrible religion that it really is.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • sjenner

      The result is outrageous and contrary to law. There is no chance that this ruling will survive reconsideration by the presiding judge, let alone the appellate courts. Further, the magistrate judge should be terminated from his position, immediately. He's not even fit to practice law.

      February 27, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Think Instead

      Not entirely accurate. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence. However, you are spot on about the judge's remarks.

      February 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  10. J The Poet

    If any of you vote for this moron – you are there by a moron yourself. This guy is only worried about shoving his religion and bigotry down the countries throats and acts like he knows what the people of this country want which is complete falacy. The theme about this presidential race is "who can conjure the most votes from selected religious leaders of his faith"!

    February 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  11. Enlightened

    Frothy.

    February 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  12. SOMEONE CARES FOR YOU! AMEN!

    JESUS2020.COM AMEN WANNA KNOW HOW GET SAVED!!!!!!!!

    COME ON CHRISTRIANS LET PREACH GOSPOEL! AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CONFESS ALL KNOWN SINS, BE FILLED WITH HOLY SPIRIT, AND PREACH AWAY AND LET HOLY SPIRIT CONTROL!~ AMEN!

    February 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      Please go back on your meds. Now!

      February 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Gary

      no thanks, you and all of your kind can keep your cults to yourself...

      February 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  13. BADGUY

    As the founder of Opus Dei said that Hitler wasn't so bad. He couldn't have killed 6 million Jews. At the very most 4 million.

    February 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  14. BADGUY

    This guy is an Adolph Hitler in the making. His Far right wing religion, Opus Dei, was founded by a Fascist Priest who sided with Franco and admired Hitler. Santorum is VERY dangerous.

    February 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • BADGUY

      ...And I was raised in the Catholic Church and attended Mass before these guys took over!

      February 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • LanceR

      Hilter was a socialist and far left, not far-right. Look at his policies and you will see the policies of the Democrats and not of Republicans.

      February 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Gary

      Hitler was far from being a socialist, Stalin would have embraced him if he was. As far as religion is concerned we may as well start burning folks at the stake, just as the Puritans did or better yet dunk people in water until they confess their love of a so-called god.. please take you god and shove him–well you know the rest...

      February 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Gary

      I agree with you, he is dangerous. Just as dangerous as the as the cult of religion running Iran.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Think Instead

      No LanceR is right – Hitler was a socialist. Faux news sez so.

      February 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  15. MaryAngeline

    I too wish he were a Church leader and not running for President, Church and State need to be kept separate. I was raised in a very Catholic home, never even attended a public school. Therefore, most of the people I knew growing up were Catholic. However, in all my 67 years, I have never known anyone who spouted his religious views like this Archbishop Wannabe. Yes, he should be a church leader, and definitely not a Presidential candidate,

    February 26, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • SOMEONE CARES FOR YOU! AMEN!

      JESUS2020.COM AMEN WANNA KNOW HOW GET SAVED!!!!!!!!

      COME ON CHRISTRIANS LET PREACH GOSPOEL! AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CONFESS ALL KNOWN SINS, BE FILLED WITH HOLY SPIRIT, AND PREACH AWAY AND LET HOLY SPIRIT CONTROL!~ AMEN!
      AMEN.

      February 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Fred

      Understand our precious liberties and know where you stand. America is not under attack, religious and civil liberties are. Read Revelation 13. God bless you. http://yurconnected.blogspot.com/2011/03/colton-burpo-sat-in-jesus-lap-in-heaven.html

      February 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Gary

      Thomas Jefferson, I believe the first republican president, strongly believe in the seperation of church and state, as I do. Right now that would be the only thing I would be willing to fight and die for in this country..

      February 27, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  16. bill stone

    the most dangerous man in the world is running for president. it is our version of the inquisition if he is elected. beware America

    February 26, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • LanceR

      Very true. Obama will shove his religion of faked "tolerance" down our throats.

      February 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Gary

      Lance, I beleive he was referring to Santorium, not the President of the United States.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  17. writerscramp

    So when has choosing a president based on their religious beliefs ever led to any golden age of life and brotherly love in this country ? On the contrary, whenever a president was elected who highly touted his religious beliefs during his campaign, it led to some of our more screwed up and embarrassing presidential administrations (i.e.... Bush Jr.)

    February 26, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  18. Dave

    Right Mr. S., because as everyone knows, the Catholic Curch is and always has been a bastion of piety and infallibility. People that live in glass houses should really shy away from lobbing stones.

    February 26, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  19. Keith

    It's pathetic how this country wants to be lied to. Here's a candidate that is telling us exactly who he is, down to his core beliefs and he gets lambasted by the media. I happen to be a rather moderate Catholic and yet his message rings true. I wish he was a church leader since he gives what U.S. bishops are afraid to provide: clear moral guidance and honest recognition of this country's faults and how far we've fallen. I went to college in the early 1980's and was berated in class, by my philosophy professor, for taking a firm moral stance in a debate between students. I was informed that there is no right or wrong and winning the argument was paramount. That feels an awful lot like our current politics.
    Mr. Santorum, you have my vote.

    February 26, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • BADGUY

      A prime tenet of Opus Dei is "tell it like it is". You see this "quaint" little saying everywhere in Opus Dei literature. Check out the web site for the Opus Dei controlled church that Santorum (and TWO of the FIVE, Catholic, Supreme Court Justices) attend: St. Catherine of Siena in Falls Church, Virginia. You'll see it AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE! Opus Dei teaches that one should put 7 doors between yourself and the opinions of others and to have no pity or compliance with what the Opus Dei leaders deem as evil.

      February 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Mogan

      And Hitler was straight forward. To be sure Santorum is stating what he truly believes. The problem is his positions reveals his unfitness to be president. He recently affirmed that JFK's statement while running for President that he would not be a servant to the Pope was completely wrong. For Santorum, all the decrees of the Vatican should be applied to the United States for he would be a Catholic President. I have nothing against Catholicism but by placing the teachings of the Catholic Church as the guiding principle for the United States you are making the United States a catholic nation. That is definitely not what the founding fathers had in mind.

      February 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  20. Phil

    Read Numbers 31 in the bible.

    February 26, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Gary

      how about putting that bible down, just like the muslims you folks are just as twisted as they are...

      February 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.