home
RSS
February 21st, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Santorum and Satan - the devil is in the details

Editor's note: Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for the last presidential debate before Super Tuesday, the CNN/Arizona Republican Party Debate hosted by John King. Follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate and on Facebook at CNN Politics. For real-time coverage of the Arizona and Michigan primaries, go to CNNPolitics.com or to CNN apps or the CNN mobile site.

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - A 2008 speech by Rick Santorum at Ave Maria University is making waves this week, in large part because Santorum said Satan had his sights set on America and the country was facing spiritual warfare.

The speech came at the beginning of the academic year at the Catholic university in Florida.  At that point, the 2008 presidential campaign was in full swing.  Then-candidate Barack Obama had recently made a statement about abortion and the issue of deciding when life began, which he said was above his pay grade.

Santorum was using the devil-tinged language after explaining Obama's position on abortion.  He quoted Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, who said at the time, “Catholics who support so-called ‘abortion rights’ support a false right, promote a culture of death and are guarded by the father of lies."

"This is not a political war at all, this is not a culture war at all, this is a spiritual war," Santorum said, according to a recording of the speech on the university's website. "And the father of lies has his sights on what you think the father of lies, Satan, would have his sights on.  A good, decent, powerful, influential country, the United States of America."

The speech gained a new life this week when it surfaced on the website Right Wing Watch and was then picked up by the Drudge Report and a host of media outlets.

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

"If you were Satan, who would you attack?" the former U.S. senator asked the students.  "There's no one else to go after other than the United States, and that's been the case, for now, almost 200 years."

Santorum went on to explain how he thought the devil had attacked the United States in several areas: its foundations, academia, the Protestant Church and government.

Asked about the speech on Tuesday, Santorum offered no apologies. "I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil," Santorum told CNN in Arizona.

"If somehow or another because you’re a person of faith and you believe in good and evil is a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president," he said.

"If they want to go ahead and dig up old speeches to a religious group they can go right ahead and do so," Santorum went on. "I'm going to stay on message. I'm going to talk about the things Americans want to talk about."

In his 2008 speech, the Catholic Santorum said that Satan had relatively little success attacking the founders and the foundation of the country. But time, like an acid, wore away America's great institutions, "using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition," he said.

Santorum said Satan was first, and most successfully, attacked academia.  Once academia fell to pride and its own truths, he said, the Protestant Church fell next in the United States.

"We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country, and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it," he said.

From there, he turned to U.S. culture, lambasting the National Basketball Association, rock concerts and movie sets. "They are peacocks on display, and they have taken their poor behavior and made it fashionable," which he said was further evidence of spiritual warfare.

Also fallen to Satan: politics and government, he said.  Specifically, Santorum highlighted a 2004 interview with then-state Sen. Obama did with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Shortly after Obama won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, he sat down with Cathleen Falsani in one of the few extended interviews he has done about his faith.

"What is sin?" Falsani asked Obama.

"Being out of alignment with my values," Obama responded.

In his Ave Maria speech, Santorum seized on this point. "So now we have the first truly post-modern presidential candidate. Clearly, explicitly defining his own reality," he said.

But the reporter who conducted that interview with Obama said Santorum is mistaken.

"Mr. Santorum is conveniently ignoring the fact that was not the opening question I asked him, nor was it the only question I asked. I asked what did he believe, and he articulated his faith and prayer life," Falsani said.

"We had talked about his born-again experience. [Obama's] values are based on his historical Christian faith.  He wasn't talking about, 'whatever I feel like is right in my reality,' " she said.

Falsani said the Santorum-implied dig - that Obama has his own definition of sin outside of traditional Christianity - was wrong. "The answer came in the specific context of having just articulated his Christian faith," she said.

In response, Falsani posted the full transcript of her interview with the president on the Sojourners website, where she now works as Web editor and director of new media.

But what stirred the media and the Internet the most was the notion of all-out spiritual warfare. It made easy fodder for late-night comics.

"If Rick Santorum is the commander in chief, he will do what no other president has had the courage to do: declare war on hell,"  satirist Stephen Colbert said on "The Colbert Report" on Monday night.  "It's simple: All we have to do is take our nuclear missiles out of their silos and put them back in upside-down."

At the time of the speech, Santorum was two years' removed from political office and not running for anything.

Sources who have known Santorum for some time told CNN that this is who Santorum is. He sees the world in black and white, good versus evil, they said.

A big difference between this speech and what he had talked about publicly before, according to some who know him, is that during this time frame, he was out of office and didn't have people with political antennae around him to pull him back from such stark rhetoric.

While his speaking about the devil in a political context may be considered a candidate no-no, Stephen Schneck, a political scientist from Catholic University, says consider the crowd.

"Ave Maria is a unique place," Schneck said. "They are very orthodox in their Catholicism and conservative in their politics."

Donning the language of spiritual warfare can score points with the crowd.  "In some very conservative Catholic circles, that language resonates," he said.

"What he's saying, it's certainly not any heresy," said Father Tom Reese, a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center.

"It's the language some preachers would use that conservative Catholics would be very comfortable with. Is it the kind of language theology professors at Catholic universities would use? Probably not. They would likely see it more metaphorically," he said.

"He's well within the tradition," Reese said of Santorum's talk of spiritual warfare.  Though he added,  "When he starts applying those definitions to specific politicians, those are his own judgments, not the judgment of the church."

As for the candidate today, an aide issued a one-word statement on the flap: "ridiculous."

CNN's Dana Bash and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (1,820 Responses)
  1. Charles

    Santorum, SATAN????? really????

    March 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      What you thought the Christians were just kidding when they say they believe in this nonsense?

      March 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  2. REY

    just another antichrist trying to turn Jesus into the God of Hate...

    March 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  3. Peter

    I don't have a problem with a leader who has faith. What I have a problem with is a leader who preaches his faith to me, and expects me to have similar beliefs as him, and follow the rules of his religion.

    March 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      @ Peter
      I don't have a problem with a leader who has faith

      Faith by definition is belief without reason. Do you really want a leader who does thing without using reason?

      March 1, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • pattyo27

      @ Just: If you believe religion and reason correlate, then you're not living in reality. I have faith in myself. That's all I need. Without the influence of religion, we are free to accept people who are different from us and ideas that were once faith-based rejected. Lose your religion=opening your mind. I want a leader who will repsect EVERY American.

      March 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • smath

      I'd like to see the source of the definition. I have always held that faith involves a lack of proof, not reason. Those are two very different things.

      March 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      @smath

      World English Dictionary
      faith (feɪθ)

      — n
      1. strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence
      2. a specific system of religious beliefs: the Jewish faith
      3. Christianity trust in God and in his actions and promises
      4. a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion, esp when this is not based on reason

      March 2, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  4. Ken

    Satan rules the whole world so what's the difference? 1 John 5:19.

    March 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      there is no satan, so what is the difference?

      March 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  5. Mike

    I think he is really from the 16th century and fell through a time warp.

    February 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  6. dinak

    CNN – u r such hypocrites. Obama atended a racist church for 20 years – what does that say about him? But Santorum is the one you go after?

    February 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      @dinak
      Actually that was all over CNN back when the story broke.

      March 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  7. Disabled Vet who is now hated for having a Gov't job

    By today’s standards the “Founding Fathers” of this great nation would have been charged for the genocide of over 25 million people from two distinct ethic groups….So why does the GOP continue to say we need to go back to their values?
    And, I wish people who have never studied the bible and the qu'ran to stop and learn the truth....both books are telling the same story of God's love and they both have been used to kill and enslave people.

    February 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Pop43211

      Huh? This makes no sense. Devoid of references. Impossible to respond to!!! Typical progressivist response!

      February 29, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • chris

      don't mind pop, he doesn't want to understand what you were saying, but I get it and agree.

      March 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  8. JustIn

    I'd like to get behind Rick Santorum and give him my solid support, but until he's more open about all the stimulus that has gone into his package, we won't know for sure that he's a real Republican and a true evangelical Christian like the rest of them, no matter how oral he gets on Romney.

    February 29, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Donald

      "no matter how oral he gets on Romney." – agreed

      February 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • goldenmoral

      oral on romney sucks

      March 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Ricey

      I don't mind it, it's not that bad.

      March 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  9. johnny freedom

    he hit the nail on the head when he said this is a spiritual war. look at the mega-rituals like the super bowl halftime show, and the grammy performances. the american entertainment industries are riddled with occultism and ritual, and we need to purge these forces from our country, and the world. it starts with thinking for yourself and rejecting all the messages of death and destruction that are attempting to hijack our subconscious mind.

    February 29, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Just Say'in

      @johnny freedom
      Your side has yet to even prove the existence of spirit… now there is a war? What are you guys smoking?

      March 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  10. Clyde M

    Vote for me lest the boogeyman get you in the night! Oooooooooooooo!

    This IS 2012, right?

    February 29, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  11. Henry VIII

    Thank god this clown has no chance of higher office.

    February 29, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  12. alfranken

    People, do you remember the last clown that went on a Christian crusade frenzy?
    COME ON! We are still , I'm really mean still, trying to fix the economy that was left in shambles and these two insane wars caused by the same rhetoric that this Santorum blathers about.

    And you people want to elect another pinhead?

    February 29, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  13. toxictown

    I'll be sorry when Santorum is relegated to the cut-out bin of history. He has been a riot.

    February 28, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  14. GeorgeBos95

    Rick Santorum IS Satan. He's interested in controlling our lives, dicated by his religion. Absolutely tyrannical ... and SATANIC.

    Santorum ... Satanic .... hmmmm...sounds awfully similar to me. I think I might be on to something here.

    As for Santorum, he can just go to hell if he thinks he'll ever get elected.

    February 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  15. house

    santorum "the middleman" for president

    February 28, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  16. kayla

    Throw Santorum into a food blender and feed him to the pigs.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Bobs your uncle

      But will he blend?

      March 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  17. cold hard facts

    Satan attacsk the foundation of the United States by encouragint Christinas to support religious issues to divide the country.. Republicans fall for it because the have no real connection with most Americans ... the need it to get control of the country ....Christians fall for it because they use the black and white issue of abortion and gay and lesbian marriage...while completely ignore the harvest field of the Muslim world because they have guns adn will kill you if yo uso much as fart while Muhammad is takign a dump... there's billion Muslims and very few Christians willin to go there...it's obvious a job for a million Christians a real million man and woman army willin gto die for Jesus Christ and stop talkign all the time about abortin abortion abortion and the gay thisn and anythinng else..Christians who are so quick to shoot...

    February 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  18. Iqbal Khan

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pL0M5ST8jY&w=640&h=360]

    February 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  19. Qi

    We must ellect Santorum, or GOD will smite us and you will see shareea law, gays, upity women and worse.....TEAMERICA

    February 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • chris

      God will smite the US for its arrogance

      March 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  20. The Ultimate Authority on Everything!

    Ever notice how if you rearrange the letters in SANTORUM it spells SATAN? (Sorry, I never attended college because my parents feared being called SNOBS by Satan. )

    February 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Deedee27

      Too funny, I am a snob and since I went to college you are all beneath me...damn working class is just in the way!! The only thing you damn workers are good for is making me rich and paying the taxes I have been trying to evade since Bush..hiyaahhhh MULES..... hahahahah!!

      February 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Spellchecker

      No, I never noticed, because you're wrong (only one A in Santorum).

      February 29, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • lol

      Spellchecker, go take an English 102 class and increase your reading comprehension please.

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

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