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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. lome

    You can't be politically correct on true christian issues.

    March 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  2. Paul

    Man. And I thought nothing could make me think he's crazier than I already thought...

    March 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  3. ryan

    We won't be hearing from Santorum again after he's finished by Flip Romney

    March 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  4. bored already

    Hi all, Satan here. First off, thanks again for believing in me and the "good guy in the sky", J.C. Glad to know that praying to an invisible man in the clouds and fearing a fella with horns on his head is a contributing factor when deciding who runs a country. Keep up the stupidity, and look for the Ross Perot/Ricky Schroeder campaign in 2016.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Jill

      Be careful what you mock. One day you will find out the Truth.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  5. Joe The Plumber

    Santroum and Satan – anyone notice the similiar spelling?

    March 5, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  6. logan5

    Santorum talks like a preacher. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this man, deep down, would LOVE to see our country turn into a theocracy. This man is truly frightening!

    March 5, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  7. GTA

    Has anyone ever noticed that you never see Rick Santorum and Satan in the same place at the same time?
    Coincidence? I wonder.....

    March 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • curt

      No matter who you vote for... Too me they have all been pre-screened and they are just saying what we "want" to hear...

      It's like Obama... Everyone thought he'd be great... LIke people think Ron Paul would.. Once elected though I think things would be the same.

      March 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Paul

      That'd be entirely too funny, if it wasn't so scary!!

      March 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  8. Matt

    Reality Check: Religious Organizations (churches) are government.

    March 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  9. DoNotWorry

    Santorum would have the United States live under control of the Catholic Church, a known pedophile organization that decrees that women must supply them with new victims every year or burn in hell. There is a solid legal argument that any adults who supply children to this pedophile organization should lose custody. I think Santorum should be the test case, he is clearly a supplier for known pedophiles.

    March 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • A true christian

      I am amazed reading through all of the comments about Christians. Being a member of a Religious organization does not make you a Christian, in fact, it probably prevents you from being one. Most religious organizations have their own rules that go directly against the teaching of the bible. I can assure everyone out there that being a good catholic makes one a very bad Christian. belonging to a sect that goes as far as to write it's own version of the ten commandments (yes the catholic ten commandments are different to those in the bible) means you are not in line with the teaching of the bible. The rest of the sectarian religions (Methodist, Baptist pentecostles, mormans etc.etc.) all have their own rules. Don't let these people fool you.

      The only good thing about Santorum is that he is not prepared to change his views just to please those listening to him. He states what he stands for.

      March 4, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  10. ab77

    So, you're saying that a Palestinian who could do magic tricks is the USA's only saving grace from an imaginary guy with horns? Got it.

    March 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • dennis

      I love you.

      March 3, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  11. Jeff Lucas

    Postmoderners think that government can do "great things", So they like big government.

    BUT THIS IS WHAT GOVERNMENT REALLY DOES!

    1 SAMUEL 8:10 So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “Here are the policies of the king who will rule over you:
    He will conscript your sons and put them in his chariot forces and in his cavalry; they will run in front of his chariot.
    He will appoint for himself leaders of thousands and leaders of fifties, as well as those who plow his ground, reap his harvest, and make his weapons of war and his chariot equipment.
    He will take your daughters to be ointment makers, cooks, and bakers.
    He will take your best fields and vineyards and give them to his own servants.
    He will demand a tenth of your seed and of the produce of your vineyards and give it to his administrators and his servants.
    He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best cattle and your donkeys, and assign them for his own use.
    He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will be his servants.

    In that day you will cry out because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord won’t answer you in that day.”

    Our situation is WORSE than what is described. Vote RON PAUL and reign in our out-of-control Federal Government

    March 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Thanks Jeff, I've been looking for this quote in the wrong chapters. Note that it also applies to corporate kings.

      March 3, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • curt

      Good reason no tot vote and people should just have an immunity / revolution where we kick the Bilderbergs out of the country as well as the illuminati and freemasons.

      March 4, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • curt

      Also gotta kick out the federal reserve

      March 4, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • keith

      What utter garbage, typical religious nut case who twists the truth to suit his own case. So government takes all those things from us to use either to enhance our lot in life or not. However lets look at what gods take from us, they demand undying loyalty and constant adulation, we must commit to providing whatever demand these fat lazy useless critters can think up. We have no right to make our own decisions about how to conduct our lives, if we do then we are consigned to the fires of hell for eternity. The appointed servants of these gods the preachers, priests, popes and all the other evil spawn place themselves above us common folk and make similar demands on our labour and our money.
      Now what do we get in return, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, oh those who are enjoying the good life at our expenses will tell us that their particular god makes the sun shine each day and provides food and protection. This is the same old sack of garbage designed to scare us into silence.
      Give me government any day, gods take everything including our lives and provide nothing in return their promises are worthless. Ask those poor people who have recently lostt their entire world due to tornadoes, why didn't their gods steer the tornadoes away from their homes. Remember that gods are all powerful, they can turn off tornadoes as easily as we can turn of an electric fan, so WHY DON"T THEY. I am sure that all the evil spawn have volumes of excuses ready to explain why their god cannot protect us but you still have to grovel on your stomach and praise these odious critters.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:51 am |
    • Rob

      this is to Keith; what the Lord commands is very simple: 1. love God 2. love your neighbor as yourself. So if we followed that second command, we wouldn't have the problems you speak of, the world would be a better place. So go start loving your neighbor, and who is your neighbor? everyone, even those you consider nut cases.

      March 5, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  12. Jeff Lucas

    satan possesss all the postmoderners who try to blot the Name of God out of our Nation's Government and the ones that try to silence the proclaimation of the gospel by attacking Christians who pray and hand out Bibles and excercise their religion publicly.

    I figure anyone that attacks Christians is led by the devil. Like the guy in Iran who was just executed because he wanted to be a Christian. The people who executed him are led by the devil.

    March 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • DEVIL

      Yup. It was me. I did. 🙂

      March 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Hi Jeff. Our country is failing because our leaders are corrupt and greedy. They are manipulating the people to hate each other over social differences while they rob, pillage and burn our country. Just thought you might consider that.

      March 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Ryan

      You also ignore the fact that Christians have done just as bad things as those living in the Middle East and those you would call doing the work of the devil: killing those who do not share their faith, using their religious position to gain wealth and discriminate against those who have different beliefs or lifestyles. Something for you to think about before you make statements that you have no real knowledge about.

      Also most Christians are not like that, but the ones that openly, and almost always when in front of the media express their beliefs, like Santorum, are no better than those they use their beliefs to attack.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • keith

      More religious claptrap, read some history and find out that santorums lot (the catholic church) executed whole societies in south America simply because those poor ignorant people had a different religion. In europe they did the same thing, burning people alive at the stake was a deeply held religious belief. They ALSO TORTURED PEOPLE IN WAYS THAT I CANNOT DESCRIBED IN POLITE SOCIETY. Read some history and you may be revolted at the hideous and bloodthirsty history of the glorious catholic church. If you ask me it is the devil himself who is running the christian church. We atheists try to help people not kill them to save their souls, WHAT IS A SOUL AND WHAT IS A HOLY GHOST.
      The hypocrisy of the religious zealots is revolting, they speak as if their history is pure as the driven snow and that people like me are the evil ones. The history of ALL RELIGIONS is filled to the brim with BLOODSHED, MURDER, INTOLERANCE, TORTURE, BLIND FANATICISM, untold millions have been slaughtered in the name of religion.
      You have the unmitigated cheek to say that people like me are evil, if you want to see evil then look in the mirror.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:10 am |
  13. bosux

    He is right. America is headed down the same path that led to ancient Rome's destruction

    March 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Rome fell because its leaders became corrupt and greedy. The United States is failing because its leaders (corporate and government) have become corrupt and greedy.

      March 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  14. Rhonda

    I guess there are those who believe and those who simply don't. It appears that there are those who experience the presence of God which proves to them that He is real and those who simply don't. The Bible actually tells us that this is so. And it tells us that most will not believe. I am a 39 year old black American from an inner-city, from a very different demogrpahic than Santorum, but I agree 100% with what Santorum said. I actually know it to be the case. We are in spiritual warfare and have been and this has been evident to me as well as something that I talk about often. Thank God the Bible teaches us that God has equipped His children with the weapons to win. The problem is that most people don't actually read the Bible and many who do don't apply or practice what it tells us to do in order to be victorious. I am a registered Democratic but I will definitely vote for Santorum if he becomes a candidate. Finally, someone who understands what we are dealing with. Thank God!

    March 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Jeff Lucas

      RON PAUL is the best vote for Christians. He's the only one that understands that our Government is becoming a tyranny, and an unbearable burden to the People. Ron Paul also recognizes that there is a fine line between a lawful power whose authority comes from God, and a wicked tyranny that is the devil himself.

      RON PAUL REMEMBERS WHAT GOVERNMENT REALLY IS!

      March 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • luk

      ok you read the Bible and you know and feel it's right, and sure I believe you; now, there's lots of people that read the Bible and understands it differently and feel they are right, people that read the Qu'ran and feel it to be true, lots of people that read Buddhist texts and feel the same, lots of people that feels and sees and know for sure they are right and I believe them. What's the solution? Kill each other? or find a way to live together according to reason instead of feelings and readings? Ask Satan what he would prefer.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  15. humblewatchman

    Where are the democratic Christians!!!!!!!!!!!!. Why is here such a screaming silence from them. Republicans are NOT the Christian party, they are a party that uses Christianity to force others into radical non biblical ideals.

    March 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Jeff Lucas

      LOL! Theres' no such thing as a Democrat Christian. Democrats think Government should do the things Christ commanded of individuals. Christ never told the Government to feed the poor. He told the INDIVIDUAL to feed the poor.

      March 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Yes, the Republican rhetoric is antiChrist in all its essentials. The Bible commanded that the rich support the poor. The rich were REQUIRED BY BIBLICAL LAW to not fully harvest the fields, but allow enough to remain so that the poor could glean the fields for food. We are no longer an agrarian society; however, the intent is the same. This was law, it was not free will by individuals. Truth is, most churches fail to give even 1% to the poor, they are now political action committees, megabusinesses, and country clubs. I think we should end their tax exempt status unless they can prove they give more than 75% of revenues to the poor.

      March 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • ab77

      DoNotWorry...like your nick suggests, don't worry...none of them will reply to you. They NEVER have an answer when they're called out on their BS. I suspect one of them will simply post another anti-democrat or anti-Obama rant in response without actually addressing your point.

      March 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Ryan

      because Democrats understand and respect the first amendment: separation of church and state

      March 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  16. Ben

    Yep, Rick, Satan sure never got to the founders of this county. I mean, they only owned slaves and supported slavery. But I suppose that's a moral act, right?

    March 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  17. berkeleystudent

    colbert is funny. santorum is scary.

    March 2, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  18. Peete

    "Once academia fell to pride and its own truths, he said, the Protestant Church fell next in the United States."
    So I'm guessing I should believe that an organization that protects pedophiles is the last bastion of morality in the country?

    March 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      @Peete
      Lol.. man they believe that two of every animal bored a boat built by some 900 year old man… and this surprises you?

      March 2, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • DoNotWorry

      There is enough legal evidence to show that the Catholic Church is a pedophile organization and any parent who attends should lose custody of their children. No surprise that pedophiles oppose birth control by women.

      March 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  19. Mooneymite

    The manner in which this article was written says volumes about how the media is managing public opinion. The last acceptable bigotry, "Anti-Catholicism" is alive and well in the press.

    It is a shame so many are so easily manipulated!

    March 1, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      You’re absolutely right. It’s not the oppression of women’s rights the hypocrisy or the pedophilia….it’s just the media making you look bad.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Mooneymite

      Thanks for making my point! Absolutely perfect.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • ChisFromGA

      Thanks for making his point! Absolutely perfect.

      Anti-Catholic bigotry IS alive and well.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • ab77

      That's right...you have no response for Just Say'In's argument. None whatsoever. It's all the media's fault. Address the pedophilia coverup that CONTINUES TO THIS DAY and address women's rights and you MIGHT have an argument. Or do you simply prefer women barefoot and pregnant at home?

      March 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      I'm clear the Catholic Church is a known pedophile organization that forbids women to choose not to supply them with a new crop of victims each year. I know pedophile priests are plants by a liberal commie media, right?

      March 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  20. alex

    its pretty sad that the american people havnt laughed this joke of a candidate out of office, the last person on earth we need with the U.S.'s most important job is some religious fanatic whose going to make "objective" decisions based on an ultra rigid christian philosophy in direct violation of our first amendment

    March 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • sielingfan

      Well you can thank the Michigan democrats for that, I guess.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Just Say'in

      @sielingfan
      Santorum was surging long before Michigan. Try again.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:11 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.