Republican candidate Rick Santorum’s Catholicism is making him ‘fair game’ for biased detractors, writes David Quinn
Rick Santorum is the American politician who rose to prominence last week because he did well in the first stage of the race to become the Republican party’s presidential candidate in November’s presidential election.
Santorum is a Catholic and he wears his Catholicism on his sleeve, too much so for the taste even of some of his fellow Catholics.
It is his habit, for example, to speak of his faith at political gatherings in highly personal terms — not to be found in Ireland even among politicians who make no secret of their Catholicism, for example Senators Ro¨nán Mullen or Jim Walsh.
Santorum can also be too outspoken and unguarded in his comments for his own good.
It is foolish and genuinely offensive to mention homosexuality and bestiality in the same breath for example. He is also sceptical about Darwinian evolution.
This sort of thing plays into the hands of his opponents and makes it easy for them to caricature him.
But even allowing for this, the manner in which Santorum is attacked by some of his enemies goes far beyond anything that should be acceptable in a civilised society and is nothing less than an attempt to intimidate out of public life anyone who holds orthodox Christian views on issues like marriage and the right to life. (Incidentally, Santorum is on the left on many economic questions).
The attacks have even extended to his wife, Karen. The Santorums have six living children. A seventh developed complications in the womb in 1997.
The child was unsuccessfully operated on in the womb in a bid to save it, but Karen developed a life-threatening infection as a result. The baby was born prematurely at 20 weeks.
But in order to depict her pro-life husband as a hypocrite, a whispering campaign began that she had had an abortion.
In addition, the couple has been consistently attacked for bringing the child home as part of the grieving process. They had it baptised in the two hours before it died and then properly buried.
Their critics insist that bringing the baby home when it was so premature and allowing their other children to see it was grisly.
In fact, what they did was in accordance with the advice of grief counsellors at the time and in any case, was their business.
But to hold it against him and to make it an issue is despicable, much less spreading hateful rumours that his wife had an abortion.
But whatever about the attacks that are personal to Santorum, he also suffers from a problem that is common to any politician who is pro-life, pro-marriage and supports the place of religion in the public arena, namely the attempt to brand any such person as an extremist no matter how moderately they put their point of view.
Even The Daily Telegraph has gotten in on the act, describing Santorum’s views on abortion and marriage as ”zero-tolerance” and President Obama’s views on abortion as ”moderate”.
In fact, Obama is the most hard-line pro-abortion/pro-choice president America has ever had.
He favours virtually no restrictions on abortion whatsoever and ever since emerging as a state senator in Illinois has won high marks from the abortion industry.
But calling Obama ”moderate” on the issue and his opponents ”strident” is a way of telling the public that Obama’s view is the reasonable and attractive one, regardless of the actual substance of their positions.
This is part of a more general effort to portray pro-life and family politicians as ”bigots and ”fundamentalists”.
We even saw this at work in the recent Irish presidential election.
Candidates such as Dana Rosemary Scallion and Gay Mitchell were subjected to highly critical scrutiny because they are pro-life and pro-marriage but Michael D. Higgins was not subjected to sustained criticism by the media of his position on abortion.
In a televised debate a few days ago, Santorum was placed on the defensive yet again because of his stance on marriage and the right-to-life. His fellow Republican candidate, Newt Gingrich, decided to turn the tables on the questioners.
He said: ”I just want to raise — since we’ve spent this much time on these issues — I just want to raise a point about the news media bias. You don’t hear the opposite question asked.
”Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples, which is exactly what the state has done?
”Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won’t give in to secular bigotry?”
He went further: ”Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration on key delivery of services because of the bias and the bigotry of the administration?
”The bigotry question goes both ways. And there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concerning the other side. And none of it gets covered by the news media.”
In other words, why aren’t secular candidates asked why they support the forced closure of Catholic adoption agencies for standing by their principles?
Why do they support forcing Christian employers to pay for their workers’ use of medical procedures and drugs — such as the morning after pill — when this is against the employer’s ethos?
Why is it that when it comes to socio-moral issues, the questions are all one-way?
We know the answer to this. It is because ”strong forces” (to borrow a term used by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in a different context) wish to drive pro-life and marriage politicians out of public life and to make their own positions on these issues the only acceptable ones.
This is why Rick Santorum is being subjected to such incredibly vitriolic attack. He will not be the Republican presidential candidate in any case but he does not deserve this. No-one does.