Rick Santorum: The evangelical’s Catholic candidate?

Chip Somodevilla GETTY IMAGES MANCHESTER, NH – JANUARY 06: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (C) pats a … Continued

Chip Somodevilla

GETTY IMAGES

MANCHESTER, NH – JANUARY 06: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (C) pats a girl on the head as he arrives for a “Faith, Family and Freedom” campaign town hall meeting in the parking lot of the Belmont Hall restaurant January 6, 2012 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

As the dust settled after the Iowa caucuses, it became clear that a plurality of evangelical Christians had thrown in their hat with an unexpected, but strangely apt candidate. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who lost his seat in 2006, performed substantially better than any of his rivals among born-again or evangelical Christians, with 32 percent of the coveted demographic’s vote.

Santorum, who received the endorsement of several influential evangelical leaders in the days leading up to the primary, is a devout Catholic. But his success in Iowa led conservative leaders, including James Dobson and Gary Bauer (who endorsed Santorum yesterday) to organize an emergency meeting to determine whether evangelicals can make the difference in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where Santorum will need all the help he can get to unseat Mitt Romney, who is leading in both states.


View Photo Gallery: Scenes of religious faith meeting politics in the 2012 campaign.

The partnership between evangelical Christians and the Catholic Santorum may seem unlikely. But in addition to evangelicals’ general friendliness toward Catholics (84 percent have a favorable view), Santorum’s record on a wide range of issues makes him a logical ally for evangelical Protestants. Perhaps the quintessential culture warrior, Santorum’s career in the Senate was indelibly marked by his intense focus on hot-button social issues. But ironically, on these issues, Santorum is out of step with his fellow Catholics.

Throughout his campaign and his time in the Senate, Santorum has unwaveringly opposed same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, recently declaring that children were better off with an imprisoned father than with two female parents. This is the first of many places where Santorum’s views are more aligned with evangelicals than American Catholics. A majority (52 percent) of Catholics support same-sex marriage, making them the most supportive of all major religious groups and slightly more supportive than the general population. By contrast, only 19 percent of white evangelical Protestants favor allowing same-sex couples to marry, while almost half (47 percent) strongly oppose it.

Similarly, Santorum has been tenacious in his opposition to abortion in almost all cases; during his time in the Senate, he helped lead the effort to ban a procedure that conservatives refer to as “partial-birth abortion,” and he testified that there are no circumstances where abortion is necessary to protect the life of the mother. His enthusiastic participation in the anti-abortion movement is far more likely to endear him to evangelicals than to Catholics; while Catholics are evenly divided on the legality of abortion (49 percent favor legal abortion, while 48 percent oppose it), a slim majority say that at least some health care professionals in their community should offer abortions. Among evangelicals, however, only 3-in-10 say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while a similarly low number (36 percent) say that some health care professionals in their community should provide abortions.

On the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion, Santorum is in line with the Catholic hierarchy, even if he’s out of step with American Catholics. But when it comes to climate change and evolution, Santorum diverges even from the Roman Catholic leadership. In 2001, Santorum offered an amendment to the No Child Left Behind bill, encouraging teachers to provide lessons on intelligent design alongside evolution. His stance — that evolution is controversial — contrasts with that of the Catholic Church, which generally accepts evolution and allows that material science is compatible with the belief that human life as a gift from God. Here, as above, Santorum’s views are closer to evangelicals (32 percent of whom believe human beings and other living things evolved over time) than to his fellow lay Catholics, 61 percent of whom believe in evolution.

Similarly, Santorum’s position on climate change scholarship, which he has referred to as “junk science,” sharply contrasts with Church leadership. Late last year, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for the success of a UN climate change conference, saying that a “credible” response was necessary. Here again, Santorum is far to the right of American Catholics, 70 percent of whom believe there is solid evidence that the earth has gotten warmer over the past few decades. He is even to the right of most evangelicals, 57 percent of whom believe in climate change.

Evangelicals are likely to play a significant role in the South Carolina primary, even if faith doesn’t make a substantial difference in Tuesday’s contest in New Hampshire. And among the 47 percent of evangelicals who say they would be uncomfortable with a Mormon serving as president, Santorum has one weighty advantage: He’s not Romney.

Robert P. Jones
Written by

  • Thomas_Aquinas

    You cite Huffington Post, who cherry-picked “Humani Generis” (Pius XII) to assert that the Catholic Church “generally accepts” evolution. This is *patently false*. Here’s the money quote from that encyclical:

    “Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution. Communists gladly subscribe to this opinion so that, when the souls of men have been deprived of every idea of a personal God, they may the more efficaciously defend and propagate their dialectical materialism.”

    Pius XII, speaking for the Church goes on to say that *discussion* of the “doctrine” of evolution is acceptable, but that it must be in the context of God as the immediate author of the soul. It doesn’t say that evolution is “compatible” with Catholicism – especially in its current use as a “proof” against a Creator. The contemporary discussion surrounds the elimination of God, not the role of God in such a theory, and so does not have a basis compatible with the Church as stated in “Humani Generis”.

    Further, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the immeasurable irony of regular detractors of the Teaching Authority of the Church cherry-picking and loosely interpreting Papal encyclicals when they can bend them to their own fantasies. The Church can’t be a reasonable authority on evolution, and nothing else.

  • Catken1

    So when did the Pope get a biology degree?
    And why precisely is he more credible than those who have devoted their lives to studying biology and the history of life on this planet?

  • Catken1

    How about other amendments:
    “Medical schools should teach germ theory, but also the scientific evidence against it.” (And the evidence for demonic possession as a cause of illness.)
    “Astronomy classes should teach about the vast billions of suns out in space, and also the evidence for astrology.”

    There is no sensible scientific evidence against Darwin’s theory that species change over time, against an approximately-4-billion-year age for the Earth, or for any intelligent designer. Evidence for Darwin’s theory abounds and is provided from multiple independent sources – DNA relatedness, the fossil record, morphological similarities and differences between species in nearby areas, and pure visual and statistical observation of existing animals in the process of speciation. Evidence against? Where is it?

    No, not “it’s too haaaaard to do experiments and look for answers to the questions we haven’t answered yet, so I wanna say it was God and stop working.” Nor is it, “But life is so COMPLICATED and I personally can’t see how it might have evolved, so I’m going to postulate an even more complicated designer whose existence or origin somehow I don’t have to explain!”

  • tomasmart1

    So, let me see if I understand this correctly.

    Rick Santorum is a catholic and strongly supports military action and presence in the Middle East. He also supported the bailouts. So, taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich is ok, as well as making sure good Christians go off to war overseas to fight for Israel (predominantly Jewish) against Iraq and Iran (predominantly Islamic).

    At the same time they endorse Santorum, there is one evangelical Christian candidate (Ron Paul) who believes that killing is wrong as well as taking money from the poor (bailouts). Ron Paul has the second highest number of delegates. He came in 3rd in Iowa (not too far behind Romney and Santorum) and came in 2nd in New Hampshire. Yet, he is treated as a non-factor.

    Are we living in bizarro world? A world where evangelical southerners (and Dobson and Bauer) would choose a catholic candidate over an evangelical Christian because the catholic is for aggressively pursuing wars and granting bailouts, while the evangelical Christian is for only fighting constitutionally declared wars and ensuring that bailouts will never happen again.

    Anyway, it doesn’t surprise me that they’re for Santorum. Bailouts and sellouts always seem to go well together.

  • robertcogan

    Are we electing a high priest? I thouhgt it said something in the Constitution about no religious tests for office.

  • thebump

    This article egregiously and mischievously misstates the position of Catholics as regards legalization of abortion and the redefinition of marriage. A Catholic cannot support either. Any survey that suggests otherwise is erroneously including non-Catholics.

  • ddoiron1

    After Santorum allowed his Wife’s Abortion; neither should be receiving Communion! Murderers of Unborn Babies are NOT Catholic!

  • ddoiron1

    Ancient Jews and many other cultures believed in Astrology and Numerology. Neither belief are opposed to Judaism or Christianity.

    In America’s First 13 Colonies NO Catholic or Jew could hold Public Office; ONLY PROTESTANTS need apply.

  • ddoiron1

    TO ACADEMICIANS: TRUTH CANNOT CONTRADICT TRUTH
    VATICAN CITY, OCT 23, 1996 (VIS) – In a Message made public today to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, meeting this week in the Vatican in plenary session, the Holy Father recalled that Pope Pius XI, who restored this academy in 1936, called this group of scholars “the Church’s ‘scientific senate'” and asked them “to serve the truth.”

    John Paul II, noting the academy’s “reflection on science at the dawn of the third millennium,” observed that “in the domain of inanimate and animate nature, the evolution of science and its applications make new questions arise. The Church can grasp their scope all the better as she knows their basic aspects.”

    He pointed to the Church’s magisterium on the question of the origin of life and evolution, citing in particular Pius XII’s 1950 Encyclical “Humani Generis” and the conciliar Constitution “Gaudium et Spes.”

    The Pope drew the academicians’ attention to “the need for a correct interpretation of the inspired word, of a rigorous hermeneutics. It is fitting to set forth well the limits of the meaning proper to Scripture, rejecting undue interpretations which make it say what it does not have the intention of saying.”

    “‘Humani Generis’,” he stated, “considered the doctrine of ‘evolutionism’ as a serious hypothesis, worthy of a more deeply studied investigation and reflection on a par with the opposite hypothesis. … Today, more than a half century after this encyclical, new knowledge leads us to recognize in the theory of evolution more than a hypothesis. … The convergence, neither sought nor induced, of results of work done independently one from the other, constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.”

    He continued: “The elaboration of a theory such as that of evolution, while obeying the exigency of homogeneity with the data of observation, borrows certain ideas from the philosophy of nature. To tell the truth, more than the theory of evolution, on

  • bbqweed

    Interesting article. Not sure where you guys are getting your statistics, but they seem wrong. Catholics are very much against same-sex unions, as they cannot really be called marriage, unless you want to redefine what marriages have typically meant for that last xxxx years. We are also very much so against abortions as there is NEVER a good reason to kill a child. Any Catholic who is willing to claim that they support same-sex marriage or abortion are in fact, cannot be considered a Catholic who is effectively practicing the faith.

    As for evangelicals, although they are our separated brothers, they are still our brothers and we share a great deal of commonalities which outweigh our differences, so it is no surprise that they stand alongside us when it comes to abortion or same-sex unions.

    So as long as Santorum remains a devout Catholic… then he has my vote.

  • bbqweed

    The Pope doesn’t need a biology degree. He has been commissioned to lead people into the teachings and morality. Does a doctor need to have cancer in order to effectively treat cancer? — NO. As such, the Pope does not need a degree in Biology to understand that when you have to use artificial means to kill something… then Biology or not… that is inherently wrong.

  • bbqweed

    @thebump… you are absolutely correct. The data being presented here is obviously inaccurate.

  • ccnl1

    Some “nitty-gritty” using a prayer:

    The Apostles’ Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    (references used are available upon request)

  • catatonicjones

    We must also teach the arguments for and against creationism in churches, fair is fair. Particularly we should have classes for children, showing them what the difference is between evidence and proof, and a good course in basic logic, concentrating on fallacies.

    Fair is fair.

  • jckdoors

    The candidate for the busy-body bigots. And, they need to be reminded we are not a theocracy.

  • fredericmichaelhazard

    How can he continually misquote facts and play the race cards?