Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rick Santorum Throws Up

I had an interesting conversation with a friend last night.

He's a Catholic.

He didn't know Rick Santorum is a Catholic.

He didn't understand why Rick Santorum had objected to Jack Kennedy's famous "I won't be a Catholic President" speech.


I had to back way up and go through the whole history of Catholics in the U.S.; Catholics being first subject to God (and the Church) and then to the United States as citizens; Catholics understanding Christ's teaching of "render unto Caesar," and being able to distinguish your duties as a citizen from being asked to do what the Church considers immoral and sinful (abortion); and Kennedy's going one step too far, though granted, understandably, given the anti-Catholic sentiment that was still pervasive in 1960, in his speech about how he could and would govern as a citizen first, and a Catholic - well, not as a Catholic at all.

Yes, at the time, there was a fear (and there is a whole backstory of the Masons vs. the Church that gets lost in the weeds of conspiracy theory and fact, and I won't even go into it here, because, frankly, I have no idea which is fact and which is craziness) that a Catholic would take marching orders from Rome, and would try to make the United States a "Catholic" country, an arm of the Vatican.

We can see this now as pretty silly, but at the time there were still many who were convinced that would be the case, and they were absolutely sure that we could never elect a Catholic president. Kennedy had  to make that speech, but in many Catholic's (certainly in Rick Santorum's) minds, he went just a little too far in distancing himself from his faith. All he really had to do was say that it would not be his intention, nor was it the intention of Rome, to turn the U.S. into a papal state. That he could and would govern as a citizen of the United States. He might have stopped there.

Rick Santorum freely admits that as a man he is informed by his Catholic conscience, and there is nothing wrong with that per se. We are all informed by the lives we have led, the principles we hold, our beliefs, our education, where we grew up and when, our faith (if we have one), even our ethnicity. It's all part of the person we are at any moment in time. Absolutely, something can come along and change our minds - a good argument, a new event, a discovery, a book, deeper thinking into a subject.

Rick Santorum wasn't saying anything wrong when he said he would govern as a man informed by his Catholic faith (and hence, would be opposed to abortion and the death penalty, among other things), but he went just a little too far in the whole "sick to my stomach" thing. If you don't know what hyperbole is, Santorum's statements in this case are a good example.

However, I was nevertheless amazed to learn that a well-educated man, a Catholic, a voter, could know so little about who's saying what, the belief systems of our candidates, and even the now-famous 1960 Kennedy speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston.