So much for the separation of Church and State, we now seem to have reached an unprecedented situation in which we now have an actual Catholic candidate running for President. I don’t mean to suggest the Catholic Church itself is running a candidate, only that a candidate is running on a platform that represents the Church’s position on most things. I don’t know what else you could describe what Rick Santorum is doing other than that.
Religion is supposed to be irrelevant when it comes to running for public office in the United States, and generally speaking, it has been. You may recall when the Catholic John Kennedy ran for office he made it clear he was not running as a Catholic but, rather, as an American, and he would not take direction from the Church. We believed him and by and large he did what he said he would do. He did not run on an anti-abortion platform, or against Gay marriage, or even against contraception. Willard Romney, a Mormon, is not suggesting we should all engage in polygamy or wear sacred underwear. Religious beliefs are not supposed to influence public policy (the degree to which they may have is basically unknown). It is also true that so far we have not had a Jewish or a Muslim President although technically that would be entirely feasible. Technically, someone’s religious beliefs should be considered completely irrelevant, although interestingly enough, it is highly doubtful an avowed Atheist could be elected President in the foreseeable future. To be a serious candidate for President you must at least pretend to be a “believer” of some kind and at least occasionally attend a church.
In the case of Rick Santorum we have a truly unprecedented case, a candidate who has apparently thrown “all caution to the wind” and is running on a obvious platform of Catholic beliefs. You are aware, I am sure, that Santorum is absolutely opposed to abortion, even to the point of suggesting that doctors who perform abortions should be criminally prosecuted. He is also completely opposed to Gay marriage, and believes existing Gay marriages should not be recognized. He would repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell decision that allows Gays to serve openly in the military. Although he hasn’t said it (as far as I know) he must also be opposed to the repeal of anti-sodomy laws. If these obviously Catholic strictures are not enough, he is also opposed to contraception, to birth control itself! He believes, as does his Church, that marriage should be only between a man and a woman and should involve having children, presumably as many as possible. He has not tried to hide these beliefs but, indeed, promotes them as part of his quest for the Presidency. Given this as true, how can you claim that a candidate’s religious beliefs are not relevant to his politics? Santorum wishes to impose Catholic morality on all the rest of us, no matter what our beliefs and practices may be, and makes no pretense of anything else. He seems to be truly obsessed with the regulation of other people’s sexual behavior, arguing that contraception, for example, is merely license for apparently unbridled sex (or something like that). He seems to have no knowledge of the full range of human sexual behavior, nor does he seem to have any idea of marriage customs around the world and in history. Although I don’t think he has said so, I suspect he believes the “missionary position” is the only acceptable position for sex. I wonder if he believes anti-sodomy laws ought to be relaxed for Church members, if he believes adultery is a mortal sin for which one should be put in the “stocks” and branded for life with a big “A,” and oral sex is an abomination, invented by Hugh Hefner as part of a socialistic takeover of the United States. These are, of course, embarrassing questions he is not likely to be asked (at least in public), one can only wonder just how far his Catholic Puritanism goes (no beastiality, by the way). Santorum does not claim to represent the Church, nor does the Church claim him as their candidate (they are not supposed to have candidates, of course), but there is little doubt that he represents exclusively the views of the Catholic Church when it comes to marriage, abortion, and birth control, and thus he is basically running on a Catholic platform.
Santorum has not as yet been thoroughly vetted, but now that he has been raised to a higher echelon in the campaign he no doubt will be. I don’t know what this will reveal but it is known that he was an eager “Earmarker,” and that he even voted for the famous Bridge to Nowhere. I doubt the Church is as eager to bomb Iran as he is, and he has some kind of baggage relating to the John Ensign scandal. Who knows what else will turn up, but don’t expect to ever see him as President.
I said, when asked, that I thought Santorum would win the Iowa caucus (because he was the only one nutty enough to mesh with Iowa voters). I thought until this morning it would be the only correct political prediction I had made in some fifty years of predictions. Curses! Thwarted again! But I won’t give up.
The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with a good deal of rubbish.