Thoughts on Rick Santorum's Departure

We got word today that Rick Santorum has suspended his campaign. I’ve been thinking for several weeks that I wanted to post something on his campaign and why this Catholic won’t vote for that Catholic. Now it seems it doesn’t matter.

He suspended his campaign for several reasons: he was well behind in the delegate count, he was in danger of losing the primary of his home state of Pennsylvania, his daughter’s health continues to weigh on him, and he’s realizing that he can’t assume the Catholic vote.

Before saying anything else I have to say that I respect his decision to stay close to his daughter. She is living with Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder. It’s normally fatal fairly soon after birth and the fact that Bella is still alive at age 3 is a testament to her strength, her family’s support, and (frankly) her access to the health care that Rick Santorum would continue to deny to 15% of our population.

As a Catholic I’m most interested in his assumption that he had the Catholic vote in his back pocket. He has made some public stances that he assumed would garner my support, but in fact had the opposite effect. I proudly declare myself Catholic, think of myself as faithful to the True Faith, attend Mass, participate in the life of my parish, and think the nut case far right is out to lunch on the issue of birth control and other Catholic issues.

I’ve written recently about the fact that the Vatican, the American Bishops, and Timothy Cardinal Dolan have opposed President Obama’s directive that some Catholic institutions provide birth control as part of their health coverage. They have framed this as an assault on the Catholic Church and religious freedom. Married Catholics like me frame this as the ongoing war on married couples. We applaud women like Sandra Fluke who speak from a place of truth and integrity. We pray for the day the Catholic prohibition on birth control goes in a direction that makes sense beyond the celibate male clergy.

Additionally, I’m astounded by his attack on President Kennedy. For many of use who grew up in the 20th Century, John Kennedy was our Catholic icon. Among other things he was able to articulate to the United States a Catholic belief that was true to our traditions without claiming that a Catholic President is an agent to the Pope. As a candidate in 1960 John Kennedy was perceived by many as just this: the Pope would call and the President would follow orders. Catholics like myself have always found this preposterous, but many non Catholics of that time needed reassurance.

On September 12, 1960, Senator Kennedy spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association and said this:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

Frankly, I find this articulate and accurate, and enough non Catholics thought so in 1960 to elect him president. Mr. Santorum (who was 2 years old at the time) said this to George Stephanopolous on February 26th:

To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square.

This is troubling on a few levels. First and most obvious, how can a man running for President be so unable understand another person’s speech? At no time did Kennedy claim that he wasn’t a man of faith, only that he would not take orders from the Pope on how to run the county. Second, does he equate faith with the inability to think independently? In other words can I, as a Catholic, discern my own views, or do I have to lockstep with the Pope on all issues.

I guess that means Mr. Santorum and I are very different Catholics.

And I’m praying for his daughter.

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