Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

The Cathovangelical: Rick Santorum's Quest for a National Abortion Showdown

It's a fine how-do-you-do. Fifty years after Democrats struggled to prove that their candidate for President "just happened to be a Catholic," now they face the prospect of painting a Republican challenger as a dangerous follower of Rome's socially extreme dogma.

The ascension of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum to maybe-viable contender for his party's nomination and even a Pennsylvania Avenue address promises a number of rather unique possibilities. (Get ready for the "surprise" when he takes North Carolina.)

Most immediately, and a source of far more spiritual indigestion, a Santorum nomination would mean the most bloody dust-up over abortion and faith modern America has ever experienced. That's exactly what a lot of people want—Santorum included.

In what almost seems like an impossible fact, the office of President has been held by twice as many Quakers as Catholics. [Thanks to the commenter for pointing that out!] Santorum would be only the second ever.

According to The Pew Forum on Religion, 31% of living Americans were raised Catholic but only 24% currently self-identify as Team Pope—and that's with a boost from largely Catholic Hispanic immigration. Sensing a dwindling reserve of souls, Rome has launched a new $4-million "Catholics Come Home" campaign, with the goal of reactivating one million of the former faithful. And while 24% is not a voting base to sneeze at, Santorum is a new hybrid: a Cathovangelical.

Maybe because, to them, all far-right Christians look alike, much of the media often lumps Rick Santorum in with evangelical politicians. In some cases, Santorum is identified as "evangelical." Even The New York Times is not immune.

Another reason for the confusion might be the way evangelicals have lined up behind Santorum. His Iowa surprise has justifiably been credited to the "retail politics" of gumption and Alfani shoe rubber. But also in Iowa, where evangelical leaders commonly appear in the press identified by the term "kingmaker," Rick secured the pubic endorsement of Family Leader head Bob Vander Plaats, the kingmaker of Iowa kingmakers.

This misidentification also happens because of his outspoken positions on "family values." Santorum's extreme positions on abortion, gay marriage and even contraception—a key "Catholic" giveaway—knit him in well with the ultimate social goals of many top evangelical activists. Some evangelicals even claim to see through Santorum's "ruse." After the Iowa caucus, David Brody, the chief political correspondent for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, wrote that Santorum "may technically not call himself an evangelical but he is definitely one when it comes to social issues. So don’t get too caught up in the title of 'Roman Catholic.' Santorum is an evangelical at heart." Santorum, outed.

All this confusion is not on account of Santorum, who regularly states his denomination. In a 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed from his column cleverly titled "The Elephant in the Room," Santorum began "How did my own Roman Catholicism shape my work as a senator?" On the way to an answer, he calls J.F.K. a "cop out." (This is a guy who once told the National Catholic Reporter that Kennedy's dismissal of his Catholicism did "great harm in America.")

The real elephant in any room that Santorum happens to inhabit is abortion.

Most politicians, even pro-life ones, like to speak about abortion as little as possible. Put a pro-choice/pro-life position statement on the website and move on. There is simply no truck in it. There is no wiggle room. It's dead on the stump. Few voters are on the fence about it. It cannot be spun. Say even the slightest wrong thing, your ass is grass. Why bother?

But Santorum? Santorum loves abortion.

* * *

According to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, in his 11-year span in Congress from January 1996 to January 3, 2007, Santorum "spoke the following words more than anybody else in the Senate: abortion, partial-birth, fetus, fetal, womb. He also uttered the following phrases more than anyone else: 'base of the skull,' and 'life of the mother.'"

During his tenure, Santorum alone accounted for over 12% of all mentions of the term "abortion" and over 18 percent of all utterances of "fetus."

In a general election against Obama, Santorum will no doubt go after the abortion subject, from the ramifications of "activist judges" to the limitations of science. Santorum has already started. In a January, 2011, interview with CNS News, Santorum criticized Obama for his opinion that a fetus is not a person under the Constitution. Santorum, blankly, said he found it "almost remarkable for a black man to say, 'No, we are going to decide who are people, and who are not.'"

Santorum's remarks were immediately criticized as racist by liberals, an outrage that was immediately criticized as despicable political correctness by conservatives, who see fetal life as the civil rights issue of the age. While it may seem anathema to political and media observers, a race-abortion showdown would be welcome by hard-right conservatives.

Once the litigious fringe, the Personhood Movement is now gaining nationwide recognition, if not victories. (Up next, Wisconsin.) While many pro-life candidates find the idea of personhood both a political bridge too far as well as a knotted mess of unintended consequences, they are forced to play host to the hardcore anti-abortion activists whose endorsements they depend on. For all its bravado and snarl, the Tea Party's power still runs a far second to the pro-life movement, in part because it often overlaps. (It's a misconception that the tactic of "primary-ing" an incumbent in one's own party was invented by the Tea Party.)

Even America's most popular entertainment is signaling to Santorum that the time is ripe for his cause. In just the last two months, two of the biggest box office hits with teen and younger audiences were Twilight: Breaking Dawn and The Devil Inside. Both had plots heavy on abortion. Americans seem like they're chomping at the bit to answer the deep philosophical question opened by the court ruling of the former generation: When is life?

Slowly, on Facebook and on the backroads of conservative web pages and radio shows nobody talks much about, a detail is creeping into the running "socialist" criticism of Obama: The president has been to church only nine times since taking office. Add that to the fact that a Pew poll found 43% of American adults don't know Obama's religion and this is a battle Obama should take seriously. It's certainly one where he is vulnerable—though only to Santorum.

* * *

Nothing will fuel a pro-life confrontation, and Santorum's popularity, more than liberals continuing to ridicule Santorum for how the family dealt with a son that died two hours after premature birth in the 1990s. Santorum has publicly described how the family took the dead Gabriel home, slept with him, and had their other children "meet" him. Throbbingly useless person Alan Colmes mocked Santorum for "playing" with the dead child. He later apologized. The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson went on Maddow and called the behavior "weird." The blowback was immediate, intense and, more importantly, it even came from New England moderates.

Anyone who speaks with a number of obstetricians or neonatal nurses (such as Karen Santorum) will find the family's was far from uncommon behavior. Presented with the anecdote, birth center professionals soberly asked what the big deal was. (And with just such a tragic event within my own close family, I can say from personal experience that further "criticism" of Santorum on this subject will only create sympathy, as well as giving him the window he and so many of his supporters want to talk about their favorite issue.) On Fox's Hannity the night before the New Hampshire primary, Santorum brought up the criticism, and, like a machine, used it to plow into questions about the pro-life credentials of other candidates.

The follow-up effort that everyone can expect to see soon? That before meeting Rick, Karen Santorum cohabited with the OB-GYN founder of Pittsburgh’s first abortion clinic. It's a bear trap the Santorum campaign is begging the media to step in.

* * *

The most under-cited piece of journalism informing the 2012 election is Warren Cole Smith's April 5, 2008 "Divided We Stand" in the Christian publication World. In it, Smith chronicles "how several dozen leaders of the 'Christian right'" came together in New Orleans to discuss "missteps in the [2008] GOP presidential campaign."

There, Paul Weyrich (a founder of Moral Majority, Heritage Foundation and Council for National Policy), stood and admitted his gross fault in backing Romney simply on the issue of electability. The Christian right eventually fractured over supporting McCain over Huckabee. Meanwhile, the synod found Romney's repeated pleas for their support more useless than a box of Trojans and Mitt gained "only a footstool at the Christian conservative table, whose leadership increasingly was troubled over his flip-flops on gay civil unions and abortion."

When Mike Huckabee achieved mixed success courting evangelical power brokers in 2008, his pitch was, "The other candidates come to you. I come from you." The plea moved some, but as Smith described, others were distracted with the notion of electability.

When Vander Plaats endorsed Santorum in Iowa, he said the exact same thing: "Rick Santorum comes from us—not just to us, from us."

In South Carolina, Santorum just wrapped up the endorsement of hashtag-happy Gary Bauer, an evangelical former Reagan administration official, president of the Family Research Council and a senior VP of Focus on the Family, who now heads up the organization American Values and also serves the board of the Emergency Committee for Israel. He's important. After endorsing McCain in 2008, Bauer had declined to back anyone this cycle, but then noted that "it has become obvious that conservative voters are deeply divided about who should carry the banner for our values into the 2012 election."

In the coming months, when pro-Santorum forces use the term "values," they are not just talking about conservative pro-life/"pro-family" values versus liberal ones. They are talking about Romney and Mormonism. In his 2007 Chronicle piece, Santorum painted what might be a dire prophecy for a Romney-Santorum showdown in 2012: "Romney is a Mormon because he accepts the beliefs of the Mormon faith. This permits us, therefore, to make inferences about his judgment and character, good or bad." Indeed, an hour after tweeting his endorsement for Santorum, Gary Bauer sent a link to his new USA Today column. Titled "Why voters should apply a religious test," the piece is an astoundingly naked indictment of Romney's Mormonism, going so far as top basically compare it to being Wiccan: "After all, Wicca involves magic, spell-casting and sorcery—not exactly mainstream religious practices."

Mitt Romney is still the presumptive and even presumptuous Republican nominee, mainly because of this "electability." But what if Republicans, despite the "anyone but Obama" mantra, don't want to elect anyone as much as they want to force a showdown between Obama and a candidate as starkly different as possible? The running line is that conservatives are struggling with whether to compromise or to position for the best chance at winning an election, to have a candidate as much like Obama as possible to woo independents. But that storyline is four years too old. Conservatives already feel as if they compromised, to disastrous results, in 2008. The 2012 election is a do-over for conservative Christian leaders and voters.

Given how the Tea Party—which is now inseparable from the Christian right—has behaved so far, it's plumb stupid to think it wouldn't relish the chance to go down swinging with a principled candidate, bloodying everyone in the process.

Abe Sauer is the author of the book How to be: North Dakota and bets Rick Santorum will be Romney's VP. He is on Twitter. Email him at abesauer @ gmail.com. Photo from Santorum 2012's Facebook.

71 Comments / Post A Comment

Dan Packel (#10,421)

Actually, "Elephant in the Room" was the title of Santorum's (gulp) weekly column in the once estimable paper's Sunday Review section. Ugh.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Dan Packel Oh, thank you.

cherrispryte (#444)

"After all, Wicca involves magic, spell-casting and sorcery—not exactly mainstream religious practices."

So do Catholic priests converting bread and wine into the literal bread and body of Christ every Sunday not count as magic, sorcery, or spell-casting?

iplaudius (#1,066)

@cherrispryte Or has the Doctrine of the Trinity ever been anything but a weak justification for blatant polytheism?

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

@iplaudius You say that as if it is a bad thing.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@cherrispryte @iplaudius Hi. Pro-abortion agnostic lapsed Catholic here, but not so lapsed as to not take a tiny bit of offense. Shitting on other people's religious beliefs is really not the tack you want to be taking here, unless you want your arguments taken no more seriously than Gary Bauer's. If it isn't socially or politically acceptable to belittle Judaism, Islam, Mormonism or Wiccanism, the same does go for Catholicism and the rest. And if you're still going to make cracks about the Trinity or transubstantiation, you should do more homework first.

jfruh (#713)

@Mr. B I think the point cherryspryte is making anyway is that Gary Bauer is defending one form of religious practice/belief and shitting on another, when, to an outside observer, both seem equally likely (or unlikely) to be true. Or do you demand that people respect some religions they don't believe in more than other religions they don't believe, because … I dunno, because more people believe in the first one?

I'm also not sure what the result of the "homework" you expect people to do on the Trinity or transubstantiation. Do Catholics (and some other denominations) not believe that the substance of the body and blood of Christ enter the bread and wine? Do most Christians not believe that three "persons" make up a single God? Are these not "mysteries" that ultimately you have accept on faith? They certainly aren't the result of rational analysis or observation of the natural world. The monotheistic nature of Christianity has been questioned by Jews and Muslims (and Unitarians!) for centuries, and a lot of Christians don't believe in transubstantiation; it's not as if these are new shocking attacks from the snarky liberal atheists or whatever.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@jfruh Granted, I can be sensitive about these things. Wasn't it James Joyce who called himself an atheist — but a Catholic one? I'm all for dishing it back to Gary Bauer, but I think the serious and intelligent among us should be able to rise above that kind of faith-baiting, which only serves to alienate third parties you might otherwise want on your side. (I know plenty of practicing Catholics, for instance, who are registered Democrats and/or social liberals and voted for Obama.)

Regarding the theological issues: As someone who was raised in Catholic schools and went to church every Sunday through my adolescence, I can say that most Catholics view the body-and-blood language as primarily symbolic and take it no more literally than they do the Book of Genesis. (I expect plenty of more conservative Catholics would disagree on this point, but all would bridle at the "magic, spell-casting and sorcery" language above.) And the Trinity is widely misunderstood, even my many Catholics. It's three "persons" (or personalities, or manifestations) making up a single deity, not the three separate entities you see in cartoons. A subtle point, I know. Being lapsed, I have my own thoughts on the church fathers' canard about it being a "divine mystery" that ordinary humans aren't meant to understand. Either way, calling it polytheism is a deliberate misrepresentation of Catholic doctrine.

cherrispryte (#444)

@Mr. B In what way was I shitting on anyone's beliefs? I was shitting on Gary Bauer's idea that spell-casting and sorcery aren't part of mainstream religions when they so clearly are, they're just called different things. If you're reading anything negative into my use of those words, well, that's on you, buddy.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@cherrispryte Eh, point taken. Still, you ought not be surprised when someone takes issue with such language being directed at their own (in my case, former) beliefs.

libmas (#231)

@Mr. B Yeah, the Catholic Church has taught the whole "When Jesus said, 'This is my body,' it really became his body" thing for a long time. Ignatius of Antioch was calling the Eucharist "the flesh of Jesus Christ" back in 106 AD. So I don't know if the point is conservative or liberal, but transubstantiation is certainly what the Catholic Church says is going on.

jfruh (#713)

@Mr. B As someone who was raised in Catholic schools and went to church every Sunday through my adolescence, I can say that most Catholics view the body-and-blood language as primarily symbolic and take it no more literally than they do the Book of Genesis.

That may be the case, but I think you will find that the church leadership disagrees with that majority, as it disagrees with them on other issues (birth control, to name only the most obvious).

jfruh (#713)

@Mr. B I mean, I'm an atheist Jew, so I get the tension between "cultural institution that defines me and my community" and "religious institution that makes intellectual claims about ethics and the nature of the universe." (Along the lines of that Joyce quote, I read a greaty line about the problems Reform and Conservative Jews have being recognized in Israel: "Most Israelis don't go to synagogue, but the synagogue they don't go to is Orthodox.") But you have to admit that saying "You can't make fun of transubstantiation, and also most Catholics don't really believe in transubstantiation" is kind of having it both ways.

As for the doctrine of the Trinity, well, you'll have to forgive an outsider for thinking it looks a lot like some smart people trying to fit multiple divine entities mentioned in Scripture into a monotheistic framework. The word "trinity" doesn't even occur in the New Testament, and wasn't thought up until the late second century.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@jfruh It's extremely hard to get a straight answer out of church leadership on this point! Ask a priest "Is this literally the body and blood of Jesus Christ?" and the answer is usually something along the lines of "Kind of, but not really. But actually yes … It depends on what you mean by literally."

Well, what I didn't mean to suggest it's forbidden to make fun of religious dogmas. It's more that I felt that the belief system was being misrepresented unfairly.

jfruh (#713)

@Mr. B I think the absolute official line is that the "substance" (substantio in Latin, ousios in Greek) of the bread and wine become the "substance" of the body and blood. What is meant by "substance" is of course the thing that wars are fought over. I actually used to study early Church history, and, on the note of the Trinity, there really were wars fought over whether the Father and Son were of the same substance (homoousios) or of similar substances (homoiousios) or were just similar (homoi). Good times!

Mr. B (#10,093)

@jfruh All this may partially explain why I'm now an atheist.

libmas (#231)

@Mr. B It is indeed a tangle. But it does start with Scripture. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, etc. And it's not that hard to get an answer from Church leadership. The Catechism is online: "In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.'"

SeanP (#4,058)

@Mr. B It totally explains why I'm an atheist. I grew up in a house with a lapsed Congregrationalist mother and a lapsed Catholic father. Not having any exposure to religion as a boy, my reaction to friends accounts of their religious education ran along the lines of: "they're teaching you… what?"

Then I went through a period of soul-searching as a young adult, and began to think that maybe there was something to this religion thing after all. But which one to pick? Did some reading, and quickly stumbled on the issue of Trinity or no Trinity, homo/homoi, dyophysite/monophysite, whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just the Father, etc, etc.

Picking a denomination meant you had to form an opinion on each of these questions (and more – this is just to resolve which Christian denomination you might want to join – if you were open to Islam or Judaism there were lots of other fun questions), and rather quickly became obvious that this was all my balls: angels dancing on the head of a pin had nothing on this in terms of meaninglessness. Since all these questions were undecidable, who the hell cares? So I lost all interest in signing up for a religion after that.

tl;dr: Any religion that's not your own might as well be fucking voodoo. They're all pretty weird.

deepomega (#1,720)

As ever, I come bearing missives from RedState.com, where the fight is between electability (no candidate comes close to Romney in head-to-head polls against Obama) and conservative credentials. Pretty much nobody on the right blogosphere is arguing for electability. The disagreement is which not-Romney best represents conservative principles. The Santorum wing is pretty much socons, the Perry wing is more focused on economics, etc. etc. You'll be amused to find that Santorum's big economic line is that Obamacare is THE biggest problem with the national economy, which gets major LOLs even on the right.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Abe Sauer: I prefer RCP's data, since they roll in multiple polls, and have Santorum losing nationally to Obama by 8 points. (Romney's down 1.5 points, and easily the most electable nationally, although I think this is just straight popular polling instead of a full 538-type EV model)

But even your link admits that there's not much polling suggesting anything besides a Romney win. Getting all het up over Santorum is just like getting all het up over Christine O'Donnell – a distraction.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@deepomega Christine O'Donnell was the nominee.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Abe Sauer: Yeah, and she never polled within double digits of Castle. And last I checked there were a few other races in 2010? Likewise, I'd rather be talking about Mitt, or the possible third party Paul candidacy, than this joke of politician who even Republicans think is an idiot.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Abe Sauer: Hahahahaha. From an old C O'D article here:

Abe Sauer (#148)

@deepomega Heh. Laugh all you want but Santorum is no COD. He actually has more legislative experience than Obama had and, anyway, as I state, he wouldn't really be expected to win. The true worry of the Romney camp (or what should be) is if he's the nominee all the polling will be off because tea partiers will either pull a Nader martyr vote or not vote at all so as to be preserve their "I didn't vote for him" position of complaining for the next 4 years. We all laughed in Wisconsin when Ron Johnson was nominated, a true boob. We laughed when the early polls said Russ would blow him out. Then, Senator Ron Johnson.

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)

"Given how the Tea Party—which is now inseparable from the Christian right—has behaved so far, it's plumb stupid to think it wouldn't relish the chance to go down swinging with a principled candidate." And if they do, many of us will be cheering from the sidelines. It will be the best riddance of my lifetime. (Besides, Ken Layne can use the page views.)

jfruh (#713)

There was a NY Times article right before Iowa, about the bigwigs of the Christian conservative moment getting together to try to settle on a not-Romney candidate. The thing that amazed me is that the word "Mormon" didn't appear in it once. I couldn't decide whether this was disingenuous or not. After all, there are plenty of reasons evangelicals might not like Romney, from his socially liberal past to his unlikeable android persona.

But even if evangelicals today can't stomach voting for a Mormon, I'm not sure that will be true 20 years from now; just the fact that so many of them are backing a Catholic is proof of how those attitudes change. I don't think many secular people, who tend to lump the religious together, really understand how hostility to Catholicism defined many strains of evangelical Protestant Christianity up until fairly recently.

@jfruh : This is a really good point.

deepomega (#1,720)

@jfruh A friend in college was Catholic, with an Evangelical roommate, who asked her whether she celebrated Christmas, and refused to call her a "Christian."

Abe Sauer (#148)

Hence, the Santorum hybrid. A Catholic death penalty supporter.

Bittersweet (#765)

@deepomega: A college friend grew up Southern Baptist and left the church because her home church was so involved in converting the "heathen"…Lutheran and Catholic folks in the Midwest and New England.

Great stuff. Good its posted now,though, 'cuz I think that within 7 hours Rick S. will be well on his way to the footnote he should be, and "Santorum" will once again be a decidedly unproper noun. I mean, if a funny, smart, Protestant like Huckabee couldn't get close to the nomination, I don't think a dull, dullard, Catholic like Rick will. The NYT underestimates the anti-Catholic feeling of the southern Baptists; one of my exes from Tipton, GA was raised so evangelical her people didn't consider Catholics Christian at all…

@Gen. Smedley T. Butler : The NYT underestimates the anti-Catholic feeling of the southern Baptists …

I get the sense that basically all mainstream political commentary falls into this trap. It seems like the general narrative can only allow for one slot labeled "will the evangelicals back a (insert religion here) candidate?" and it's already occupied by Romney.

When I read the political coverage from the big media outlets, there's sort of an unspoken assumption that Mormonism can arguably be characterized as a fringe-y cult, while Catholicism is a "standard religion." What's being overlooked, as you correctly point out, is that Catholicism is just as radioactive as Mormonism for a significant faction of evangelicals.

@Gef the Talking Mongoose I agree, and I have even some sympathy for the poor, purity-hunting evangelicals (okay, not much, just some…), as it seems so odd that there's not one non-crazy non-Mormon in the bunch. Maybe Gingrich…but you're in trouble if he's your sane guy. But then, I also enjoy referring to myself (a mostly lapsed Catholic) as part of "a particularly prolific formerly Jewish sect"…

And as Cherrispryte pointed out above, us Catholics maybe ought not throw stones at glass Mormon houses, either…

libmas (#231)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose I don't think Baptists identify as Evangelicals. And I don't think Evangelicals have nearly the hostile reaction to Catholics that Baptists do. I covered churches for four years here in San Diego, and regularly heard Evangelicals reference Catholics in a positive light – Catholic saints, Catholic theologians, even Catholic practices. And it seems to me that Evangelicals are a far more potent political force than Baptists.

@libmas : You're correct, of course, and I'm mistakenly conflating Baptists with Evangelicals. I blame the liberal media and its filthy secular ways.

Seriously though, with your background, maybe you can shed a bit more light on the general question : for the current Republican base, does being a Catholic hurt a candidate as much as being a Mormon? If not, is the effect significant?

Bittersweet (#765)

@Gen. Smedley T. Butler: Isn't Gingrich now Catholic too?

libmas (#231)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose Well, I covered worship services more than anything else, so I'm not an authority. But I do know that the intellectual heavy hitters on both sides of the Evangelical-Catholic divide have been working to build bridges from some time, largely for the sake of doing battle against the secularization of American life. (See Evangelicals and Catholics Together by Neuhaus and Colson.) I don't think being Catholic is nearly as difficult as being Mormon in terms of the political base, if only because Catholics have been more thoroughly assimilated into mainstream American life. There's lots of them, they've been around for a long time, they already have a significant political presence (look at all those Supreme Court Justices!), they've made recognizable contributions to American culture (Catholic Bing Crosby played an upright priest in huge Hollywood hits back before Hollywood became a filthy secular etc.), they're on the Republican side in several (though not all) major culture war fronts… Possibly notable: after the Catholics leaked the working script of The Passion to the ADL, Catholic Mel Gibson (granted, a particular strain of Catholic, but still) took his movie to the Evangelicals. A movie full that made much of Mary (Catholic), that played fast and loose with Scripture (the devil in the Garden!), etc. They embraced him with open arms, and made the film a monster hit. Catholics and Evangelicals share a common holy book, even though they disagree over its interpretation. Mormons add a whole new text, one that does not easily mesh with various parts of Scripture. They exist as more of a subculture than Catholics. Or so it seems to me.

libmas (#231)

@Bittersweet Yes.

roboloki (#1,724)

i can only speak from my experiences. i live in the buckle of the bible belt and most of my family and neighbors are southern baptists. as such they consider themselves fundamentalists and evangelicals. in regard to mr. b's comments, these people read genesis (and every other book of the bible, as long as it's the king james version) as though it were the literal word of god. to even contemplate any part of the bible in a historical, political or socio-economic framework is heretical.

@Bittersweet Oh, right, I'd forgotten that. Although with all those divorces, I'd be curious as to whether he went through the Kabuki dance of having them all officially anulled, and if he didn't he ain't a "real" Catholic…

jfruh (#713)

@Gen. Smedley T. Butler I think that they don't count because they weren't Catholic weddings? Don't quote me on that, though.

Also, a friend of mine, who was never Catholic, but who married and then divorced a Catholic woman in a Catholic ceremony, got some paperwork from her diocese he had to sign in which he agreed that "one of the parties to this marriage did not truthfully view it as a sacrament in line with the teachings of the church" or words to that effect, and then the annulment was done. I was sort of scandalized by how simple it was, though the fact that his ex-father-in-law is a deacon in the church may have something to do with it.

libmas (#231)

@jfruh Lord knows there have been some scandalous annulments granted by the Church. But this maybe isn't one of them. Marriage is permanent, in the Catholic view, because it is a sacrament, that is, a visible sign of God's grace, as indicated by St. Paul's claim that the union of husband and wife is a sign of the union of Christ and His Church. And because Christ and his Church cannot be separated, therefore, sacramental marriages cannot be separated. In an annulment, the claim is made that said sacramental marriage never existed – and yes, a poor understanding of what is meant by "sacramental marriage" would be one way that for such a marriage to not take place. Because the sacrament is made by the will of the spouses. If the will is not properly informed… Sorry to ramble. As for the whole Catholic weddings question, the Church generally views all Christian marriages as binding in this way, because they all share that understanding of St. Paul on the union of Christ and His Church.

jfruh (#713)

@libmas No need to apologize, it is definitely of interest to me! The heir to the Spanish throne recently married a divorced woman, with church pomp and a robed archbishop presiding, but I think she was married by a judge, so I guess that didn't count?

The whole question of what aspects of other Christian churches the Catholics recognize is also interesting to me. My divorced friend has never been religious, but was baptised at birth (his grandfather was a Presbyterian minister), and I think that was somehow relevant to what sort of wedding service he and his wife could have, though I now forget the details. The Catholics have recognized most other Christian baptisms as a valid ever since the Donatist controversy in the 4th century! Speaking of which, and to be on topic, I wonder if they'd consider a Mormon wedding to be a Christian one…

libmas (#231)

@jfruh That's a fine question. Mormons, to the best of my knowledge, have a differently Christology – regarding Christ as the first creature as opposed to the co-eternal Word. Hence the popular debate about whether Mormons are really Christians. I do think the Church would recognize any Christian baptism.

SeanP (#4,058)

@libmas I don't believe Mormons have the usual understanding of the Trinity as a whole, either. Don't they view the three "persons" as fully separate beings who form some sort of council, rather than as aspects of a single God? Not my field of expertise, so I could be talking out my ass here… but I do find comparative religion to be interesting.

Bittersweet (#765)

@jfruh: Catholics may recognize other Christian baptisms as valid, but as an Episcopalian I've still yet to go to Catholid mass and (technically) be allowed to take communion.

And is Santorum really the first Cathovangelical? What about good old fascist Father Coughlin……..

cherrispryte (#444)

@Gen. Smedley T. Butler What about, you know, the Spanish Inquisition?

@cherrispryte Well, no expects it, is the thing…..

Santorum reeks of Pennsyltucky

Bryan Keller (#3,804)

So lots of people take home miscarriages? Sorry, I have just never heard of such a thing. And if you haven't heard of it, it sounds very, very weird.

DMcK (#5,027)

@Bryan Keller I've heard of it, and while I do share your gut reaction that it's damn weird, I also feel the same way about open-casket funerals. Further to Abe's point, I think grieving people should be left alone to deal with their loss in their own particular way. There are as many different cultural interpretations as to how to deal with death out there as there are regarding, say, marriage, and making fun of them is a slippery slope.

Bittersweet (#765)

@Bryan Keller: There is a big difference, also, between a miscarriage and a premature birth. I've known two friends who lost babies at 8-9 months along and named them, spent time with them after death, and buried them. Neither was particularly religious, or incredibly socially conservative. DMcK is right – let's suspend judgment on this issue. There's plenty of it coming from elsewhere already.

SeanP (#4,058)

@DMcK I agree: people need to be able to deal with the death of their loved ones in whatever way makes it easier for them, weird or not. But actually publicizing this ritual to exploit it for political gain? Totally gross.

Bunburying (#81,872)

The expression is "chAmping at the bit," no?


@Bunburying – 'Tis. Miss Prism would be proud.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

Team Pope would be a good ironic name for an atheist punk band.

Gale Routh@facebook (#203,808)

this is the law:

no human has a right to life or any due process rights by the 14th amendment to use another human's body or body parts AGAINST their will, civil and constitutional rights: that's why you are not force to donate your kidney—the human fetus is no exception; this is protected by the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment which makes reproductive slavery unconstitutional.

consensual s*x =/= a legal, binding contract for an unwanted fetus to live and you can't force a woman to keeping her unwanted pregnancy against her will and legal rights, because that is reproductive slavery—which is unconstitutional by the 13th and 14th amendment.

Gale Routh@facebook (#203,808)

this is science:
fetus (NOT A BABY, THEY ARE BORN…GOOGLE THE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT CHART) is a parasite because the classification of the biological relationship that is based on the behavior of one organism (the fetus) and how it relates to the woman's body:

as a zygote, it invaded the woman's uterus using its Trophoblast cells and hijacked her immune system by using Neurokinin B and using HCG—-so her body won't KILL it, and stole her nutrients to survive and causes her harm or potential DEATH!

wikipedia org/wiki/Trophoblast
wikipedia org/wiki/Immune_tolerance_in_pregnancy
wikipedia org/wiki/Human_chorionic_gonadotropin

"it is also possible for a symbiotic relationship to exist between two organisms of the same species."
answers com/topic/symbiosis —–Gale's Science of Everyday Things:

"an animal or plant that lives in or on another (the host) from which it obtains nourishment. The host does not benefit from the association and is often harmed by it"
thefreedictionary com/parasite

pregnancy causes women harm: thelizlibrary org/liz/004

if a man can kill his tapeworm at anytime, so should a woman abort her unwanted human parasitic fetus at anytime, too.

so i will kill any unwanted, parasitic life-form that needs my body to live—including your precious fetus; not your body carrying the unwanted fetus, not your problem nor your concern…period, get over it.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@Gale Routh@facebook While I agree about women needing the right to get rid of an entity taking that kind of toll on their bodies, I don't think scientists would generally agree in calling fetuses "parasites". Doesn't "parasite" refer to an ecological niche occupied by a distinct species? For example, this book on parasites says "a parasite lives on, or in, another species".

Gale Routh@facebook (#203,808)

the bible supported abortion, that was done by a priest, in god's name, in his holly temple!
the 1984 niv footnote of numbers 5:11-31 explained what "to thy thigh to rot, thy belly to swell" meant:
Numbers 5:21 Or causes you to have a miscarrying womb and barrenness” to CAUSE a miscarrying womb IS an abortion.

the judeo-christian god is a myth and historical evidence proves it.
3.3.3 Atheism: A History of God (Part 1)

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@Gale Routh@facebook Yes, and there's also a passage from Exodus where the penalty for striking a pregnant woman and causing a spontaneous miscarriage is just a monetary fine, while if the woman is killed the penalty is death. See the second paragraph here.

Wow. Sauer. Great job.

One quibble: there have been twice as many Quaker presidents as Catholic, Nixon and Hoover.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I'll be damned. changing.

jfruh (#713)

@Abe Sauer Nixon may have been a quaker, but surely the man who dropped more bombs on Cambodia than were dropped on Europe in all of World War II deserves some kind of "worst Quaker ever" award.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@jfruh He certainly wasn't a good Quaker. And while I'm sure it's in some biography I've never read, I wonder when Norman Morrison, a Quaker, set himself ablaze on the Pentagon lawn if that wasn't a turning point in Dick's opinion of his career.

@jfruh They're a surprisingly diverse group but, yeah, he was probably the worst.


Cord_Jefferson (#2,111)

"Most politicians, even pro-life ones, like to speak about abortion as little as possible."

NYT Mag, May 2011: "Ever since Republicans took control of half the country’s statehouses this year, the anti-abortion movement has won one victory after another. At least 64 new anti-abortion laws have passed, with more than 30 of them in April alone." (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/magazine/the-reincarnation-of-pro-life.html)

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well, sure. But what I noted was that most politicians don't like speaking about abortion, not that they didn't like legislating about it. How many mentions of abortion have there been on the GOP stump so far? Hell, the debates have seen more action on contraception than abortion. Outside Santorum, they don't even like to say the word, preferring instead to pepper their stumps with terms like "sanctity of life" or "activist judges" and whatnot. While they may be loud, and attract a ton of attention from liberals (and especially the media) GOP candidiates with abortion obsessions like Santorum's are the Party's minority. Campaign tacticians will usually use it as a negative against another candidate (like this brutal thing now playing against Romney in SC: http://youtu.be/Hwh82GtVGh4).

And even when candidates do "speak about" abortion, the vast majority don't get past simply saying the word "abortion." Santorum on the other hand will talk about the practice in detail, right down to repeated graphic mentions of "fetal base of the skull" etc. Again, this isn't to say pols don't want to pass very pro-life legislation, but that it's such a contentious issue with almost zero "undecided" voters, why bother? Anyway, most candidates on either side know they have single-issue abortion voters locked down, so, why rock the boat? This last cycle, the de-funding of Planned Parenthood

Take Wisconsin for instance, where anti-abortion activists have been chipping away at the practice for years and years. Recently, Rep. Andre Jacque introduced the Personhood amendment. Jacque is a member of WI Right to Life. But I know for a fact the majority of the GOP controlled legislature is wincing about having to take this thing up, because they are more interested in passing along the economic benefits to their benefactors yet at the same time do not want to upset pro-life hardliners. In Sept., even after defunding planned parenthood in the state, Wisc Assembly Speaker Fitzgerald said he did not ant "to see anything too contentious brought to the floor. … We're not going to lead with a bunch of social issues or anything."

An excellent essay on how pro-life activists have only really recently made such a huge surge and impact, especially with Millennials, carrying in unbelievable candidates like Bachmann, is the Nov. Weekly Standard's "Hidden Persuaders." It notes the "Fetal pain" phenomenon, a term you'll only hear from Santorum on the 2012 trail. Highly recommended.

Mayse (#225,022)

every people has different belief it's either catholic beliefs or an Islam belief.

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