Lefty Catholic at “Faith in Public Life” Fires First Salvos at Santorum, And Misses

Back in June I wrote The Catholic Case for Rick Santorum.

Now that Santorum has registered a strong tied-for-first finish in Iowa and is the talk of the chattering classes, far-left Catholics have woken up and swooped in for the attack.

The most notable example of this attempted theological assassination is by John Gehring of Faith in Public Life, who previously worked for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a lefty Catholic group. His article, “The Catholic Case Against Rick Santorum” is helpfully cross-posted at the ultra-lefty blog DailyKos and described by the National Catholic Reporter (that north star of orthodoxy) as a “very useful analysis.” Oh really? Let’s take a look.

… it’s a political delusion to think Rick Santorum is a standard-bearer of authentic Catholic values in politics. In fact, on several issues central to Catholic social teaching – torture, war, immigration, climate change, the widening gap between rich and poor and workers’ rights – Santorum is radically out of step with his faith’s teachings as articulated by Catholic bishops and several popes over the centuries.

Notice the bracketing going on: Gehring will only talk about Santorum’s record on the “social issues”, and among those, only the social issues lefty Catholics prioritize.

Gehring’s first charge is that Santorum is out of step with the U.S. Bishops when it comes to Immigration. On this issue I do think Santorum has room to grow, but let’s pause for a moment and contrast Santorum’s proposals with the achievements of the current administration on the issue. That’s right — zero. Democrats haven’t done a darn thing to fix the immigration issue, after three years. Ghering attempts to find fault with Santorum for saying that the current immigration laws ought to be enforced, something the Obama administration has a spotty record on. I don’t see the U.S. Bishops saying America ought to break it’s own immigration laws, I see them advocating that the laws need to be reformed. I don’t see where in that picture Santorum is saying something different. In fact, Republican proposals to address immigration piece by piece have been opposed by Democrats. Next topic.

On the issues of poverty, inequality and financial reform, the stretch is even wider. Ghering’s biggest whopper is to claim that Santorum is “completely unfamiliar” with the concept of the “preferential option for the poor.” It’s ironic when lefty Catholics suddenly become Catechism teachers and bemoan that someone doesn’t understand the totality of Catholic teaching, while naively continuing in their own ignorance. And in fact, the claim about Santorum’s “ignorance” is based on a leading, ambush-style interview they sprang on him. Proof of Santorum’s theological incompetence? Hardly. Proof of Faith in Public Life’s agenda? Yep.

On Workers’ Rights, Ghering’s chief critique is that Santorum has said public employees should not be able to unionize to negotiate preferential wages and benefits. This is a complex topic which I don’t expect Ghering to present objectively. I think there’s a good argument that allowing government workers to unionize undermines their responsibility to be servants of the common good. And I’m sure Ghering understands all the ins and outs of that core social teaching. He seems to care very much that we understand all of Catholic social teaching, after all.

On Climate Change and the Environment, Santorum apparently wants young babies to be poisoned with mercury, reading Ghering’s selections. I wish this was what the environmental movement was all about (preventing such things), but it’s not. Currently it’s about using the EPA to impose industry-killing regulations on some of America’s core manufacturing sectors, a problem that Santorum is very sensitive to. Santorum’s proposals to boost manufacturing and lower the regulatory and tax burden on these industries is anethema to Ghering, but I’m happy if Ghering continues to spend time criticizing Santorum for wanting to help companies overcome burdensome regulations in order to create jobs and increase prosperity. I’m all for that.

On Torture and War, Ghering really goes to town. Conspicuous again is how Ghering attacks Santorum with the same line of attack typically used against President Bush during his presidency but which the left has almost universally refused to use against President Obama, a glaring double-standard. Two things about Santorum’s views on pre-emptive war and the use of “torture” are clear: Santorum cares most for the safety of American citizens and interests. While Bush allowed enhanced interrogation to be used, Obama uses drones to assassinate terrorists overseas. And I have yet to hear a progressive Catholic explain how Iran getting a nuclear weapon increases the global cause of peace one iota, or how we are to prevent such an eventuality in some cases without the use of military force. There is more to be said but suffice it to say the problems Ghering raises with Santorum are problems that could equally be raised about Obama in many cases and remain a moral problem that deserves serious discussion, not political exploitation.

… and that’s it. What is actually most notable is what Gehring chooses to ignore about Santorum’s record. Namely, his strong pro-life, pro-family, pro-subsidiarity convictions and policy, etc. Ghering must know these critical topics are the elephant in the room, because he ends this way:

Catholic politicians across the spectrum will all find aspects of Church teaching that challenge their ideological agendas in discomforting ways. But for too long Catholics in public life have only been scrutinized when it comes to abortion and same-sex marriage. This does a disservice to voters, ignores the Catholic social justice tradition’s broad moral agenda and lets Catholic candidates like Rick Santorum off the hook even when they consistently disregard their faith’s teachings on key moral and political issues.

…. hooey. Ghering’s carefully-crafted pablum of relativism makes a mockery of the Church’s social teaching. Deconstructed it amounts to little more than: “Catholics ought to choose the candidate they want by selecting the moral and political issues they feel are most important. Have fun with that.” But this is not how the Church’s social and moral teaching operates. We owe a great debt to Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for representing the preeminence of certain “issues” over others, such as the right to life and the responsibility of law to reflect the natural goods of marriage and family, because all other social and political issues in fact flow from these central realities.

Frankly, it takes real guts to claim that focusing on the Church’s central social and moral teachings is a “diservice to voters.” Who of us honestly believes it is a diservice when laws protect the dignity of the unborn and the sanctity of marriage? Does Ghering? If so, I would suggest the problem he has isn’t with Santorum, it’s with the Church’s teaching.

Let’s go deeper still because the more I think and reflect about it the more I relish a Santorum candidacy precisely to gin up ridiculous attempts like this by lefty Catholics to tear him down. It’s amusing to watch Ghering and others tie themselves up in in logical knots trying to claim Santorum is a poor example of a Catholic politician.

Take, for instance, Gehring’s inexplicable refusal to acknowledge Rick Santorum’s strong whole life ethic, which values the dignity of the unborn along with the dignity of work, an essential linkage in Santorum’s politic vision which he touched on in his victory speech in Iowa last night. Santorum’s unifying of the social and economic issues on this front could well be a stake driven into the heart of the progressive Catholic movement which has always attempted to set the pro-life, pro-family agenda and the pro-union, solidarity agenda against each other, when they should really go hand-in-hand. If we want to talk about disservice, we should talk about the Catholic left’s agenda to set workers against one another, and mothers against their infants in the womb, to name just two examples.

Finally, how can someone honestly talk about the Catholic Case “Against” Rick Santorum without mentioning his valiant efforts to pass the federal ban on partial-birth abortion? If that piece of legislation doesn’t come from the heart of the Church’s social teaching than I just don’t know what does. Or what about Santorum’s efforts to achieve welfare reform? That doesn’t even get a footnote?

My suspicion is that far-left Catholics are surprised and disturbed by Santorum’s ascendency. They fear, even if they don’t realize why yet, a match-up between Santorum and Obama. Can we imagine, for instance, Doug Kmiec making the “catholic case for Obama” against Catholic candidate Santorum? Such a match-up would force lefty Catholics to drop their pretense and force them to argue the paradoxical conclusion of their faulty logic which holds that politicians who most undermine the Church and her teaching must actually, somehow, be the ones who most respect and follow her teaching. Santorum makes that disingenuous effort look like the concocted sham it has always been.

If this is all the Catholic Far-Left has to throw against Santorum, I’ll repeat the first words he delivered in Iowa last night: “Game on!”

UPDATE: Faith in Public Life’s twitter account (@BoldFaithType) apparently blocked me a long time ago (I guess the truth hurts) so please copy and paste this status of mine so they’ll be forced to see my response! With your help we can hopefully coax them out of their shell:

UPDATE 2: Activism in pursuit of open dialogue pays off! Witness:

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70 thoughts on “Lefty Catholic at “Faith in Public Life” Fires First Salvos at Santorum, And Misses

  1. Hank says:

    We don’t know if Santorum will or can do any more for life than Bush than take several hundred thousand more for reasons just as specious.

  2. Christi says:

    uh oh…. I never thought about what the left leaning Catholics would have to do if there was an Obama/Santorum match up…… Scary. It would shake the Church to it’s core, whatever the outcome of the election. I hope to God Santorum makes it, but is any one else a little scared?

  3. DonS. says:

    Did you notice that while worshippers of Ayn Rand like Ron Paul and Ann Coulter hate Santorum for the same reasons that Ayn Rand hated William F. Buckley Jr., the religious left continues to ignore the caution that Cardinal Ratzinger sent to the US bishops before the 2004 US elections, stating that Catholics have the right to disagree on how to aapply the general principles of the Church’s social teaching, and continue to insist that the Church requires that Catholics support the entire liberal wish-list?
    That shows you who the real conservative, and who the real Catholic, is in this race.

  4. Cathy says:

    Legislation about marriage and abortion is mostly devolved to the states. I’m as pro-life as they come, but I can’t possibly support Santorum. His stands on pre-emptive war, torture and immigration are precisely in areas where the President is crucial, and in some instances, like war, the ‘decider.’ (I realize that Congress is supposed to declare war, but how many wars ago was the last time they did so?)

    I’m not saying Obama is my ideal. In fact, both the contraception mandate (which could threaten my own health coverage, besides being immoral) and indefinite detention (signed by a professor of Constitutional law; I still can’t quite get that) have put paid to any temptations I had to lean toward him.

    I know that a faithful Catholic has to both vote, and to decide among choices that don’t square with Catholic teaching. Which leads me to believe that I’ll write in my Presidential choice in November. But Santorum? Nuh uh.

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