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. Bob says:

    Thomas,

    Here is an article from a supposed-lefty Catholic blog labeling Obama a war-lord.

    http://vox-nova.com/2011/05/02/war-lords-theologies-of-violence-and-the-culture-of-death/

    Cheers.

  2. Peter Nyikos says:

    TEL, neither you nor the others who accuse Santorum of condoning torture seem to have noticed that Thomas Peters put the word in quotes. There is room for disagreement about what constitutes torture; and the following website makes me hesitate about applying the word to the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the Bush Administration.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/28/despite-reports-khalid-sheikh-mohammed-waterboarded-times/

    This site corrects several exaggerations that keep being repeated about these techniques.

  3. Mary says:

    As a Catholic, I’m always intrigued by the hypocritical positions of Catholic bishops and priests who demand open borders and amnesty, weeping copious crocodile tears over illegal alien ‘families’, while they sit in silence over the displacement of working poor and lower middle class US citizen families. Since the ’90s, when outsourcing after NAFTA sent untold millions of US citizens’ jobs to Mexico, making that country tremendously wealthy, and creating a large and thriving middle class, and many millionaires and billionaires, a tax base upon which Mexico could raise revenue to help it’s own poor. There is no excuse for illegals from south of the border to come here, and it’s caused massive suffering and displacement, skyrocketing tax rates to pay for welfare and other subsidies and services from what the Pew Hispanic Center admits is actually more than 40 million illegal aliens from Mexico. Why no bishop or priest shows any compassion for the devastation and real harm this has caused to US citzens? Why do they refuse to address the massive tragedy to the lives of innocent US citizens, who have been shoved down between the cracks, due to the callous, cold hearted disinterest and disconnect shown by these so called Catholic bishops and priests? Only one priest that I’ve been aware of, Father Bascio, wrote a book, the Immorality of Illegal Immigration. He saw the devastation done to the people and the neighborhood of his former parish when thousands of illegal aliens descended and began committing ethic genocide against the Americans, black and white. Underbidding for jobs, demanding funding for programs be redirected to them. Yet Father Bascio’s moral cognizance of the issue, was ignored by the church hierarchy. You can’t claim to care about families, when you cold heartedly allow some families to be thrown out on the street, displaced by an illegal alien family. A woman I know, whose son came home from school, and told her about his friend becoming homeless because his father, who’d lost his job, when his boss fired him and replaced him with an illegal alien, and couldn’t find another job. He remembered the parish priest going on and on about how it’s wrong to expect immigration laws be enforced.. her son never heard the priest talk about what happens to citizens whose families are displaced by illegals, and to his young mind, he felt that this meant that the priest didn’t really believe in Christ’s teachings, because how could someone who truly believed in those teachings, ignore them, treat them as having no meaning? It makes sense really. The bishops of the USCCB show no Christian compassion or charity for poor US citizens, they turn their backs, refuse to discuss what has happened to them as a result of the bishops advocacy for amnesty. The bishops encourage illegal aliens to steal, and to feel they are entitled to do what ever they wish. Illegals kill US citizens with impunity, they excuse everything they and other illegals do. They snear at US citizens who speak out on behalf of their rights to their jobs. Catholic bishops and priests very indifference to the harm caused by illegals and their actions are inculcating illegal aliens with a sense of entitlement to sin, to cheat, steal and even kill, because they aren’t being held to the same standard a Catholic is supposed to. These bishops and priests are a shame and disgrace to the faith, and to Christ.

  4. Peter Nyikos says:

    Santorum knows about the preferential option for the poor, but he also knows that the poor of the USA are much better off, on the whole, than the poor of much of this world. It amazes me that no one involved in this particular debate — starting with John Gehrig and including Thomas Peters — so far has mentioned the humanitarian aid to Africa that Santorum has championed in the past:
    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/rick-santorum-foreign-policy-combative-hawk-according-bono-132121994.html

  5. Sean Seamus says:

    My Dear Friends,

    Reading the foregoing “blog comments” surely was TORTURE. Mr. Santorum is a decent man, a good Catholic and would make a fine president.

    I had forgotten about the psuedo-R.C. (D. KMiec) who spent many hours twisting himself into a pretzel four years ago so he could “endorse” the ULTIMATE Aborto Guy, B.H.O, for el presidente!!!

    Remember what Jesus said: The poor you have always with you. Let me add: the aborted never had a chance to be rich or poor!!!!

    Let us stop the lefty-hot-air campaign.

  6. Lisa says:

    It seems to me that all these comments by serious and faithful Catholics boils down to a matter of priority. Which is more important: the life of an innocent and helpless baby in the womb or the life of innocent civilians who may or may not be directly involved in terrorist activities? Is one more intrinsically evil than the other? Do we need to choose? Unfortunately, this may very well what we might have to do: to use our prudential judgment, following the teachings of the Church and our own conscience. I, for one, see all these issues as threats to our future and health as a nation. However, while wars and economic challenges are definite threats to our well-being as a nation, I tend to view abortion and homosexual marriage as more damaging since this destroys our nation from the inside, like a fast moving cancer, destroying the very basis of society. War, the environment, and the economy are external threats which we will not be able to effectively address, much less fight, unless we ourselves start out healthy. Let’s get to the core of our beliefs first, study it and pray about it, then we will be able to navigate our way out of the cloud of confusion that the Enemy is sowing right now in the hearts of every faithful Catholic who seek to do the right thing. God, life, family…these should take first priority.

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