Rick Santorum : The Catholic Candidate?

Yesterday, CatholicVote announced its endorsement of Rick Santorum. His recent tie for first in Iowa has given him the appearance of electability, and he is popular among conservative Catholics. Thomas Peters calls him the “quite the Catholic candidate” and wrote a post entitled “Rick Santorum: Catholic Hero.” The man is a walking Catechism on abortion and supports the Church’s position on the defense of marriage wholeheartedly. However, two of Rick Santorum’s positions are decidedly un-Catholic, and gravely so.

Rick Santorum supports torture. He calls it “enhanced interrogation” – but it doesn’t make it “not torture.” There is no question that these techniques fit the dictionary definition of torture. Both Gaudium et Spes and Veritatis Splendor affirm that torture – whether physical or mental – is an intrinsically evil act, listed with abortion, homicide, and human trafficking. It may be argued that the Vatican definition of torture allows the possibility of an exception for information extraction. However, the documents refer to torture as evil per se, evil in its very object and by its very nature – an act no extenuating circumstances may justify.

While perhaps of a less theologically grave nature, Senator Santorum’s rejection of Just War Theory in favor of pre-emptive wars and first strikes has more immediate potential to kill people. He supported the pre-emptive 2003 invasion of Iraq, and has pledged airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities if Iran refuses to allow inspections of those facilities. Additionally, he stated that he would not negotiate with Iran, and that scientists working on Iran’s nuclear program would be treated as enemy combatants. Eschewing diplomatic approaches guarantees that “last resort” cannot be satisfied, and the requirement of “distinction” in conduct of a just war is likely violated by targeting civilian scientists as if they were soldiers.

I think these rather glaring flaws should exclude Rick Santorum from Catholic endorsement – we can’t expect saints, but we can expect a certain level of assent to Catholic teaching. There are other candidates to look at – and it’s totally OK for CatholicVote to decide to endorse a Baptist or a Mormon if his views are more in line with Catholic teaching than Rick Santorum’s views. And, at the end of the day, if no candidate fits some bare minimum of Catholic morality, no candidate should get the Catholic vote.

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