Political Animal


March 04, 2012 3:28 PM Rick Santorum’s Old-Time Religion

By Adele Stan

Rick Santorum, a proudly letter-of-the-canon-law kind of Catholic, was once a good bit more relaxed in the practice of his natal faith, according to a profile of the Republican presidential hopeful’s religious journey that appears in today’s New York Times.

Reporters Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Laurie Goodstein attribute the hardening of Santorum’s religious beliefs to his relationship with his father-in-law, Dr. Kenneth L. Garver, a physician and father of 11. Garver’s daughter, Karen, who went on to marry Santorum, apparently went through something of a rebellious period: as a young woman, she was romantically involved with a doctor who performed abortions who was many years her senior. But when she married the man who would go on to become a congressman and then a U.S. senator, her rebellious days came to a close.

From Stolberg and Goodstein’s article:

The Santorums’ beliefs are reflected in a succession of lifestyle decisions, including eschewing birth control, home schooling their younger children and sending the older boys to a private academy affiliated with Opus Dei, an influential Catholic movement that emphasizes spiritual holiness.

That description of Opus Dei kind of snapped my head back for a minute. Opus Dei is essentially a secret society of laypeople whose members generally hail from among society’s higher ranks, affording the organization a degree of temporal power not typical of your everyday prayer circle. Stark distinctions are made regarding the roles played by the sexes.

There are various strata of membership in Opus Dei. For instance, married people, known as supernumeraries, play a different role from the single people, called numeraries, who live in Opus Dei housing. Here’s a bit from an article about Opus Dei that appeared in the Jesuit magazine, America, in 1995:

According to two former numeraries, women numeraries are required to clean the men’s centers and cook for them. When the women arrive to clean, they explained, the men vacate so as not to come in contact with the women. I asked [Opus Dei spokesperson] Bill Schmitt if women had a problem with this. “No. Not at all.” It is a paid work of the “family” of Opus Dei and is seen as an apostolate. The women more often than not hire others to do the cooking and cleaning. “They like doing it. It’s not forced on them. It’s one thing that’s open to them if they want to do it. They don’t have to do it.”
“That’s totally wrong,” said Ann Schweninger when she heard that last statement. “I had no choice. When in Opus Dei you’re asked, you’re being told.” According to Ms. Schweninger [a former Opus Dei member], it is “bad spirit” to refuse. Women are told that it is important to have a love for things of the home and domestic duties. “And since that’s part of the spirit of Opus Dei, to refuse to do that when you’re asked is bad spirit. So nobody refuses.”

In other words, no home ec classes for the Santorum boys.

The Santorums, of course, are entitled to practice their religion as they see fit — an entitlement, if you will, that is one of those things that truly does make America great. The problem is, Rick Santorum thinks you should live by his religious beliefs, too. In a chilling Washington Post Outlook piece, Sarah Posner imagines what Santorum’s America would look like.


  • ceilidth on March 04, 2012 4:56 PM:

    What a group of creeps. And how sad Karen Santorum must be given her life: daughter of chauvinist, girlfriend of a man 40 years older and an abortion doctor to boot as rebellion, and then settling for a truly creepy sex obsessed husband in the form of Rick Santorum. What you didn't mention: that she carried a damaged fetus to term all the time knowing that it had no chance of living.

  • Kathryn on March 04, 2012 5:00 PM:

    According to an article in Newsweek about six weeks ago, Karen Garver Santorum lived with the older doctor (30 years her senior) for multiple years, something like 5 or 6 years, traveled extensively with him until they split amicably because she wanted children.

    Don't know what this means or doesn't mean, but the facts are unique. She certainly had a world class rebellion period.

  • DCSusie on March 04, 2012 5:04 PM:

    Ah yes, no preachers like the converted! Mrs. Santorum not only used to believe abortion was ok, she even was in a relationship withan abortion doctor. I have to wonder if at some point she availed herself of his services, and her 'conversion' was a result of feelings of guilt. Whatever the reason, now that she and Little
    Ricky have 'seen the light', they want the rest of us to know that we are doomed to burn for Eternity if we don't agree with them, and therefore they want to have the government come in and save us from that fate.

    I hope that Santorum's campaign efforts put him in good enough standing with the institutions of the Republican establishment that he can procure positions for all of his progeny. I can't imagine that they would be suited for any real jobs after a dozen years of home schooling with this pair.

  • DRF on March 04, 2012 5:08 PM:

    To me, the most disconcerting part of the article is the reference to the "teaching authority" of the Pope and bishops.

    I have no problem with a public official whose views on policy issues are affected by his faith, but Santorum's adherence to traditional Catholicism does raise questions as to whether his opinions subject to the direction of the Catholic church hierarchy. Kennedy made it clear that he would not be led by the Pope; would Santorum give the same assurance?

    Aside from this concern, the inherent problem with politicians who are guided by their faith is that they might recognize only one point of view--their own. It's my sense that Santorum suffers from this fault; he doesn't see that this is a pluralistic society, with millions of people who don't agree with him that pre-marital sex and contraception are bad, that abortion is evil, who are perfectly content with the prevailing culture. A President who is as free from self-doubt as Santorum appears to be is a dangerous thing.

  • DAY on March 04, 2012 5:28 PM:

    Not all skeletons are safely tucked beneath the turf.
    The more we know, the less we like- all of the Republican candidates.

  • Texas Aggie on March 04, 2012 7:42 PM:

    Santorum will not be president because this kind of stuff just resonates wrong with the American public in general.

    I live in a culture where Opus Dei, the Marists, the Legionaires of Christ and similar groups have a lot of power both political and social. It is not where you want to raise kids. These are not the people you want to have their hands on any part of the political mechanisms because they have no regard for people. Their whole, complete focus is on their twisted, misogynist, authoritarian doctrine and to blazes with people who get in the way.

    A fanatic is one who puts complete importance on his/her dogma and none on human welfare, a person who would say, "Sure, it works well in practice, but does it work in theory?" The type of fanatic you are dealing with depends on the particular dogma, religious, political, economic, etc.

  • PatriciaAZ on March 05, 2012 1:56 AM:

    The problem with Santorum and all of his ilk is their insistence upon imposing the rule of Catholicism throughout the land... framing it, of course, as "freedom of religion." Well, what about my religious freedom? I am not a Catholic. Why should I be forced to capitulate to Catholic teachings in order to be employed and receive insurance from a business that serves the general public but happens to have Catholic ties?

    Perhaps this is an underhanded way of avoiding employment laws banning discrimination. If you make working for a Catholic-affiliated organization distasteful and inconvenient enough, pretty soon you won't have to hire anyone but Catholics. H'mmm --- pretty smart, those old Bishops!

  • pj in jesusland on March 05, 2012 5:07 AM:

    "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

    -- Opus Dei Catholics will whack you over the head with this repeatedly until you give in, or else they accuse you of anti-Catholic discrimination. You never win with these people, there's no middle ground.

  • Steve P on March 05, 2012 8:02 AM:

    Clearly you are prejudiced against people of faith.
    You know, people like Fred Phelps.

    (Anyone noticing that Tim Dolan is taking on the role of American Pope? I guess Bernard Law is taking up long-term residence in Vatican City, at least until the statute of limitations on aiding and abetting is up. Yes, the Roman Catholic hierarchy has SO MUCH credibility in the pews these days.)

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  • Saving Grace on March 10, 2012 7:15 PM:

    OMG, he's a Catholic? I am constantly amazed how quickly people jump on the bandwagon on these hypothetical hit pieces. Let's be honest. Rick Santorum, if he becomes president, is not going to overturn RvW, okay? It just ain't gonna happen. Wanna know why? Because when W was president for 8 years, your biggest fear was he would overturn Roe v Wade, or at the very least, stip women of choice. even though W had a majority on congress, it never happened. So lets just stop pretending there is a secret society out there, scheming on how they are going to put women in hijabs.
    Practice common sense when you read these hit pieces that want you to believe religious people are ignorant of science and womens rights.

    I await your explosion.