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21

Rick Santorum, the Unborn Deserve Better from You

In case you missed Meet the Press Sunday morning:

Blah, blah, blah, job growth… unemployment numbers.  Blah, blah, blah, recession… debt reduction. Blah, blah, blah recovery… tax credits.  Blah, blah, blah health care… social security. Blah, blah, blah, Democrats… Republicans. Blah.

And so it went up to the interview with Rick Santorum and through the first 12 minutes and 41 seconds of his appearance, when David Gregory finally got around to asking about something vital, critical, pivotal – the number one make or break issue for any candidate, the single most important issue facing our country, an issue important in the way that the consignment of Jews to gas chambers was important to Nazi Germany.

Gregory: One more question on abortion, an issue you care deeply about. I, I want to be clear on this. Do you believe that there should be any legal exceptions for rape or incest when it comes to abortion?

There’s the pitch.  Santorum could have hit it right out of the park.  And there wasn’t any reason not to.  The format was going to actually allow him time to answer (I mean, how often does that happen?) so he wasn’t under the pressure of having to give a 5-second response.  He was not under any obligation to stay within the frame Gregory put on the issue and I’m sorry, but at this point in his career, with his experience, there is simply no excuse for him falling into liberal rhetorical traps on national television.  The first trap was in Gregory’s insertion of “you believe” into the question.  It was like he programmed Rick Santorum, so that once Santorum started answering, he could not get away from saying “I believe,” even gratuitously adding at one point that he was just giving his “opinion.”

SantorumI believe that life begins at conception, and that that life should be cut–should be guaranteed under the Constitution.  That is a person, in my opinion.

GregorySo even in a case of rape or incest, that would be taking a life?

Santorum:  That would be taking a life, and, and I believe that, that any doctor who performs an abortion–that–I would advocate that any doctor that performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so.  I don’t–I’ve never supported criminalization of abortion for mothers, but I do for people who perform them.  I believe that life is sacred.  It’s one of those things in the Declaration of Independence.  We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, and the first is life.  And I believe that that life should be protected at the moment it is a human life.  And at conception it is biologically human, and it’s alive.  It’s a human life, it should be a person under the Constitution.

Let’s avert our eyes from this embarrassing performance a moment to discuss why “I believe” is falling into a trap:

1. Your personal beliefs, if that is all they are, are not the stuff upon which to ask other men to depend.  They are not the stuff upon which to base law, or leadership, or morality, because asserting a belief does not provide a basis for it, does not indicate why you believe it or why anyone else should.

2. Your personal beliefs, in so far as that is what they are, are no more valid than the personal beliefs of anyone else.  There is no warrant to ask others to conform their own beliefs or actions to them.  Listeners will merely shrug and think, “So what.  Who cares what he believes?  He has no business trying to control my life with his beliefs.”

3. “You/I believe” is a kind of code that tells the Left-trained media-lapping public that what comes next is a religious statement.  The unspoken part of the phrase is “as a Catholic.”  The point is that every time Rick Santorum said, “I believe”, he might just a well have said, “As a Catholic, I believe….” It signals irrelevance, like holding up a sign telling everyone in the audience, “Ignore the sectarian ramblings to follow.”  And that of course is the Left’s intended effect.

The second trap Gregory set was in stating his question in such a way as to move the sympathy of the audience to the victim of the rape or incest and to negate the very real existence of an innocent third party – the unborn baby. Santorum should have made that unborn baby at least as real to his listeners as Gregory was making the victims of rape and incest by his question.

Santorum could have leaned forward; he could have looked animated; he could have spoken with a passion welling up from heartfelt recognition that lives depend upon the words I next utter and he could have said things like this:

David, we have thousands of citizens in this country who were conceived by rape or incest. They are valuable human beings who did not deserve to be punished for the crimes of their fathers.  Do you think we should be sending the message to them that they should not exist – that they are worthless garbage because of how they were conceived?

Or

David, in 1977, in the case of Coker v. Georgia, the Supreme Court decided it was cruel and unusual punishment to administer the death penalty for rape.  If it is cruel and unusual punishment to kill the perpetrator of the rape, how can it be anything other than cruel and a horrible injustice to take the life of the innocent baby conceived by rape or incest through no fault of its own?

Or

David, feminists have correctly pointed out for many years that rape is about more than just sex – it is about abuse of power. In rape, a man uses his superior physical strength – that he should be using to protect women – to violently overpower a woman.  We should not be sending a pregnant woman who has been raped the message that we expect her now to turn around and use her superior power over her unborn baby to take his or her  life instead of protecting and nurturing that baby. She and the baby are both victims of the rapist and we should love and seek healing for them both.

Or

David, nothing has empowered and sheltered those who commit rape and incest more than the practices of Planned Parenthood.  Girls who have been victims of incest need protection, not an abortion that covers up the evidence of the crime and returns them for more abuse. And it is simply a myth that what women who have been raped want is to take the life of their innocent babies.  What they want is healing and for justice to be done.  How is it just to take the life of an innocent baby for these terrible crimes? How does another act of violence heal anything?

You see if Rick Santorum would have passionately answered along these lines, he would have avoided the traps set for him by Gregory.  Moreover, he would have been properly speaking as a Catholic in the public square. Saying “I believe” is quite contrary to the way the Church tells us Catholics we ought to address ourselves to our fellow citizens, especially on life issues.  Instead of talking about what I/we believe, we should be talking about what we – meaning us and our neighbors, religious or otherwise — know.

We know that the unborn baby is a separate human person from the mother and the father. We know that the right to life is the first right, without which no other rights make any sense.  We know that one of the express purposes for the existence of our government is to protect that right. We know that law and might do not make right, but that law must be based on the truth of the dignity of the human person. We know that innocent children should not be punished for the crimes of their fathers. We know these things and we should state what we know clearly, without hesitancy, without shrinking back and looking vaguely discomforted by the topic. And so should Rick Santorum, already.

(© 2011 Mary Kochan)


Mary Kochan, former Senior Editor of CatholicExchange, is Editor-in-chief of CatholicLane.com.

Raised as a  third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Mary worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996.  Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs. To arrange for Mary to speak at your event, you may contact her at kochanmar@gmail.com.

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  • guitarmom

    Mary — Could you please run for president? Or — even better — become a speech writer for one of the viable pro-life candidates?

  • Mary Kochan

    I’d offer myself for hire except that honestly, I don’t think having the right speech writer is the problem with any of them. I think the deficiency is in conviction and courage, sad to say.

    • Izzy1759

      Regardless, I would hope that you make an effort to share with him the eloquent manner in which he could have responded. Your absolutely right that he should be prepared to answer in way that is confident, clear, and convincing. I loved the different responses you offered but eventhough I “believe” myself to be staunchly pro-life, I do not have the skill set to respond like you would have. Those words would not have come easily to me. Then again, I am not seeking the office of president!! nor am I in the public eye 24/7.

  • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    Count from the 8 years when Ronald Reagan was president all the way to now. How many years did we have a Republican President AND a Republican Congress majority? You do the math. How many SERIOUS attempts at erasing Roe v. Wade can you count. I count zero but may be there is one there somewhere.

    Wake up: when it comes to killing babies both parties are the same. The present situation gives them votes and they will do nothing to rock the boat.

    That includes Mr. Santorum a political has-been that is trying to get back on the gravy wagon using the Catholic vote, in my personal opinion.

    And while we are talking about this… Why not remember those who are clamoring for Bush III to run for president? Yes. The same guy that did not defend Terry Schiavo is going to stand for all of us, like his brother and father did… puh-leeze!

    That was a moment to scream “damn the torpedoes! full speed ahead!” But nothing happened.

    I wish this country had men in the political body. What we have now for the most part is something that I am not allowed to name in a family website.

  • guitarmom

    “…when it comes to killing babies both parties are the same.”

    I think that if you look at the Supreme Court justices nominated by each party, the difference between the parties becomes more apparent. Not perfect, but apparent. Think of Justice Antonin Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas vs. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Justice Elena Kagan.

    I freely admit that there have been less-than-pro-life Republican nominees, but the champions of life have not been Democrat nominees.

    Even with a Republican Congress and President, Roe v Wade could not be “erased.” The procedure for amending the Constitution is arduous, so it comes down to the makeup of the Supreme Court. Every single Democrat nominee to the Supreme Court has been a huge supporter of abortion rights. The party which holds the presidency DOES make a difference.

  • http://www.schefter.org PrairieHawk

    Catholic politicians seem to have two approaches to being Catholic in the public square: (1) they ignore the Church and do whatever they want, behaving like Protestants whose consciences have been destroyed by taking the Eucharist unworthily; or (2) they apologize for being Catholic.

    We all can think of politicians who fit into category 1, who like to display the ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday but wouldn’t lift a finger to save an unborn child if it was their own grandkid. Category 2 seems to be a rarer bird, because so few Catholics in general bother with orthodoxy at all.

    JFK in effect apologized for being Catholic when he stated that he would not let his religious beliefs influence his policy. Mr. Santorum seems to be doing the same. As soon as you reduce your moral conviction, solidly grounded on revelation and reason, to a mere “belief” you’ve placed it in competition with every other belief that’s out there, whether it has any solid grounding or not.

    Catholic beliefs are grounded in reason and the certitude of faith. For something like abortion, we can make an argument grounded solely in reason and the natural law so that people who don’t share our faith can understand it. Abortion is not a religious question; it is a question of justice, and there’s certainly nothing to apologize for.

  • Stacy Trasancos

    Mary,

    I understand what you are saying, but I stopped dead in my tracks when I realize that I say “I believe” every Sunday at Mass when I recite the Creed and I say it because it is the Truth, not a personal opinion.

    In his essay, “Grammar of Assent,” Blessed John Henry Newman explains how someone thinks about a belief. “He knows what has satisfied and satisfies himself; if it satisfies him, it is likely to satisfy others; if, as he believes and is sure, it is true, it will approve itself to others also, for there is but one truth.” Belief is not intelligence, scientific knowledge, doubt, opinion or conjecture. It is a simple natural state of mind, a primitive and certain fact.

    My only point is to caution about saying “mere belief” or suggesting that “I believe” means something irrelevant…but I get your point too about how the Left would take it. I don’t know, maybe we need to be more assertive in proclaiming our beliefs.

    Just my thoughts…

  • Mary Kochan

    Stacy, Sen Santorum was not in Church — which is kind of the point. Yes, you are right that is the language we use in Mass, because we are demonstrating our personal adherence to a set of truths. We believe in the Holy Trinity, for example, but we very expressly do NOT ask others in our political home to affirm that belief in the public square. However, there are things we know as part of the natural law and we say we “know” them and that all men know them, not as part of a creed.

    There is NO EXCUSE for a politician of his experience to have failed so miserably to communicate clearly when he had the chance to do so.

  • taad

    I trust Rick Santorum. He lives his faith in his own life by raising a large family. He’s not perfect, but then your not going to find a person to do this job that is. Give him a chance. We don’t have a dictatorship, so the president can only push so far before their is a backlash like the last election. A backlash can happen either way, not just liberal or conservative. My dad in WWII was a platoon sergeant in combat. He sould only push his men so far before they would rebel. Things sound good on paper, but in reality, you can only go so fast. Even the popes know they can only steer things so far snd so fast, or they would loose many people. So they go slow. Lets not eat our people looking for the perfect leader. He may the person your attacking.

  • Mary Kochan

    taad, The problem is that we get so excited about pro-life Catholic candidates, that we really don’t even consider their competence in delivering a pro-life message. We constantly settle for them as though that was the best we could do.

    It is going to take the entire ball of wax. It is going to take real conviction and passion for the unborn — which he may have, but certainly did not demonstrate yesterday. And it is going take an ability to put that message across in the national media. And it is going to take living it.

    We have to demand this from our candidates, and not just settle. Perhaps if he knows that we expect better, he will deliver better.

  • mrd

    This is criticism of Sen Santorum is very misguided at best. ( Actually it sounds nothing short of insane). First of all Santorum made the essential point that the unborn child is a human being, and he did not suggest that unborn children who are conceived via rape etc lose their right to life because of this. So on the essential point he is as pro-life as one can be. I think once we start to cannibalize those who are our allies we will certainly lose.

    I remain agnostic as to whether this or that particular rhetorical approach is better. It is not as simple as the people writing on this blog make out however. Politicians need to be careful that in answering a question they do not create a sound bite that can be taken out of context and used to bash them over and over. Frankly I think focusing the response away from Rape per se and on the overall humanity of the unborn child is a reasonable response. One may think that were you being interviewed you would give a better one. Fine, but I would be a bit more measured of my criticism of someone who is a friend. Frankly a President Santorum would be a major victory for the pro-life movement.

  • http://ImageTrinity.com Greg Schlueter

    Mary,

    I appreciate your raising this consideration, your analysis of Santorum’s response, and recommended better responses.

    My humble critique of your critique would be the weight you place upon his comments in a live (unscripted/spontaneous), public forum. There’s not one of us who have not had that “wish I would have said this” or “worded it this way” experience following similar conversations.

    To place this interview on the level of a public policy statement, to frame his entire, political stature/position (“The unborn deserve better…”) is unfair, and not conducive to the kind of support we need to give him because of his strong stance!

    On a technical point the only reply that was inaccurate was use of “belief” with regard to life beginning at conception (an empirical fact). His other uses of “belief” were accurate, i.e., not empirically quantifiable. And I could be wrong (open to correction), but I think the Catholic position of “personhood” is not empirically reducible, or it would be a matter of science, but, as it entails a good amount of philosophical / theological development, is in the realm of “Catholic belief.”

    In those regards (to Stacey’s point), within a theological arena, there’s no harm done in speaking factually about matters of belief. We believe our beliefs are true. Certainly, Santorum could have said, “Life is sacred.” (etc.) But we have to keep in mind the context. He doesn’t need to win us over. In the market place of ideas, eliminating “believe” would surely have come across as an affront to (classical) liberal thinking… raising concerns of a lack of respect for divergent views where things are not empirically demonstrable.

    Just my two cents.

  • Mary Kochan

    So Greg, you think that Rick Santorum’s poor performance on Sunday is excusable because he was caught off guard and was not prepared for the question, even though he is well-known as a pro-lifer and had just announced for president with the claim he is ready to lead…

    I just have nothing more to say.

  • Stacy Trasancos

    Mary, I really love the four answers you gave instead. They are powerful and convincing, but the language is still an appeal to a belief. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’m really struggling with the idea that saying “I believe” in public is weak.

    http://www.acceptingabundance.com/2011/06/whats-wrong-with-saying-i-believe-in.html

  • Mary Kochan

    Stacy, part of making an argument is understanding how the other side thinks, and when you have a mass audience being aware of the propaganda to which your audience has been subjected. I don’t have any problem with “I believe”, personally. But it was the wrong kind of statement for that venue. It was rhetorically lame.

    For those who already agree with Santorum about abortion, it was like saying “hey, I’m on your side.” Big whoop. We don’t need more ineffective people on our side. We need somebody who can go after the people who are not sure. Remember, every poll shows that Americans are ready to think about restricting abortion. They get wobbly on issues like rape and incenst, though. But we have to take that to the other side. Make them defend the preverse logic of killing a baby for the crime of its father. Put them on the defensive.

    And for Pete’s sake don’t be a wimp. Don’t shrink back and look uncomfortable when the subject of abortion comes up. Santorum should have leaned into the question — he should be eager to talk about it. Like I said, every time he opens his mouth about it, he has the chance to save a life. But he did not act like he believed that. You don’t HAVE to say “I believe” if you are animated and passionate in your delivery, everyone will get that you believe what you say.

  • http://ImageTrinity.com Greg Schlueter

    Mary, you’re categorically branding Santorum as a whimp because of this one engagement on abortion, without regard to the unquestioned, substantial history demonstrating the contrary (please Google “Santorum” and “abortion”). Sure, wouldn’t it be great if we had a leader who batted 1000 all the time, but that would leave us with nobody.

    His exclusion of “believe” in non-quantifiable matters is the prudent, rhetorical approach in a liberal marketplace of ideas, where there are divergent views… without which he would quite likely reinforce an (un-intellectual, fideist-driven) radical pro-life platform that does not respect (what Newman called) the “Grammar of Assent”; if you want to be theological, see this from the vantage of JPII’s personalist phenomenology… a deep respect for an individual subject’s engagement of the truth. Santorum is respecting that quintessentially human “playing field.”

  • taad

    We catholics need to be careful here. There are other candidates who are pro-life, but not in the Catholic sense. I do not trust Palin, and Bachman, nor most of the others. They have some weird fundamentalist ideas that could cause catholics much trouble.

    I believe, no pun intended, that until the contraceptive is placed back in “Pandora Box” so to speak, abortion, homesexual “marriage” and euthanasia will continue to push forward.

    The only way forward to do this heavy lifing, is for us who know better, work harder and smarter to educate catholics, and non=catholics, why contraception started all this mess. Things will not change until this connection is made.

    I believe contraception is what is destroying the world economy, families, children, women, human relationships, etc… The fruits of contraception have become self evident. We need to make this case with friends, relatives, parishioners, neighbors, and even our priests!

    I hope it’s not too late.

    • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

      Guitarmom is a better person than I am in giving our politicians the benefit of the doubt!

      But taad is right on target:

      I believe contraception is what is destroying the world economy, families, children, women, human relationships, etc… The fruits of contraception have become self evident.

      I am currently working on the script of a documentary on the effects of the pill. I thought I knew about the damage it causes but I was missing a lot. Now I am convinced that the pill is a weapon of mass destruction.

      Because I still have lingering connections with people in Washington, I can also tell you that most of our leaders, both on the Left and the Right, have no clue of what contraception and abortion are doing to all of us. Talk to them with any sense of urgency and they roll their eyes.

      A good friend explained it to me this way: “Imagine what would happen to your body if your cells would not reproduce steadily. It will happen one day. It is called death. Now imagine mankind as a body where every person is a cell.”

      Bingo. I admit the analogy was not perfect but it deliver the message in my case.

      Now let the ones who can hear listen: there is no issue more important than turning around the tide of destruction that the pill and abortion have unleashed on us on all fronts. The fact that most of our leaders are intellectual lightweights does not help. When I say leaders I am including the vast majority of our political and religious leaders. If they had a clue it would be very difficult for them to sleep. I know that I can sleep because I believe God will act to stop this. Yet we will all experience–in fact we are just beginning to experience–the painful consequences of the crime.

  • http://www.stanwilliams.com Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D

    I’m with Mary on this. the point of the interviews is to demonstrate ability to lead through the clear, unambiguous articulation of policy. A preacher needs always be ready to preach, pray, or die. A politician needs always to be ready to clearly state policy, persuade and decide. Here’s Bachmann:

    “I am 100 percent pro-life. I’ve given birth to five babies, and I’ve taken 23 foster children into my home. I believe in the dignity of life from conception until natural death. I believe in the sanctity of human life…

    “And I think the most eloquent words ever written were those in our Declaration of Independence that said it’s a creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take…

    “And the first of those rights is life. And I stand for that right. I stand for the right to life. The very few cases that deal with those exceptions are the very tiniest of fraction of cases, and yet they get all the attention. Where all of the firepower is and where the real battle is, is on the general — genuine issue of taking an innocent human life. I stand for life from conception until natural death.

    ~ Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota) stating her pro-life position during the GOP 2012 debate hosted by CNN, as quoted by LifeNews, June 14

  • http://ImageTrinity.com Greg Schlueter

    Stanley,

    While Bachmann and her comments are laudable, my major point is we’re splitting hairs and picking the wrong battles, fighting ourselves… and within that, (1) not being critical in our assessments of a person/position (based upon an instance), nor (2) within those criticisms being fair about the appropriate use of “believe” in a liberal marketplace of ideas, and thus (3) with the greatest respect for all here, we’re putting on display our constipated sensibilities to our detractors and mainstream America (most of whom would review this and say, “Are you serious?”).

    [Do note, my engagement here is with great, collegial respect and support for Mary and the mission of CatholicLane, the opportunity for honest/respectful debate here. Her article provides some important insight / guidance to pro-life leaders, but short of hanging them out to dry].

    I could spend time quoting the numerous examples of Santorum’s eloquence and heroism establishing him an undisputed champion of pro-life causes(indeed, PP / Siecus Circle “public enemy number 1″), but it would surpass the word limit here– and really, don’t we all know that? And if so, what’s our beef?

    Further, I could pull select quotes from Michelle Bachmann’s oratorical history that would be seen as equally lacking in eloquence, and of diminished conviction (not my belief, but per criteria suggested here…). For example, she said “FOR ME PERSONALLY, there were a few of us who voted ‘no’ on the continuing resolution… because it did not defund implementing ‘Obamacare’ because, as you know, ‘Obamacare’ will allow for taxpayer-funded abortions for the first time in history of the nation.” Is that clear and eloquent to you? Isn’t it modifying her conviction to add “For me personally”?

    If this doesn’t prove the point, give it time– there will be numerous other examples that will be even more clear. Point: There’s a major flaw in seeking to pass off one instance for the sum-total of a candidate’s ability, much less their conviction.

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