Rick Santorum: The RealClearReligion Interview

By Nicholas G. Hahn III

Rick Santorum has made waves in his run for the GOP presidential nomination in part because of his religion. His Catholicism has proved so controversial that he's been forced to deny accusations he's running for "Pastor-in-Chief." "I have no intention and no desire to be the pastor of this country," he told a group of Texas pastors. Last Friday, Santorum talked with me after a fundraiser in Park Ridge, Illinois, about religion, the real possibility of war with Iran, and what he would say if he ever met face-to-face with his most famous tormentor.

RealClearReligion: As a Catholic, you've continued to lose the Catholic vote and have lost it badly. Perhaps voters believed the New York Times's Bill Keller when he referred to you as an Evangelical?

Rick Santorum: I've heard different excuses and different explanations from different people. I think one of the reasons is that Catholics are certainly not a monolith. They don't vote like a minority anymore; in other words, they don't vote in a bloc. And I think that's a good thing, actually. Catholics feel comfortable in their skin and don't necessarily have to vote for a Catholic or against a Catholic or for a Protestant or against a Protestant.

I think that shows that Catholics have, by and large, assimilated into the religious milieu of this country. I think that's probably the biggest part of it. In fact, I don't know how many Catholics actually know I am a Catholic.

RCR: Well, there was a piece in the Christian Post last month which listed five Catholic politicians often confused for Evangelicals. You were one of them.

RS: Yeah, I think that's what most people think because of my positions on the issues. They identify me as more of an Evangelical than a Catholic.

RCR: Another hypothesis could be that Catholics are identifying with Mitt Romney in the same way they did John F. Kennedy: that political religious litmus test narrative appeals to them.

RS: You know what? I haven't even thought about that. It's possible, I guess. I just don't think my Catholicism or lack thereof is that big of an issue for Catholics right now.

RCR: How does that Catholic faith inform your public policy positions?

RS: In most cases it certainly informs my conscience. My faith is the moral code by which I live my life: instructed in the 10 Commandments, the teachings of the Bible, what's right and wrong, and what's good an evil.

RCR: Would your faith tell you that military action in Iran would satisfy the criteria of a just war?

RS: I think when someone is preparing a nuclear weapon and is speaking about wiping out another country, an ally of the United States, and planning terrorist attacks around the world, I think you have an obligation to stop a grave harm from being done. I've been all about trying to prevent a war in Iran, because I think if Iran gets a nuclear weapon there will be a very, very sad chapter in human history that will be written as a result.

RCR: Do you support the Green, student movement in Iran?

RS: Very much so. I authored a bill that funded it back in 2004.

RCR: How close are you to the movement's leader, the Secretary General of the Confederation of Iranian Students, Amir Fakhravar?

RS: He will tell you that he met me when I was in the United States Senate after escaping from Iran.

RCR: If you happen to run into Dan Savage, what would you say to him?

RS: I would tell him that I'm praying for him. He obviously has some serious issues. You look at someone like that who can say and do the things that he's doing and you just pray for him and hopefully he can find peace.

Nicholas G. Hahn III is the editor of RealClearReligion. Follow him on Twitter @NGHahn3.

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