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Santorum 'Hardly Reflects Carmel’s Values'

Letter to the editor

The Illinois Republican primary should have a been a triumphant homecoming of sorts for the Santorum for President campaign. After all, the former Pennsylvania Senator briefly attended and graduated from Mundelein’s Carmel Catholic High School in north suburban Lake County. His chief Illinois backer is Al Salvi, a former state representative and failed U.S. Senate candidate who is not only a fellow Carmel graduate, but whose family’s wealthy trial lawyer fortune paid for the Carmel gymnasium that bears the Salvi name. 

Santorum “supporters” created a “Carmel High School for Santorum” Facebook page, (apparently moderated by Salvi family members) that touts Santorum as model Carmel graduate who “embodies everything that true practicing Catholics believe.” And, Santorum’s overt expressions of faith supposedly offer great appeal to the Chicago area’s heavily Catholic electorate.

Yet Santorum is avoiding the Salvi athletic center, the city of Mundelein and all of Lake County, which is home to one of the largest concentrations of GOP voters in the state. Instead, he chose to campaign in suburban Cook County at Christian Liberty Academy, which is an evangelical fundamentalist Christian school founded on such values as a literal interpretation of the Bible, adherence to “God’s law” over man’s and outright opposition to all public education.

Santorum’s avoidance of the very Catholics who the media insist are his natural political base in the very region where they should be most amenable to his message suggests Santorum knows what many Catholics and certainly what many members of the Carmel community think of him and his campaign.

Carmel High School is as a college preparatory school that “fosters respect for diversity, mutual growth and development,” and is part of the Catholic Church’s centuries-long commitment to the pursuit of knowledge. Listening to Rick Santorum, one would think he’s the product of some shady institution created by a televangelist during the age of disco to provide an academic pretense for challenging scientific consensus and reversing decades of social progress.

Santorum has embarrassingly cast himself as a vociferous defender of “Intelligent Design.” He pushed legislation instructing teachers to downplay evolution and teach that specific brand of creationism, and bragged how he angered the Biology Teachers Association and sparked years of conflict over the issue in schools across the country. Carmel has a nationally-recognized academic program, and 25% of students pursue science and engineering careers. They know about evolution – and that the Catholic Church rejects “Intelligent Design,” has supported evolution for more than 50 years and decries the use of the Bible as a source of scientific knowledge.

Equally inexplicable are Santorum’s claim that “Satan” has infiltrated the university system and his attack on President Obama as a “snob” for reasonably suggesting that all high school graduates further their education by at least one year. “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college,” Santorum said, “because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely." 99% of Carmel graduates attend college, apparently all doomed to become a bunch of elitists brainwashed by the devil.

Santorum defended a TV preacher who described Islam as “evil,” calling his statement “reasonable,indulged birtherism at a campaign event and exploited racial stereotypes by saying he didn’t “want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money.” This typical Santorum behavior hardly reflects Carmel’s values of respect for self and others – values based in Catholic social teaching, which “calls us to overcome barriers of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, economic status, and nationality.”

Santorum is a proud nemesis of church-state separation, and where it appeals to the Republican base, he champions his religious values fiercely and unapologetically – railing against abortion, contraception and gay marriage with more apocalyptic condemnation than most will ever hear at mass.   But it is unimaginable that Santorum would ever publicly espouse such indivisible Catholic principles as economic justice, prioritizing the needs of the poor and respect for the global community – particularly where the Church explicitly calls for government intervention in the free market.  Instead, he artfully promotes right-wing fundamentalist notions opposed by the Church and that he definitely never studied at Carmel.  The media call Santorum an “evangelical Catholic,” which is simply a misleading euphemism that makes his political pandering appear virtuous.

Carmel students learn values that serve as a foundation for how they live, not as a guidebook for demeaning others and certainly not as a blueprint for remaking government. They are encouraged to think independently and respect cultural and religious diversity. How graduates apply their values as adults in a pluralistic society is a responsibility each confronts individually, and they develop the same political ideologies and opinions on controversial issues as most Americans – including forming their own views on the proper roles for government and religion in social and economic matters.

All of this is not to characterize Santorum as a “bad Catholic” and certainly not to challenge the way he has personally lived his faith, which in some respects is admirable. Rather, the bottom line is that Rick Santorum, the politician, has constructed his own independent theology, piecing together the most electorally beneficial elements of Catholicism, ignoring or deriding its other tenets and shrouding it all in rhetoric that frequently runs counter to the academic rigor and values central to the Carmel High School experience.

Rick Santorum lost the Catholic vote in nearly every primary, perhaps because Catholics recognize his divisive anti-intellectual ranting as antithetical to their own religion. (Why the media believe Catholic voters would instinctively support a Catholic candidate who campaigns as a fundamentalist is an open question.) Rick Santorum won’t target Catholic voters in Illinois because he knows they see through him. And he won’t go anywhere near Carmel High School because he knows that so many in the larger Carmel community view him not as a point of pride, but as a high-profile embarrassment.

Brian Herman

Lindenhurst

Brian Herman is a communication strategist for political, nonprofit and corporate clients. He was Communications Director for Dan Onorato’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and External Affairs Director at Media Matters for America, as well as Deputy Campaign Manager for ex-Rep. Melissa Bean’s (D-IL) 2004 campaign and Communications Director/Senior Policy Advisor for her Congressional office. He grew up in Lake County, Illinois, graduated from Carmel Catholic High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Chicago.

JaneK March 17, 2012 at 01:38 AM
There's a reason this guy's employer (Melissa Bean) is out of a job. He's so out of touch. I remember when a friend of mine met Melissa Bean at a parade--- Bean shook her hand and was nice, until she learned my friend was too young to vote (17 at the time). Bean couldn't run away faster! Too many "Catholic" schools are losing their religion, and Carmel is no exception. If they were truly "diverse" and welcoming they would be proud of their native son. Instead, they are grinding an ideological axe in lieu of Christian charity. For shame.
william vlasic March 17, 2012 at 06:28 AM
This writer hardly reflects Catholic teachings all he does is parrot mindless political correctness
DDPGH March 17, 2012 at 01:52 PM
@ "But it is unimaginable that Santorum would ever publicly espouse such indivisible Catholic principles as economic justice, prioritizing the needs of the poor and respect for the global community – particularly where the Church explicitly calls for government intervention in the free market." REALLY? David Brooks of the New York Times wrote in October 29, 2006, “For there has been at least one constant in Washington over the past 12 years: almost every time a serious piece of anti-poverty legislation surfaces in Congress, Rick Santorum is there playing a leadership role. In the mid-1990s, he was a floor manager for welfare reform, the most successful piece of domestic legislation of the past 10 years. He then helped found the Renewal Alliance to help charitable groups with funding and parents with flextime legislation.” And the column goes on and on proving, with one legislative achievement after another, that Senator Santorum is the champion of the underprivileged."
DDPGH March 17, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Santorum added a provision to the 2001 No Child Left Behind bill that would have provided more FREEDOM to schools in teaching about the origins of life, including the teaching of intelligent design ALONG WITH evolution. The bill, with the Santorum Amendment included, passed the Senate 91-8. Before the bill became law, however, scientific and educational groups successfully urged the conference committee for the bill to strike the Santorum Amendment from the final bill. In 2002, Santorum called intelligent design "a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes." By 2005, though, he had adopted the Teach the Controversy approach. He told National Public Radio, "I'm not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom. What we should be teaching are the problems and holes ... in the theory of evolution."[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Santorum
DDPGH March 17, 2012 at 02:30 PM
"Conservative professors must publish more than their liberal peers to be competitive for the same university jobs and promotions, according to new reports. At a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute today in Washington, D.C., researchers from across the country will present 18 papers that they say document the growing liberal bias in academia. "Universities are tilting to the left, and it starts at the student level and goes all the way through to the hiring level and even to the promotion level," the vice president and director of the National Research Initiative at AEI, Henry Olsen, said. "This is a real problem, not anecdote masquerading as fact." Read more: http://www.nysun.com/new-york/universities-growing-liberal-bias-is-documented/66418/
DDPGH March 17, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Just saying. btw, I am a registered democrat, not a Santorum campaigner.
Don Schenk March 17, 2012 at 02:47 PM
So a "Catholic" high school claims that Santorum doesn't represent its values? Does it flunk out its students who are Catholic?
Pat Wils March 17, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Dodo, the Catholic Church does NOT reject Intelligent (aka "GOD") design! You are completely out of line, but hey, you supported Bean and that says enough.
Kris Viens March 17, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Spot On!!! I was chuckliing when I heard of the description of what this writer's thinks as Catholic teaching. He is clearly of the more progressive understanding. Marxism has invaded the Catholic mind in this person's writings. That is why so many catholics dont vote for Santorum, they have been ill formed by the progressive church that the Alinsky style community organizers are more praise worthy than Santorum. Kris
Kris Viens March 17, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Having studied more about intelligent design and evolution in college and followed arguements over the many years, it appears that this writer does not clearly know what the official church teaches regarding evolution either. After all we are dealing with a theory, an hypothosis that has never had the data to show it is anything but a theory. Some of what is hypothsized seem probable, but only those scientists that remember what the basic tenets of science demand of the scientist will be able to speak of the holes in the theory of evolution. The rest have taken up the theory as a social religion that refuses to submit itself to scientific data. Intelligent design tries to address the unexamined questions of evolution and states in the end that there has to be an intelligent designer to have made all 'this' world we live in. The Catholic Church has been able to clarify that what is true about either theory is acceptable. The bottom line is God intervened in the process, however, it came about, and gave man , the Homo Sapien, his uniqueness, not a blind set of accidents. So I would say that Santorum comes out on top of the discussion as more in line with Catholic Teaching.

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