Let us Santorum?

For Your Consideration

Peter CavanaughFebruary 23, 2012 

I haven't been accused of being a Republican for quite some time now. Even J.R. Froelich didn't go that far. And I don't know just what I'd do these days as a Republican watching what has to be a historically confusing series of presidential primary elections and/or caucuses from sea to shining sea. Mitt Romney tries to convince us now that he was severely conservative in Massachusetts, conjuring images of a modern day Bay State Torquemada.

Tomás de Torquemada, O.P. (1420 -1498) was a fifteenth century Dominican friar and first grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition which, over a 50 year period, burned at least several thousand naughty Spaniards at the stake for being sinful. It was for their own good. They had become "impure."

The churning for ideological "purity" in the GOP has so far rocketed Michele Bachmann to the top (Iowa straw poll -- August '11), then Rick Perry (No. 1 in national September polling), yielding to Herman Cain (Florida -- December '11 straw poll), followed by Newt Gingrich (South Carolina primary) and Ron Paul (maybe Maine), even while Mitt Romney, this season's designated front-runner, scores wins in Florida (actual January '12 primary), New Hampshire, Nevada and -- maybe Maine.

The main issue in Maine is whether the "final caucus tally" was Romney-rigged or not. Paul's people say so, especially in Waldo County. Regardless of ultimate resolution, it's nice knowing where Waldo finally went.

The purity police are now rallying with a new hero in hand. Rick Santorum, baffling bettors from London to Lucky Lane, has surged to the forefront with sudden major wins in Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado and even credit for Iowa, where the Republican state chairman has resigned in disgrace after guaranteeing all that Romney had won on Jan. 3.

As a child of 50s Parochial School education -- Santorum seems creepy. It's that "Purity" deal.

We had been told at Cathedral Academy in Syracuse by Sister Cecilia that even listening to Don and Phil Everly's "Wake Up Little Suzie" might be a mortal sin since it implied that "a boy and girl were sleeping together without having partaken in the sacrament of marriage," an interpretation which had never remotely dawned on her students.

This era of Catholic education stressed a highly structured, excruciatingly well-defined philosophy regarding matters sexual in nature. Even the word "sex" was never openly uttered other than in extremely hushed tones and then only after the "boys" and "girls" had been separated for "frank discussion" of "certain private things."

The tight confines went along these lines: To have brief "impure thoughts" was a venial sin. To willingly enjoy "impure thoughts," let alone engage in "impure acts," was a mortal sin. Both sins could be forgiven if fully confessed to a priest who was empowered by God to grant penance and absolution.

If you died with venial sins unforgiven, you'd need to spend a certain amount of time in a place called Purgatory before finally going to Heaven. Think of it as waiting in line at the DMV. A mortal sin, however, brought a far darker fate. Death's arrival with an unforgiven mortal sin damning the soul would mean burning in the raging, searing, blast-furnace, blowtorch, white-hot fires of Hell for all eternity.

Then came the "heavy spins."

And how long is eternity in which the soul and body burns forever?

"If there was a giant steel ball the size of the planet earth suspended in space and if every one million years a small, gentle dove flew past and the very tiniest tip of its feathery little wing just barely touched, by the time that ball was completely severed in two, eternity will have just begun."

And what part of the body burns the hottest in Hell?

The part you have sinned with.

There was a finale.

Is anything besides committing a sexually impure act a mortal sin?

Yes -- wanting to.

There I was being told "wanting to do it" was the same as "doing it" with an identical penalty. And punishment was a stiff one at that. I intellectually came to a painful realization that I was confronted with two mutually exclusive moral positions: Either (a) I was condemned to be a mortal sinner throughout life with my only hope for salvation being a friendly comet nailing me at light-speed velocity just seconds after leaving a confessional or (b) I could avoid self-deception and explore my God-given conscience.

I dismissed (a) as mathematically improbable -- went with (b) -- and that's why I consider Rick Santorum (c) -- Creepy.

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