Rick Santorum is the latest and most unlikely Republican to soar in the polls. In many ways he is the most dangerous. I say this because his candidacy poses the greatest threat to the Catholic Church, as his election will give credibility to the Americanist -ie, the conservative- faction within the Church. It will thus be divisive beyond that of any other candidate, including the other Catholic candidate, Newt Gingrich. That is because Mr Gingrich is not a very convincing Catholic, while Mr Santorum is a recognizable sort of bourgeois believer: personally pious, big family, homeschooling, etc. And recognizable as well in his willingness to dismiss large areas of Catholic social teaching: on preemptive war, on torture, on capital punishment, on labor. His candidacy will confirm rather than challenge the errors of Catholic Republicanism.
Of course his candidacy would be a disaster for many other reasons as well, but for Catholics striving for moral consistency, it presents the gravest danger because it would undermine the Church’s mission in this country.
In fact, the way this election is taking shape, it may be morally imperative for a Catholic to vote for neither of the major parties. Ordinarily, of course, there is a moral obligation to vote. But these are not ordinary times, and there is no obligation to vote for a grave evil.
But in many ways Santorum poses the greatest, if subtlest, threat to the Catholic vision of things.