Some “Traditionalist Catholic” You Are, Rick Santorum

Those who know their religious history have to be a bit amused by this story (from TPM’s Tracy Walsh) involving hyper-traditionalist Catholic Rick Santorum:

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) issued a passionate call for Bibles in public schools on Saturday during an appearance at a convention of social conservatives in Orlando, Florida.

“The reason Bibles are no longer in the public schools is because we let them take them out,” Santorum said to amens and applause at The Awakening conference, hosted by the right-wing Liberty Counsel. “You say, ‘Well, we can’t get them back in?’ Yes we can! Yes we can!”

“How much are you willing to sacrifice?” the former presidential candidate continued. “One person got the Bibles out of the schools. We have more than one person here! But you’ve got to have the same passion in preserving our country as they do to transform it.”

Okay, if you don’t know your religious history, the irony here is that a great deal of the conflict during the Reformation was over lay access to the Bible, especially in the vernacular. In England, it was a big and radical thing when Henry VIII ordered that every church in England have one English Bible available for anyone to read (though he later banned its reading by women or anyone from the “lower orders”). Meanwhile, the great English Bible translator, William Tyndale, was executed by strangulation and then burned at the stake by the Catholic Church in his Netherlands exile.

Yes, that was a long time ago, and no, the Catholic Church no longer discourages lay Bible readership (though it most definitely maintains the belief that the Church created Scripture rather than the reverse, an idea that horrifies conservative evangelical Protestants). But given Santorum’s traditionalist stance, I like to imagine his position as insisting we get Bibles out of the churches and back into public schools where they belong.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.