Rick Santorum’s gay discrimination turning off Catholics

Rick Santorum puts his Catholic faith front and center of his presidential campaign, regaling crowds with tales of his personal worship and unabashedly injecting religion into his conservative brand of politics, evidenced most clearly by his opposition to abortion and gay rights. But he’s also been careful to avoid mentioning or visiting the Illinois Catholic high school from which he graduated in 1976.

Joan Walsh at Salon points out that Santorum, traveling around Illinois ahead of Tuesday’s primary, visited the Christian Liberty Academy in Cook County, but failed to pop in on his alma mater Carmel Catholic High School or a local catholic center named after his friend and supporter, Al Salvi. Walsh speculates, based on an article by another Carmel Catholic High School graduate, Brian Herman, that Santorum doesn’t want to be associated with a comparatively liberal school that celebrates academia:

Why has Santorum avoided Carmel Catholic? Well, it’s a college prep school that boasts “respect for diversity, mutual growth and development.” A full 99 percent of its graduates go to college, and a quarter pursue science degrees, so they presumably don’t share Santorum’s belief that college is for “snobs” (nor his interest in the “intelligent design” theory of creation.)

In his Arlington Heights Tribune op-ed, Herman notes, “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.”

A number of other Carmel-based Catholics agree, and have formed a “Carmel Catholic Alumni Against Rick Santorum” Facebook page that has over 400 likes and organized a protest outside of a Santorum event in Arlington Heights Friday. Many of them specifically called out Santorum’s anti-gay politics.

“Rick Santorum has really built a career on discriminating against the LGBT community,” one alum told the local Daily Herald. “That’s the thing that’s really rallying alumni against him. We’ve been shocked and embarrassed by it.” The same may be said about Catholics at large.

Despite the Vatican and other church leaders’ admonishment of same-sex love, two-thirds of Catholics support legal recognition of gay relationships, with 44% supporting actual marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released last month. A Public Religion Research Institute survey found similar results last year: “nearly three-quarters of Catholics favor either allowing gay and lesbian people to marry (43%) or allowing them to form civil unions (31%). Only 22% of Catholics say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.” This puts Santorum in direct conflict with Catholic voters from coast-to-coast. They’ve been more inclined to vote for Mitt Romney, who has won the Catholic vote in every state but Tennessee.

But, you know, Santorum reaps what he sows.