July 15, 2005

Bleeding-heart conservative

Rutland Herald

July 15, 2005

Sen. Rick Santorum is a famously conservative Republican senator from Pennsylvania, which might lead one to think he believes that criminals ought to be held accountable for their actions and that excusing misconduct because of background or social environment amounts to bleeding-heart liberalism.

If you believed that about Santorum, you would be wrong. Santorum believes the incidents of sexual abuse by priests in the Boston area are the fault of Harvard and MIT and the cultural liberalism of Massachusetts. His comments represent a kind of bleeding-heart conservatism, exemplified several years ago when Newt Gingrich, then speaker of the House, said that when Susan Smith of South Carolina murdered her two children, it was the fault of liberals.

Santorum's comments first appeared on a Catholic Web site in 2002. He said, "It is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm" about clergy sexual abuse. Earlier this week, he defended his remarks, saying it was the "basic liberal attitude" in Boston that created an environment that led to the abuse of children.

In Santorum's world, it is not the fault of the priests. It is the fault of the priests' environment. Pity the poor priests, who were lured into pedophilia by the liberal region in which they had to work.

This line of thinking is ludicrous in many ways, as well as insulting and simple-minded. Let us count the ways.

One, sexual abuse as well as other social problems, such as spouse abuse and divorce, are generally higher in the poor, conservative areas of the South than in more affluent regions with more educated populations.

Two, Massachusetts is a state that caught its abusive priests and is doing something about it. That is not liberal permissiveness. It is toughness on crime.

Posted by kshaw at July 15, 2005 07:13 AM