Santorum Blasted for Boston Remarks
Kennedy, Kerry Demand Apology for 2002 Column

By Maeve Reston
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [Washington DC]
July 14, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry lambasted Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum yesterday for writing that the Catholic Church's pedophile scandal was centered in Boston in part because of the city's morally permissive culture.

The Massachusetts Democrats demanded an apology from their Republican colleague for a column he wrote in 2002 for the Web site Catholics Online, which has gained new life in recent weeks after resurfacing on Web blogs and in a Monday Boston Globe column.

Santorum argued that while he was sickened and repulsed by the priest abuse scandal, it could create an opportunity to purge America's Catholic seminaries of the "cultural liberalism" that had infected them and to emphasize fidelity to the church's teachings.

"Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture," Santorum wrote in the passage that Kennedy denounced yesterday. "When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."

When asked about his comments by a Globe reporter on Tuesday, Santorum said, "If you have a world view ... that affirms alternative views of sexuality, that can lead to a lot of people taking it the wrong way."

This led Kennedy to upbraid Santorum on the Senate floor yesterday for "blaming" Bostonians for sexual abuse by the clergy and for refusing to retract his statements this week when he was asked about them by the Globe.

"His outrageous and offensive comments -- which he had the indecency to repeat yesterday -- blamed the people of Boston for the depraved behavior of sick individuals who stole the innocence of children in the most horrible way imaginable," Kennedy said. "Sen. Santorum has shown a deep and callous insensitivity to the victims and their suffering in an apparent attempt to score political points with some of the most extreme members of the fringe right wing of his party."

Kerry, a Catholic like both Kennedy and Santorum, joined Kennedy and several other Massachusetts legislators in calling yesterday for an apology from Santorum.

"As a prosecutor in Massachusetts, I saw some of the worst criminals who had abused children and not once did I hear them hide behind Sen. Santorum's bizarre claim that the state was responsible for their acts," Kerry said in a statement. "Rick Santorum owes an apology to the families of abuse victims and an apology to the faithful who fill the pews of Massachusetts churches every Sunday."

Santorum, whose spokesman said he is standing by his comments, said yesterday in an interview that Kennedy and others were dredging up comments from three years ago purely for political reasons.

He noted that his online essay had made it clear that there was "no excuse for the scandal" and said he worked hard behind the scenes to try to help "clean up what was going on in the church."

When asked about his references to cultural decay and cultural liberalism, Santorum said, as he does in his controversial new book "It Takes a Family," that he believes one of the effects of the sexual revolution was to create "inhibition of limitations on sexual activity, which can lead to extremes and extremes which are very damaging and very hurtful."

"That was the point I was trying to make," he said. "The idea behind the sexual revolution was -- you're sort of liberated from any traditional chains ... [meaning] traditional sexual relationships within the context of marriage, and how you are free to do whatever pleases you. And as a result then we get into problems."

In 2002, the Boston Globe uncovered a widespread pattern of sexual molestation of minors by Roman Catholic priests, which had been concealed by the church higher-ups. Over the next couple of years, many other dioceses around the country revealed -- or were forced to reveal -- hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by priests. The Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for their coverage of the scandal.