Newsweek has a new story about Karen Santorum, Rick Santorum's wife, that seems designed to undermine her reputation among social conservatives. But assuming that the story is accurate, the writer has forgotten that there is nothing surprising about people doing bad things (which Roman Catholics and other Christians refer to as "sins"), and that Christian voters forgive people who repent and change.
The claim: back in the 1980s, Karen Santorum -- then Garver -- was not a good Roman Catholic, but instead an "average progressive" who carried on an amorous, live-in relationship with a local "abortion provider," writes Nancy Hass at Newsweek.
Laying claim to public interest from the fact that Rick Santorum has enjoyed some success during this presidential cycle, the piece nonetheless makes no contribution to the campaign 2012 conversation. Nothing about Mrs. Santorum's pre-marital sexual encounters or political positions from 30 years ago provides insight into how a President Santorum would lead the United States. It's an irrelevant topic.
Hass also reveals her own hypocrisy, chiefly by failing to demonstrate Mrs. Santorum's. "Karen had no problems with what I did for a living," Hass quotes the old abortion doctor boyfriend -- now 92, still 41 years older than Karen Santorum -- as saying. (Forgetting the rules against kissing and telling, the man says that "Karen" initiated their relationship, "but that was OK.")
Back in the early 80s, Karen Garver didn't have much of a problem with abortion. A classmate told Hass that Ms. Garver was "just another smart, nice girl with a Channel 13 tote bag [sic], someone who seemed like an average progressive."
In other words, Karen Garver's great moral failure is that she held the same ideological positions 30 years ago that the story author now maintains.
But Karen Garver was not as anti-family then as Karen Santorum is pro-family now. She and the doctor ended their relationship because she wanted to have children with him, but he didn't want to have children with her.
Garver clearly regarded herself as being in a committed long-term relationship. That doesn't stop Hass from emphasizing her promiscuity. The observation that the doctor "gave Karen a cultural education," in particular, seems intended to conjure an image of the Victorian "kept woman."
Hass implies that the doctor has not heard from his sometime-flame since 1988, around the time she met Rick Santorum. So, Karen Santorum's marital fidelity remains unquestioned. Indeed, she is mocked for her eventual modesty -- "dressed as Hester Prynne," one unnamed acquaintance tells Hass -- as Santorum's wife. The story also lacks any compelling charge of religious hypocrisy against Rick or Karen Santorum. "[Rick] too [like Karen] hadn’t been much of a practicing Catholic, but that changed soon after they married in 1990," Hass recounts.
The image of Karen Santorum that emerges from this story is one of a liberal young woman who dated an old lecher, but left him, married the son of Italian immigrants -- to whom she gave eight children, including one who died hours after birth -- returned to her church, and became an "ultra-pro-life wife and mother of seven home-schooled children . . . the perfect complement to her husband," to borrow again from Hass.
An irrelevant mockery of the Santorums, this story is little more than an exercise in malice. The writer's transgressions are hard to forgive; whatever Karen Santorum did in the 1980s is not.