Editor's Note: Rick Santorum is a CNN senior political commentator and a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania. The views expressed here are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN) - I believe Nancy Pelosi.
In a press conference last week, a reporter asked Pelosi if she "hated" President Trump. The Democratic House speaker responded by saying: "I don't hate anybody. I was raised in a Catholic house. We don't hate anybody. Don't accuse me of hate." She went on to say that "as a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me. I pray for the President all the time."
I completely understand why the speaker reacted with such emotion when she felt she was being accused of hating the President. She is often accused of violating the tenets of the Catholic faith on issues like abortion and marriage. I suspect being accused of violating another core tenet of a faith, particularly one with which she and the Church agree, hit a nerve.
Pelosi's apologetics — her defense of religious beliefs — are 100% correct. Jesus teaches us in Romans 13:8 to love everyone, even our enemies, in Matthew 5:44 to pray for people who persecute you, and in 1 Timothy 2:2 to pray for our governmental leaders.
We are guided to love one another and not hate, but sometimes the words we speak can confuse those who may not know what we hold in our hearts. For example, in the same breath that Pelosi took offense to being accused of hating the President, Pelosi then leveled a personal attack at him by calling him cruel and a coward. She then stated that she was calling for impeachment solely because of his actions.
While I don't agree with the speaker's conclusion on impeachment, I think throughout this process she has attempted to separate her personal feelings toward the President and focus on the culpability of his actions. She seems to be following the admonition of St. Augustine, which has been drummed into any Catholic school graduate, to love the sinner, but hate the sin.
Unfortunately, for her and the country, the vast majority of her caucus have not been able to come to grips with that distinction. As a result, Pelosi has been bombarded by the radical progressives in and out of her caucus from day one to impeach the President. With public rants filled with expletives not suitable for television, hurling labels like "racist" and "homophobe" toward Donald Trump the man and not his actions or words, they give every indication they are consumed with hate for him.
I am sure she recognizes that hate and it reminds her what Catholic school teaches: hate has a degrading effect on the person hating, not just the person who is hated. It takes a profound psychological and physical toll. And most importantly, it separates one from God, who is love.
But Pelosi is surrounded by people, apparently driven by hatred of the president, who have pushed her for a year to impeach him.
Until recently she wisely resisted. She realized hatred for the cancer it is, eating away at her caucus, her party and the country. But now, she has relented to the mob. I am sure in her mind she blames the President for the situation she finds herself in, and she would have plenty of legitimate arguments for doing so. The President is anything but blameless. But she also knows that in the end she and her colleagues are responsible for their own behavior.
It is no wonder she responded so passionately to the accusation of hating the president.
I know what it is like to be accused by political opponents of hatred toward others. In my case not of any one person, but of millions of people I have never met. Like the speaker, I know what is in my heart and my commitment to live my faith with fidelity.
I know that mere denials of hatred without actions and words that are consistent with love and respect will rightly be treated with suspicion. Given her recent actions, the question to the speaker was a reasonable one. I hope in retrospect she realizes, as I do, that our words can tell a story not consistent with our heart and soul.
So, I agree with Pelosi. We must not hate each other, we are commanded to love. And moreover, we are commanded to pray for those with whom we disagree, not just for their benefit, but for ours, so we are not consumed by bitterness that results in calamity for us and the country.