Rick Santorum downplays pope’s comments on gays

Updated
Former Republican presidential hopeful  Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania addresses the NRA annual Convention on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas.
Former Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania addresses the NRA annual Convention on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas.
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis’ recent “who am I to judge?” comments on gays have given LGBT advocates a sign of hope that the Roman Catholic Church is maybe, just maybe, shifting its stance on the divisive issue.

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said not to read into the pontiff’s comments too much–he certainly isn’t.

According to an interview in Buzzfeed, the socially conservative Santorum suggested Wednesday the media took the quotes out of context.

“I’ve read the whole transcript, and what he said early on was that ‘I don’t know anybody who puts gay on their identification card.’ He said it in that context,” said Santorum, a devout Catholic. “I think all believers need to understand that we need to respect and love everybody and treat everybody with dignity and respect. There’s no room for harshness in respect to this issue—but that doesn’t mean the church doesn’t have the right to believe what is right and wrong.”

During a plane flight back to Rome earlier this week, the pope addressed reports of a rumored “gay lobby” or group of gay priests with heavy influence over the Vatican.

“I have yet to find anyone who has a business card that says he is gay,” the pontiff told reporters in a lengthy press conference. “They say they exist. If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” He added, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this [orientation] but that they must be integrated into society.”

The pope said lobbies themselves are the problem, including politically-driven ones. “The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers,” he said. “The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”

The official Catholic doctrine considers it a sin to physically act upon any homosexual desires, and that has not changed.

Compared to comments by the previous pope, Francis’ comments strike a more welcoming tone. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, at the time a cardinal, wrote that men with homosexual tendencies should not be allowed to be priests.

Santorum has been a fierce opponent of marriage equality. In April, he told fellow Republicans it would be “suicidal” to embrace same-sex marriage.

Santorum, a former U.S. senator turned Christian movie exec, applauded Francis for his ability to connect with church-goers across the world. “He comes from an area that still has very rampant poverty, so I think he’s just very sensitive to that. And that’s a good thing,” he said. “That’s why it’s a good thing to have someone who’s not from Europe.”

Rick Santorum downplays pope's comments on gays

Updated