Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rick Santorum on Pope Francis

In case you have not heard, my former Senator and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum is now a film executive.  He is the CEO of EchoLight Studios, a Christian movie studio based in Dallas.  In a recent interview with Elizabeth Tenety at The Washington Post, Santorum has some interesting things to say about Pope Francis.  Here is a taste:


Tenety: I want to talk a little bit about your church and Pope Francis. 2,000 years after the birth of this baby, of Jesus, the leader of the Catholic Church is one of the most influential human beings on Earth. What do you make of the ecstasy around Pope Francis?
Santorum: I love the fact that Pope Francis is out there talking about the beauty of the faith and what the faith is for, as opposed to what the faith is against. I think that’s a positive thing to have him focus on how the church can be involved and alive in the world today, and in a positive way. I think he just does it differently. I think John Paul II did the same thing, but it was just a different style. John Paul II was an amazing communicator, and he was an actor. He had that gift of that commanding presence and his great theology and sort of reclaimed the space. Francis is just a simple man who identifies with the average person out there much more — not that John-Paul II didn’t identify, but [Francis is] sort of with them as opposed to someone that they could look up and see as this great figure in history, which John Paul II was. This is someone who’s just, rides the bus with them, and that’s just a little different.
Tenety: In some of his most widely-covered remarks, Pope Francis talked about a need for Catholics to not talk about issues like gay marriage,  contraception and abortion ‘all the time.’ I’m wondering as a Catholic and a politician who has talked a lot about those issues, what did you hear when he said that? What did that mean to you?
Santorum: I think it goes back to the point I just made, which is he didn’t say not to talk about it, he didn’t say we’re going to change our opinion about these things, but we need to talk about the beauty of what love is. We have to talk about the beauty of how important and powerful human intimate interaction is and what it means, as opposed to going out and just focusing on what we’re against as opposed to what we’re for. I think that’s the message that I think he’s been very, very effective in getting out and not be sort of pulled into the talk about, ‘This is what we’re against.’
Having said, that I think this is what some people don’t quite grasp, [the pope is] not backing away from the perspective of what is true and what is good, but at the same time he’s not highlighting the differences, he’s focusing on areas where we can find agreement.
Tenety: As an activist on those issues, do you find yourself reinterpreting how you’re talking about those issues, how you’re engaging with them in a new way?
Santorum: Yeah, for example, one of the things I’ve done, and again, not necessarily been highlighted by folks in the media, which is, I spent more time, I don’t do a lot of pro-life speeches in pro-life groups, except one. I talk a lot to crisis pregnancy centers, which are centers out there who are meeting the needs of women who are in crisis. And you know what, they meet those needs, they try
to help them, and they do it unconditionally. In other words, they’re there to help whether they have the baby or don’t have the baby.
If they don’t have the baby, if they decide to have an abortion, you know what, they’re just as there, they’re there to love them and support them with counseling if they need it and support if they need it. That to me is the message, which is, ‘Look, here’s what we believe in, here’s what we think is right, here’s what we think is best, but our job is not to force you into doing anything, but just simply share that truth with you and accept you and love you, because that’s what God would want us to do is to be there and to love unconditionally.’ That, to me, is the right approach, it’s what motivates me. I probably do, probably, 10 banquets a year, or maybe even more, talking to crisis pregnancy centers. That’s the message I give to them. I say ‘You are the right message of the pro-life movement, which is you’re there to show God’s love, you’re there to accept the mom and the dad in a difficult situation and love them and support them no matter what they do.’
Tenety: So like the Catholic Church seems to be rethinking its approach to social issues, the Republican party seems to be recalculating as well. Do you think that times have changed on issues like gay marriage and abortion, or not? How would you advise Republicans to engage on those issues going forward?’
Santorum: I think that what Pope Francis is doing really makes a lot of sense for Republicans, which is, ‘we don’t need to change what we believe in.’