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Rick Santorum: Pope's "Gay" Comments Were Taken Out Of Context

"I've read the whole transcript," says the former presidential candidate. He says the church won't be changing its stance on homosexuality anytime soon.

Posted on August 1, 2013, at 10:29 a.m. ET

Eric Gay / AP

Pope Francis made headlines this week when he told reporters in a press conference aboard the papal airplane, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Some hoped the comment was a sign that the Roman Catholic Church was softening its opposition to homosexuality, if ever so slightly.

But former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a staunch social conservative and devout Catholic, told BuzzFeed Wednesday night that the pontiff's remarks have been taken out of context by the press, and that gay rights advocates shouldn't hold their breath for the church to change its doctrine with regard to homosexuality.

"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," Santorum said. "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."

Santorum was referring to how Francis answered a question about the so-called "gay lobby" within the Vatican, a rumored coalition of gay priests that uses blackmail and internal politics to advance their agenda.

"So much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word 'gay,'" Francis said. "They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good."

Santorum said he was confident the pope had no intention of signaling a shift in the church's stance on homosexuality. But he praised Francis, who he called "the people's pope," for the way he's represented the church to the world.

"If you look at Jesus, he hung out with the poor and the sinners," Santorum said. "He didn't hang out with the elites. He had a concern with those who were hurt and suffering from the ravages of sin and physical ravages. [Francis] comes from what was at one time a third world country. 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. That's why it's a good thing to have someone who's not from Europe."

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