Rick Santorum: Republicans Should Take a Page from Pope Francis

Elizabeth Tenety spoke with Santorum, a Catholic, about faith in Hollywood, social issues in the Pope Francis era and his message for today’s Republican Party.

In the months since leaving the political stage, former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R) has reinvented himself as a film executive, serving as CEO for Dallas-based EchoLight Studios, a Christian movie studio which releases the holiday-themed film “A Christmas Candle” nationwide this week. On Faith editor Elizabeth Tenety recently spoke with Santorum, a Catholic, about faith in Hollywood, social issues in the Pope Francis era and Santorum’s message for today’s Republican Party. 

Tenety: Why did you decide to make the transition from a politician, a presidential candidate, to a movie executive? Is there a line connecting those vocations for you?

Santorum: The reason I made the transition was, after the election, I stopped, I dropped out of the primary and I left with something that I didn’t have before I had entered, and that was notoriety. I was well-known in America, it’s a gift. I thought to myself, ‘What could I do?’ I could cash in, do things to try to play that into money, into all those sorts of things. I thought, ‘It’s a gift, it was given to me by the American people,’ and my God. I thought, well, ‘How can I serve God and country with what I was given?’ I bumped around for a little bit, did several things, I didn’t really find anything that I could really sink my teeth in that I felt was really going to give back, if you will.

Then this opportunity came along, someone introduced me to this company, EchoLight Studios, that was going to make faith-oriented films. I thought, ‘Wow, what an important area to be in, to be in the popular culture and try to tell stories to people about how faith is a very important part of our life, and why it can be an important part of our life.’ For me, it was about stepping up and trying to take an industry,  the Christian film industry, which is not known for its quality, and do something a little better, try to up the game a little bit, and give notoriety and give the ability to market these films and to communicate these films out in a way that they really haven’t had the opportunity to do before. That’s what I saw as an opportunity, and long story short, I ended up getting on the board and then eventually became the CEO of the company and now am full-fledged into the movie business.

Tenety: Why do you think that engaging with culture is so important right now? I wonder if there is a broader theme there about political engagement versus cultural engagement.

Santorum: The culture is upstream from politics. What I dealt with in Washington, D.C., or running for president, is clearly influenced by what the public is consuming. It was a Greek philosopher who said, ‘Give me the storytellers and I will control the country in a generation.’ Those were stories that were related, either in the written word or the spoken word, now the storytellers have access to multimedia presentations and can impact the depths that a story could never do with the kind of special effects and multimedia, sight, sound, everything. That has a much more profound impact and it is changing the country. I would make the argument that the folks who are making these films, and making these television shows, and making these games and making all these things that are shaping the moral imaginations of our country, are having a profound impact on the nation. I would say, by and large, it’s not as positive as it could be. I’m going to do my best to complain about it, which I have in the past, and a lot of people do, and now, let’s go out and just make good stuff and compete.

Tenety: One of the core themes in the movie is this tension between faith and good works. You’re a Catholic, and Max Lucado, who wrote the book that the film is based on, is an evangelical minister. Do you think that that there is something essential in Christianity that Catholics and Protestants can agree on? Is the movie trying to examine some of those issues?

Santorum: I think the movie did a wonderful and beautiful job of synthesizing those two things to the satisfaction of everybody in the Christian world, which is their goal and is important, but the basis of your works has to be inspired by your faith, that you’re called to do that because that’s what you’re called to do. You’re called to be salt and light to the world, and you had a minister [in the movie] who would detach that from faith, if you will, in some respects, because he didn’t believe in God present in the world today. You have other people who believe in God’s presence and miracles, but didn’t follow through with what that commands you to do in serving and loving your neighbor. So, you had the people who had the works, you had other people who had the faith without the works, and yet you had some person with the works without the faith. In the end they synthesized together and people realized the beauty of faith leading you to love and serve your neighbor.

Tenety: The movie also expresses some skepticism about the modern world and technological progress. How do you interpret that message?

Santorum: I think it raises the questions of, ‘Do we still need God?’ Do we have all of the things that we need now, so we’re self-sustained and self-sufficient and God isn’t really in an important role. ‘Is God just the God of the Bible and we’re now able to do all things?’ A lot of people look at the world that way, that say ‘we’re sort of past that.’ Secularism is rising in many areas of the world and some places in this country. This sort of presents the question. I love the way that the little folk tale, the legend at the beginning of the movie asks, ‘In this age of modern miracles, is there still room for the light of the simple candle?’

In other words, is there still room for God? Is there still room for miracles, or are people sort of saying, ‘No, there isn’t room anymore, we don’t need him.’ I think the line that the young girl who is very much in that mode, which is she’s a very self-sufficient, progressive woman who is doing her works in a store and does things, doesn’t want any man’s help for all this kind of stuff. When things gets tough, she says, ‘I would like to believe, it would be comforting.’ There’s something in each and every one of us that calls out for something bigger than us, something that gives us purpose. I think that’s really fleshed out very nicely in the movie.

Tenety: Why do you think that Christmas is such a central holiday in American culture, particularly when you contrast it with Easter?

Santorum: Christmas is about babies being born and a wonderful story of these people being shut out of the inn and having to travel and an unplanned pregnancy, if you will, from the standpoint of Joseph, for sure. You have all of these interesting little stories that everybody can sort of relate to in the wonder of this Bethlehem, the backwater of the Roman empire and here comes God, of all places, to all people, and that’s just an amazing story, that God is with us. It’s joy, and it’s about babies, and the birth, and God loving us.

Easter is about pain! Good Friday is not fun, the Crucifixion, and the conflict. Yes, of course, Easter and the redemption and we’re saved, but it’s not just all sweetness. There’s a lot of strife and struggle to Easter and I think that makes Christmas and the gifts and the traditions wrapped around it a little bit more for everybody irrespective of whether you believe or not. For me, the Easter season is a much more important season, it’s one that I find much more engaged in religiously, even. But for the casual believer and for the non-believer, Christmas is something that’s just sweet, and so it’s just a little easier to take.

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.’

Take the issue of marriage. The speeches I give about marriage now is, ‘Look, if marriage has changed in this country in the eyes of many people, that marriage is simply love between two people, the reason that’s the case is because heterosexual marriage, in many people’s eyes, has been debased to the point where it’s simply love between two people, and that’s it.’ If that’s all marriage is, then I can understand why people would say, ‘Well, why don’t you let anybody who wants to get married get married because that’s all it is.’

But that’s not all it is, so instead of focusing on that and the argument over that, let’s focus on what marriage really is and can be and should be, and talk positively about the beauty of marriage and what it brings to the community and why we’re for marriage. I did that in a speech at Yale University and it started a little bit of a buzz up there,  like, ‘Well, I’ve never really heard this argument of the importance of marriage and the family and all these things and why that matters to society and what the impact of that is.’ I would rather focus on what we’re for and why we’re for it than arguing over a definition of marriage which I don’t share. I don’t think that’s what marriage is, and so I’m not going to argue about whether the people who share that point of view, that gay marriage should include everybody or not. That’s the fundamental change that I would like to see take place.

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Elizabeth Tenety
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  • Katie53

    The hate mongering, hypocritical GOP, which includes Santorum, don’t know how to care about other people who are unlike them in either race, creed, color, religion, sexual orientation, economic class, etc., etc.

  • cricket44

    Crisis Pregnancy Centers actually lie to women and try to coerce them into continuing the pregnancy no matter what. They are NOT there to “meet the needs of women in crisis.” What self-serving drivel.

  • smfrmrintx

    Thanks for tipping the public off so they can ignore your self serving claptrap when they hear it, Rick….

  • Whazzis

    Why is he trying so hard to sound like he has changed? Does he plan to run for office again? (Shudder)

  • kewake

    What lies? What lies do CPC’s tell women? Please, enlighten me. When/what year were you in one? What was the situation? Were you going there for yourself or advocating for someone else? Did you hear this first hand? I want to know what lies are being spread. I volunteer for a CDC and we do not lie to ANYONE. So you stating this is giving all centers a bad name. And that is lying, They are NOT all the same.

  • CCNL

    Vitiating Mr. Santorum’s remarks with a creed:

    Only for the new members of this blog–

    The Apostles’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

  • CCNL

    What Mr. Santorum fails to see:

    And why are there ~ one million abortions every year in the USA?

    The failure rate of unprotected sex in preventing a pregnancy? As per Guttmacher, 85%

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by “Perfect use”:

    – (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
    – (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

    Followed by: (the two most widely used forms of contraception)

    The Pill, at 0.3 percent) (33,000 unplanned pregnancies)

    Male condom at 2.0 percent (138,000 unplanned pregnancies)

    So where is the problem?

    ACTUAL FIRST-YEAR CONTRACEPTIVE FAILURE RATES – Guttmacher Institute

    Percentage of women experiencing an unintended pregnancy

    Method……………..Typical

    Pill……… 8.7 (resulting in one million unplanned pregnancies- the Pill was not taken daily was the major reason for the high failure rate)

    Male condom ……….17.4 (resulting in one million unplanned pregnancies- the condom was available but was not used is the major reason for the high failure rate)

    All the numbers are posted on line by Guttmacher if you want to run the calculations.

    So again we see the BRUTAL EFFECTS OF STUPIDITY!!!!

  • hmr

    When good says: “God does not like it”. What does it mean? Does it mean that this is something that is against the interest of God and that’s why He doesn’t like it? Power on the shoulders of interests is nothing but a two minutes music on the scale of time. God, of course, is above all that. When good says: “God doesn’t like it”, it means: “what you are doing that God doesn’t like is something that at least one among your circle of closest beloved ones knows about and does not like it” and “this dislike is going to have an exclusive and decisive impact upon you somewhere in future” and “for sure, you will never like that forthcoming result”. You can’t run away from loving someone. You are bound to have a connection of love. What God does like or doesn’t, it doesn’t matter to you, may be. But, this is not the whole story.

  • CCNL

    In the 21 century, the headlines read: There is no god!!!

  • jarandeh

    Well I for one am shocked that kewake hasn’t responded to cricket!

  • kewake

    Haaahaaa!! Those links are hilarious. You see where they are posted and how they are written, right? “American’s Against the Tea Party”??? I am not a Tea Party member, but I can tell you that article is bunk. And the one in Salon too. “Anti-choice”? Once that misnomer is used, you know it is someone with a complete liberal take on the topic. I am not a Republican, a tea party or “Anti-Choice”. I am pro-life. And the center I work with always tells the truth. Plenty of women that come to us still choose abortion, and that makes us sad. But it sure makes up for when you see the women that do choose life and then get to work with them and their CHILDREN that they want, very much. And plenty of those women went to PP too, and they will tell you that all PP talked to them about was “how abortion was their only real choice”????? Yup.

  • jdpetric

    In the 5th century B.C. some said the same thing.

    “The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search;
    All his ideas are: “There is no God”. ” Psalms 10:4

  • leibowde84

    “The evil one” is the Devil, not a person, Jdpetric.

  • leibowde84

    Kewake, I am truly sorry that you take offense to the term “anti-choice,” but members from the opposing side often use the categorization of “pro-abortion” for those who consider themselves to be “pro-choice.” I find both mislabeled categorizations appalling, and they both present striking evidence that the people who use them are ignorant of the actual issue.

  • leibowde84

    And, hmr, I think you are missing a key point. You claim that God has “said that he doesn’t like certain things.” That is just not true. The only supposed message that we have from God was written exclusively by imperfect men. To claim that everything written by them is accurate as to how God feels about things is a HUGE GINORMOUS leap of faith. I am a Catholic, but I don’t believe that Paul was accurate with his letters. I feel that he actively fought against what Jesus actually wanted. So, basically, all I am asking is that you understand that claiming that God has given us direct directions in scripture is not only unfair and inaccurate, it is assuming that others think the same exact way as you.

  • jdpetric

    “The evil one” is the Devil, not a person, Jdpetric.

    Not so leibowde84. King David was speaking of his many enemies as one would be able to correctly conclude by reading the surrounding verses.

    “THEY” (plural) get caught by the ideas that they have thought up.” Psalms 10:2b

    “Do put fear into them, O Jehovah, That the nations may know that they are but mortal men.” Psalms 9:20

  • itsthedax

    Francis is smiling a lot, and saying nice things, but is refusing to actually change anything.

    That sounds like a policy that would appeal to Santorum and the rest of the republicans.

  • jdpetric

    “And, hmr, I think you are missing a key point. You claim that God has “said that he doesn’t like certain things.” That is just not true.”

    Again this is incorrect. God has indicated many things He does not like and that He even hates.

    “For He has hated a divorcing,” Jehovah the God of Israel has said” Malachi 2:16a

    ” There are six things that Jehovah does hate; yes, seven are things detestable to his soul:  lofty eyes, a false tongue, and hands that are shedding innocent blood,  a heart fabricating hurtful schemes, feet that are in a hurry to run to badness,  a false witness that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19

  • kewake

    I agree Lei. I have only ever used the term “Pro-Abortion” with people who continually call pro-life persons, like myself, anti-Choice. I do not take offense to it. I agree that it is an ignorant term to apply to anyone. I am tired of people putting all Pro-Life people in one box. We do not all fit the same. I am to the point when I see people like Cricket posting, I laugh. I laugh a lot. Because it seems that a lot of people have lots of time on their hands and use their time to get upset about people actually wanting to help people because it does not fit their idea of what “help” actually should be available for families.

  • jdpetric

    “. claiming that God has given us direct directions in scripture is not only unfair and inaccurate…”

    Again, an inaccurate statement.

    “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” Apostle Paul 2Timothy 3:16

    “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope” Apostle Paul Romans 15:4

    “The discipline of Jehovah, O my son, do not reject; and do not abhor his reproof” King David
    Psalms 3:11

  • jhickey25811

    And you quote more imperfect men to back up your imperfect view of scripture. You couldn’t find the point with two hands and a flashlight.

  • CCNL

    As noted previously, R. Santorum suffers from a severe case of the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in the Christian con. There are many easy and inexpensive cures.

  • jdpetric

    What was quoted disproved inaccuracies about what the Bible says and does not say. May you should turn your flashlight on my friend.

  • cricket44

    Feel better after all that emoting, Kewake? You have also, on these boards, written what can only, at the most charitable, be termed ‘misinformation,’ so there’s no doubt you feed it to the people who come to you.

    And bull on what PP says. Absolute bull. Women are given facts and are *respected* enough that they are not coerced by lies.

    CPCs had to be taken to court to stop their false advertising and now, blessedly, there is a movement to get them to stop lying to women.

    Also, “give birth” or “give birth” is not a choice. Pro-choice and Anti-choice is the correct dichotomy.

  • cricket44

    Also, I love that you decide a reported story in Salon must be bunk. Do show the evidence that the facts have been misreported.

  • hmr

    to leibowde84: This is imperfection that produces perfection. Imperfection is the past, efforts for the perfection is present and hope for the perfection is the future. Imperfection is not a blame but imperfection is the announcement of hope for the future perfection. Every garden is productive if it has fruits or hope for perfection. Imperfection is not a future and we don’t live in the past.

  • kewake

    What emoting? I am stating that you cannot say that every CPC lies to its clients. Because you cant. That is a falsehood. And you know it. You just hate that there are people that actually support clinics and want to help women. The center I work with promotes birth, and adoption. Those are choices. And those women know they have the choice to abort, too. I have had personal experience talking with women that have been to PP’s and CPC’s too. That is not misinformation, that is truth. From actual people. My life experience. Just because my opinion of each is different than yours in no way means that I am lying. You want to make Pro-life persons out to be whacky lying fools. But you my dear are the fool for spreading such hate. Wow, just please stop lying about things you know nothing about. You have never been involved with a CPC and you know it. You only believe what you want to hear. You are brainwashed. I know its hard for you to get that. And the article by Salon is written by someone who has zero respect for anyone else’s opinion, just like you. That is called a bigot.

  • jarandeh

    Kewake-

    1. Should abortion be illegal?
    2. If abortion is illegal, what should be the penalty (if any) for a woman who attempts an abortion?
    3. If abortion is illegal, what should be the penalty (if any) for a woman who obtains an abortion?
    4. If abortion is illegal, what should be the penalty (if any) for a physician/nurse who performs or assists an abortion?

  • cricket44

    Pretty arrogant, Ricky, to decide what is and is not a family. A single parent and child is a family. A gay couple with kids is a family. A childless couple is a family. Family is a big word, not an exclusive club.

  • kewake

    He said nothing of the sort. Wow. You really only hear what you want to hear. Just because this man’s beliefs and values are different than yours?

  • logicrules

    It is disgusting to hear this racist Santorum talk about Christianity. The only thing he has any reverence for is the tea people and their idiotic ways to cripple and/or take over America based on the color of the president.

    I have read the bible but I do not have the faith that others have for faith disregards all reason and facts. One is supposed to put all of their senses aside and just have faith in something that has been developed by man as it is with all religions.

    If, by some ‘miracle’ someone was to appear before me and turn the waters to wine or feed multitudes with a few scraps or maybe raise the dead and even impregnate a woman without touching her I guess then faith would play a larger roll in my life. Until then I will remain an atheist.

    All of those repeating the words in the bible are only parroting what other men have put to paper. Some are wise but many portray mysticism as the word of god; the omnipotent one but there’s always the devil that can lead one astray. So who is the more potent god?

  • Gloria2

    Blah, blah, blah, atheist drivel.

  • cricket44

    I’m truly very sorry that you struggle with reading comprehension, nuance and context, Kewake, but you’d be better off trying to learn them instead of making yourself look increasingly foolish by railing at others in your lack of comprehension.

  • kewake

    I dont think you read the article at all, Crickett. No where above did he say that he thinks a single parent and a child are not a family. No where. Read it twice. He said that he believes in traditional marriage. No where does he imply that other families ARE NOT families. And as far as what he said about CPC’s, he said that they are there for women. But they are also there for the woman if she still chooses abortion. You read this and let it upset you. Your bigoted glasses only let you see what you want to see. Pot/black, yes?

  • cricket44

    Lol, no. It is like talking to a dense brick wall. I’m amused, not upset. I don’t think you are capable of posting without projection.

  • kewake

    Please cut and copy where in above article that he said what you think he said?? Id help you, but its not there.

  • larryclyons

    So typical, you cannot respond to the ideas so you engage in personal insult. My how Christian of you.

  • larryclyons

    what do you expect from another name for that proverbial frothy mix…

  • PhillyJimi1

    quoting from the article. “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. ”

    Rick you DO want to FORCE a woman into NOT having a choice. You want to FORCE her to have the baby because of your religious beliefs. What a double talking snake.

  • cricket44

    Yup

  • HumanWrites

    Santorum has been a “double talking snake” from the start… He’s obviously still working that persona.