Uber-Catholic Rick Santorum: "It’s sometimes very difficult to listen to the Pope"

Presidential aspirant isn't too pleased with Pope Francis' statements on reproduction

Published January 21, 2015 5:24PM (EST)

  (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)
(Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

It's no secret that Pope Francis hasn't won many conservative fans with his vision of a more inclusive Church and robust support for action to tackle economic inequality and climate change. Pat Buchanan lambastes the pope for sowing "confusion among the faithful" with his criticism of the Catholic hierarchy's "hostile rigidity" on hot-button social issues, while Rush Limbaugh castigates Francis' preaching of the social gospel as "pure Marxism." The latest high-profile conservative to ding the bishop of Rome? None other than the very Catholic former Sen. Rick Santorum.

Speaking with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, the likely 2016 presidential aspirant weighed in on the controversy surrounding the pope's recent remark that good Catholics don't have to breed "like rabbits." Although Francis hasn't backed down from the Church's staunch opposition to birth control, he told reporters on a flight back from his trip to Asia Monday that there are natural, Church-endorsed methods of contraception. "God gives you methods to be responsible," the pope said. "Some think that — excuse the word — that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No."

Santorum isn't having it.

"Well, I mean, it’s sometimes very difficult to listen to the Pope and some of the things he says off the cuff, and this is one of them," he told Hewitt. "And I just, I keep coming back to the Pope is the leader of the Catholic Church, and when he speaks as the leader of the Catholic Church, I’ll certainly pay attention. But when he speaks in interviews, he’s giving his own opinions, which I certainly will listen to, but from my perspective, that doesn’t reflect the idea that people shouldn’t be fruitful and multiply, and that people should be open to life as something that is a core value of the faith and of the Catholic Church."

"And I don’t know what the Pope was referring to there," Santorum continued. "Maybe he’s speaking to people in the third world, but the problem certainly in most of the Catholic world is not procreation. I mean, in Europe in particular, you have birth rates that are only over, just a little over one for every two people. So this isn’t a global problem, and I don’t know what the Pope was referring to." 

But don't expect Santorum to launch a Tea Party challenge to the pope just yet. Asked by Hewitt whether the pope's comments may portend a shift in Church doctrine on birth control, Santorum was confident that they did not.

"No, well look, the bottom line is that’s not going to happen. I don’t think anyone who seriously looks at this believes that it’s not possible to happen. I mean, the Pope is the Pope, but the Pope has a lot of other people around him who advise him," he said. "And you know, the most important thing is that as a Catholic, I believe he has the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit isn’t going to let him make that kind of mistake."

Santorum's criticism of the pope comes just days after he vowed that in 2016, he would not delve into ”crazy stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with anything” as he did in 2012, when he drew fire for his fierce condemnation of birth control.

Listen below to Santorum's latest bout of finger-wagging about sex:

By Luke Brinker

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