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Pope Francis on hot-button issues
July 29th, 2013
08:48 AM ET

Pope Francis on gays: 'Who am I to judge?'

By John L. Allen Jr. and Hada Messia, CNN

Aboard the Papal Airplane (CNN) - Pope Francis said Monday that he will not "judge" gays and lesbians, including gay priests, signaling a shift from his predecessor and offering another sign that the new pope is committed to changing the church's approach to historically marginalized groups.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis said in a wide-ranging news conference aboard the papal plane.

Though he was answering a question about the so-called "gay lobby" at the Vatican, the pope indicated a change in tone, if not in teaching, in the church's stance towards gays and lesbians more generally.

The pope was flying back to Rome from Brazil, where he spent the past week celebrating World Youth Day, an international Catholic event that drew millions.

Taking questions from reporters aboard the plane, the pope addressed nearly every hot-button issue facing the Roman Catholic Church: its alleged "gay lobby," Vatican bank corruption, the role of women, abortion, homosexuality and his own personal security.

But it was the pope's remarks on homosexuality - the fact that the head of a 1 billion-member church said that it's not his place to judge gays - that caused the widest stir.

"Pope Francis's brief comment on gays reveals great mercy," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at America, a Catholic magazine based in New York.

"Today Pope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone," Martin said.

The pontiff spoke  for an hour and a half in the back of the plane that was carrying him back to Italy after his first international trip as pope to Brazil, where he was greeted by massive, frenzied crowds at every turn.

"I'm happy. It has been a beautiful trip, spiritually speaking; it has been good to me. I'm tired enough but with a heart full of joy," he said.

Here are the highlights from his press conference.

On the 'gay lobby' and homosexuality

The pope addressed the issue of an alleged "gay lobby" within the church. Hints that the Holy See contained a network of gay clergy surfaced last year in reports about a series of embarrassing leaks to Italian journalists.

The "Vatileaks" scandal factored in Benedict's shocking decision to resign this year, according to some church experts, as it impressed upon the 86-year-old pontiff that the modern papacy requires a vigorous and watchful presence.

"There's a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I've never seen it on the Vatican ID card!" Francis said.

"When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency (to homosexuality) is not the problem ... they're our brothers."

The problem, he said was, lobbies that work against the interest of the church.

In 2005, during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued directives barring from the priesthood men "who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called 'gay culture.'"

Francis' brief remarks seem to signal a sharp shift from that policy.

On women

The pope also spoke out about the role of women in the church, saying it needs to be deeper and not end. But he brushed aside the possibility of ordaining women as priests, saying the church had spoken on the matter: "The church says no. That door is closed." He did say that more work needed to be done theologically on the role of women in the church.

On abortion

Pope watchers have noted that Francis said little to nothing about abortion on his trip to Brazil. Abortion is illegal in Brazil, except for cases in which the health of the mother is at risk. Laws were recently changed to allow abortions in cases in which the child would be born with certain life-threatening birth defects.

The pope said he had nothing to say on the trip about abortion because the church teachings against it were clear and this trip was the time for "positive" news.

On divorce

"I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch," the pope said when asked about divorce. He said the group of eight cardinals tasked with reform will explore the issue of whether divorcees can receive Communion, which they are currently barred from doing.

On the Vatican Bank

The pope conceded he was unsure what to do with the Vatican Bank, which is known by its acronym IOR.

"Some say that it would be better if it were a bank, others say that it should be a foundation. Other say to shut it down. These are the suggestions going around. I don't know. I trust the commission's members that are working on the IOR. But I wouldn't be able to tell you how this story is going to end."

And as for what was in the black leather bag he carried onto the plane? A razor, a prayer book, a diary and a book about St. Theresa, but, the pope joked, "Certainly not the keys to the atomic bomb!"

He said he carried his own bags because, "It's normal, we have to be normal. We have to be accustomed to being normal."

CNN's Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Brazil • Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (3,302 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    If this is the religion of God, why can't they make up their minds on what is and is not a sin?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Wake up

      When a religion is all made up by men, its difficult to follow God.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Veritas

      Nothing new here. Nothing has changed in the truth about sin of sodomy & adultery. Anyone with any agenda who thinks Pope Francis is changing matters of faith and morals will be greatly disappointed. You fail to understand Jesus Christ and His Bride The Church.

      The fact that Pope Francis won't condemn a sinner (sodomite, adulterer in this case) to eternal separation from God (Hell) should not shock anyone who knows Jesus Christ. Obviously, we condemn ourselves to eternal separation from God each time we separate ourselves from Jesus Christ through our sinful acts. Each and every time we need reconciliation, restoration, and redemption with God.

      The ministry of Jesus Christ (therefore His Church and all who are in communion with Him) is to INVITE ALL of Good Will to "come and follow" Jesus Christ so that you may escape the eternal pains of Hell.

      There are only two fathers to choose from: the father of lies and death or The Father of Life.

      As always, choose this day whom you will serve. Whose *your* father?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • JCC Jr

      Really. Sounds like the plan has never really been quite clear...............

      July 29, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  2. slave of Christ

    GOD SAID NOT TO CONFORM TO THIS WORLD AND THATS ALL THESE popes ARE DOING, ENTERTAINING THE DEVIL AND HIS WAYS, TOTALY CONTRARY TO GODS WORD AND COMMANDMENTS, HENCE THE WORD ANTI-CHRIST.... BUT THEN AGAIN THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY SAYS "VENGENCE IS MINE" THEN AGAIN IT SAYS PEOPLE WILL FALL AWAY FROM THE TRUTH, WHOLE REASON THE SAME RELIGIOUS FOLKS CRUCIFIED CHRIST CAUSE THEY FELT CHRIST WAS TRYING TO CONTROL THEIR LIFES... WICH IN REALITY HE WAS TEACHING THE TRU WAY TO GET TO GOD,,, LORD- MEANS RULER,,, AND PEOPLE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE WORD SLAVE... HMMMM JUST TO LET YOU KNW THEIRS TWO MASTERS GOD OR THE devil,,,, YOUR A SLAVE OF ONE OR THE OTHER JUST CAUSE U SAY U AINT DOSENT MEAN DATS SO.. MOST SLAVES NEVER KNW THEY ARE CAPTIVE CAUSE THEY GET TO ROAM AROUND FREELY.... THEN AGAIN THE WORD OF GOD SAYS ALLL DIS WORLD WILL GET MORE PERVERTED, VIOLENT, FAMINES AND ALL KINDS OF MAYHEM,, BUT THOSE WHO STAY FAITHFULL TO THE END THOSE SHALL BE SAVED......... READ YOUR WORD IF U EVEN HAVE A BIBLE AND U WONT LOOK SO LOST,,,OR BE SO LOST,, DONT GO WITH THE TIDE GET INTO KNOWING THE TRUTH NOT YOUR TRUTH BUT GODS TRUTH... SAD TO SEE PEOPLE PERVERTING GODS WORD BUT THEIR IS CONSEQUENCES TO ALL THAT AND WE SHALL REAP IT GOD IS REAL SO IS HIS PUNISHMENT,, IF U PUNISH UR CHILD FOR DOING WRONG WHY SHOULDNT GOD AFTER ALL HE GAVE YOU LIFE......

    July 29, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Jesus the Christ

      WHAT??? SPEAK UP!!! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!!!!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Michael

      What did Jesus say about it? those words in that book have spawned more hatred than any other. Hatred comes from men, not God.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am |
      • laughnow27513

        Hatred of sin comes directly from God, and Gods Word. Those that speak Gods Word are called haters though the speak the truth. You failed.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Merrillee

      My parents gave me life, and your capslock is stuck.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • God also said...

      God also said not to use all caps, or didn't you read that part? See 1st Elements 2:1-9.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  3. rad666

    "You can't marginalize these people."

    Gay male priests? Okey dokey with him.

    Female priests? He// no!

    I guess you can marginalize females. Sorry ladies, it's a man's world.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  4. Skorpio

    The AYATOLLAH on gays: `Who am I to judge?' As the top Islamic cleric I will condemn you to death.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  5. David Murray

    I used to think of the Catholic Church as the most obsolete form of Christianity. But lately I'm beginning to think it may be the most modern and forward-thinking form. Over the last few years the Pope has said evolution is okay and does not conflict with the catholic church. They have said atheists go to heaven. And now they say not to judge gays. They are really making progress on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I left the (protestand) church years ago because I was tired of some of the ignorant things I was seeing. There really are people who believe the earth is 6,000 years old and that man rode his dinosaur to work everyday. And they spend more time judging others than doing what Jesus instructed. I think if I ever decide to go back to church, it will be a catholic church.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  6. skarphace

    Question: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

    Answer: a Republican.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • krg

      Did you know 52% of Republicans support gay marriage?????

      July 29, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • My02Cents

      Oh please give it a rest. I live in the south and there are thousands of democrats down here that are against gay marriage, as well as against gay people. I don't call myself a democrat or republican, I chose who I feel is the best candidate at the time. But by you saying only "Republicans" are the ones who judge must indicate you yourself are a republican.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:54 am |
      • Hammerdown

        The only people passing laws against Gays are.....REPUBLICANS.

        July 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  7. KATHY/Minnesota

    Catholic Republicans worst nightmare!!..HELP THE POOR!!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • My02Cents

      Speak for yourself.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • oh come on

      All Catholics would be Democrats if they would just lay off the abortion thing....

      July 29, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  8. John

    So there are some REAL Christians left. Finally a Pope that in inclusive instead of exclusive. Loving instead of hateful and intolerant. A Pope that actually sounds like Jesus. One who cares about the poor and less fortunate rather than ignoring them. Thank God for Pope Francis.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  9. Buckn

    Now, if he would just come out for birth control, maybe we could start aleviating some un-needed hunger and suffering in the world.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  10. acrabahyiouspe

    That wasn't exactly inspiring.

    Pope Francis should have had the courage to make it clear that performing gay acts was a sin, while saying that being a (non-practicing) gay wasn't.

    Likewise, a person cannot get divorced unless their partner committed adultery. (They can live apart, but may not re-marry). That's on direct authority from Jesus.

    Whatsisname, the latest rock star in the Vatican, cannot change that.

    Thanks.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • skarphace

      So you think you are in a position to tell the Pope what he should or should not have said? Really??

      July 29, 2013 at 10:46 am |
      • acrabahyiouspe

        He's not the authority on Christianity. He's supposed to just teach what Jesus taught.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Matt

      So if I beat the hell out of my wife once a week, she shouldn't divorce me and marry someone who treats her right? What sense does that make....

      July 29, 2013 at 10:51 am |
      • acrabahyiouspe

        She can choose to live apart or to choose not to be Christian.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Damocles

      This has got to be the stupidest argument ever. 'Non-practicing gay', what the fvck does that even mean?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
      • acrabahyiouspe

        If you can't figure out what that means, you're the dumb one, Charlie!

        July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
        • Damocles

          So people can be gay, but not 'gay', because being 'gay' is icky in your mind. Their parades and whatnot are their business, but apparently what goes on behind their doors is suddenly your business.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  11. John

    Someone tell this guy that he is supposed to be the Pope (spiritual leader). God is judge but a spiritual leader should warn people about sin and judgement.If you dont want to talk about sin and immorality just remove 27 books of the Bible or better yet, talk about the creature more than the creator (Mary). At that point, you have a big social club.Party on dudes..bring on the golden calf.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • skarphace

      So he is "supposed" to be the Pope? In other words, you will not consider him the Pope unless he says and does only what you approve of? I am quite sure that he doesn't really care what you think, and he is not "supposed" to be the Pope, he really is the Pope. Time to wake up, John. The world is not your fantasy.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
      • acrabahyiouspe

        You have no interest in what the Pope says. You only want someone to say that your sinful lifestyle is okay.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:01 am |
        • skarphace

          "My sinful lifestyle". And what lifestyle would that be? Do you assume that just because I do not take issue with the Pope's stance on gays that I am gay myself? That is quite an assumption and a wrong assumption. In my opinion, you are the one who is leading a "sinful lifestyle" because you judge others, which is exactly what Jesus said was a sin. However, all people sin. This is why we need forgiveness for our sins. Maybe you should look to the log in your eye before pointing out splinters in others? Just a thought.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  12. Jesus the Christ

    What if gays are all a part of Gods plan to test if Christians really DO love one another?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • acrabahyiouspe

      They do love you. That's why they're trying to save you from the consequences of your sinful activity.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  13. Jon

    Like me, the pope is an Atheist.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  14. Gerald S. Schuff

    The Catholic Church is full of hypocrisy at it's core. The Pope is right to ask "who am I to judge?" Who is anyone to judge those who are different than them? That may be human nature to dislike or even hate those who are different than them, but Jesus called on us to love, not to judge, but to include and show tolerance for one another. God loves all of us and has grace enough for all of us. I am sick of "church" policies that mislead us back toward divisiveness and hatred, guilt and shame. Who can trust a church who does not focus on Jesus' basic message to accept one another even when we don't understand others nature, culture or religion. Isn't that what the Bill of Rights is about too? That we are all equal under the law and the eyes of God?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  15. Darw1n

    This guy is alright.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  16. Jim

    I'm not at all religious, but I am gay. Still, I see the Pope's remarks as a positive sign; I don't see this cynically at all. If the Pope isn't going to judge, that pretty much says it all. With gay marriage becoming increasingly common in Europe and the United States, and now the Pope's remarks, the tide has definitely turned.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The next generation will view ho/mophobia with the same distate that most of the current generation views racism.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
      • Capt Nemo

        It's already happened in the Catholic church (my generation all left); it's happening to the evangelicals now.

        http:// religion.blogs.cnn.com/ 2013/07/27/ why-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/

        July 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  17. Jeff

    The Pope should let the people of his religion know that it's a sin to have views on gays.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  18. sharoom

    I'm not religious at all and I am already really respecting this pope.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  19. Steven Correira

    The pope's shallow, cowardly answers show that once again, we have a " people pleasing & a politically correct pope" rather than a "God fearing pope". The pope is suppose to be a teacher to Catholics as to how to live their lives today according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Apparently, the pope does not feel that what God's Holy Scripture has to say is of any importance. Because the Holy Scriptures strongly disagree with that guy's answers to the questions. The only thing he has gotten right is the grace, mercy and love part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is much more to living a devoted life to Christ than the shallow phrase "God is love." I personally would challenge the pope one on one on this subject....using ONLY the Holy Scriptures of course. Our opinions and emotions have NOTHING to do with what God's Word says....period!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • ron

      Interesting that you didn't mention his emphasis on the poor. Nor did you mention Jesus' teachings on the poor.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • paul

      Finally a good an honest pope.

      To many followers nowadays have forgotten Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

      It warms my heart to have a man in the Vatican who doesn't simply sit there denouncing others to hell, and I believe he could help pave the way for closer relations between believers, non believers, and people of different faiths.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Ryan

      We're all victims of our own gene pool. Someone must've peed in yours.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Jim

      You've used ""God fearing" and "grace, mercy and love of the Gospel" in the same paragraph. So which is it? I'm an Atheist, and am always amused at how devout believers talk about the "love and mercy" of God...yada, yada...but then talk about how you should fear this imaginary deity. The Pope was talking about marginalized people. Are you a member of a marginalized group? If you were, I think you would see things from a different perspective. Perhaps it's time to come down off your high, hypocritical horse.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Jeff E.

      What about love and forgiveness is shallow? It seems to be one of the most difficult things for a human being to do and your post just illustrates that. Question what kind of a loving God would condemn his own creations and ask yourself why you need a pedestal to put yourself above those you would judge as less than. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests we are supposed to be perfect to be loved by God but I would say that trying to attain perfection (or at least preference) by judging others as less than you is a cowardly path that leads to suffering.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • The Brown Hornet

      He is right, no man has the right to ultimately judge. In the end the Pope has not strayed from Mark 12:31, "The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." If people started living by this creed vs spending all thier energy condeming perceived sinners to Hell, the world would be a better place.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.