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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. SteveinVA

    If what he binds on earth is bound in heaven and what he looses on earth is loosed in heaven, then this is great news. Finally a pope who practices what he preaches. Judge not lest ye be judged. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  2. hes a dud too

    SCRATCH THIS ONE TOO

    July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  3. amy

    That's the Jesuit background; non-judgmental humility and universal tolerance.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Not A Fan

      He's very tolerant of child abuse. Not one word out of him about it.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  4. Sam

    Wow... so many people here seem to think they are more qualified than the Pope.

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

      The Pope is little more than a salesman looking for a sale as the church needs the money .

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

      the pope contradicted his own church and the previous pope. How qualified is he ?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Postage

      The Pope doesn't not represent God. The Catholic Church has proven that over the centuries:
      Crusades, Inquisitions, Burning people at the stake that would own the Bible, support of wars (ie WWI, WWII), alliance with Nazi Germany (Reich's Concordat). I believe in God, but the Pope and the Catholic Church is not it.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  5. MikeinAZ

    religion has a place in all households. In the garbage pail.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  6. Darwin was right

    Nice to see that the Catholic church is making a bit more progress into the 20th century. After all, it only took them 350 years (1633 to 1983) for the church to overturn the condemnation of GALILEO for claiming that the EARTH is NOT the center of the universe. And those annoying scientists can't seem to stop themselves from embarrassing the church. Not only did they prove the EARTH actually revolves around the sun in contradiction to HOLY SCRIPTURE, they are now claiming that gay is NOT a lifestyle choice, but instead is programmed into the fetal brain, due to genetic, epigenetic, and in utero influences that are still to be unraveled. Fortunately, the scientists are no longer in danger of being arrested by the Pope for epousing false doctrine!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  7. Woody

    The bible is little more than a book of compiled stories written by the human mammal that saw the world as it was 2000 years ago . Most of the stories came from peoples dreams !

    July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  8. MikeinAZ

    The myth of god is the funniest joke in mankinds history.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  9. slave of Christ

    ITS HARD TO SEE THE LIGHT WHEN YOUR BLIND AND NEVER LISTEN...

    July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • God

      You're...not your....

      Ignorance is never helpful when you're religious and trying to prove a point about your beliefs.

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

        There are different kinds of ignorance. Only one of them is defined by spelling errors.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Seyedibar

      you're.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  10. Daryl

    Well I guess better late than never. Now if he would just make a sincere apology for the persecution of gays over the centuries by his church I would be impressed.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  11. JDP

    Funny how CNN and Washington Post immediately put this story on their "front pages' on thier websites? Could they be biased? Nahh.... putting whether this topic is a good idea or not I am sick and tired of the Liberal Progressives promoting and pushing their agenda on the general public. It would be one thing is they did a "balanced approached" showing both sides of the discussion but the usually don't. The editors reward the writers (not the mention the fact they have recruited staff minorities and liberals for the last 25 years that has changed the definition of a balanced approach) that write articles the way they want them to be written (liberally progressive). Who died and made them God?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • God

      Evidently you're jealous.

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

      "the Liberal Progressives promoting and pushing their agenda on the general public."

      Maybe it's because they are trying to educate people like you on the facts about gays. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      Like their heterosexual counterparts, many gay and lesbian people want to form stable, long-lasting, committed relationships. Indeed, many of them do and that large proportions are currently involved in such a relationship and that a substantial number of those couples have been together 10 or more years.

      Research demonstrates that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners closely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Heterosexual and same-sex couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, equity, loyalty, and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues. Research examining the quality of intimate relationships also shows that gay and lesbian couples have levels of relationship satisfaction similar to or higher than those of heterosexual couples.

      A large number of gay and lesbian couples raise children. Children and teenagers whose parents provide loving guidance in the context of secure home environments are more likely to flourish – and this is just as true for children of same-sex parents as it is for children of opposite-sex parents. Based on research findings, mental health professionals have also reached a consensus that the quality of relationships among significant adults in a child’s or adolescent’s life is associated with adjustment. When relationships between parents are characterized by love, warmth, cooperation, security, and mutual support, children and adolescents are more likely to show positive adjustment. In contrast, when relationships between parents are conflict-ridden and acrimonious, the adjustment of children and adolescents is likely to be less favorable. These correlations are just as true for children of same-sex parents as for
      children of opposite-sex parents.

      Assertions that heterosexual couples are inherently better parents than same sex couples, or that the children of lesbian or gay parents fare worse than children of heterosexual parents, have no support in the scientific research literature. On the contrary, the scientific research that has directly compared outcomes for children with gay and lesbian parents with outcomes for children with heterosexual parents has consistently shown that the former are as fit and capable as the latter and that their children are as psychologically healthy and well adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • JCC Jr

      So you are saying the 'liberal media' MADE the Pope say this ? I'm not getting it...........

      July 29, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Milostan

      JDP – they have their agenda and can almost dictate, along with the other major network news, what the conversation is about. Be they Left or Right. Unfortunately, the country is not balanced as majority of network agenda's are to the far Left. I find this very "unhealthy" for a nation who's political views are pretty much split down the middle on most major topics.

      Sadly, it will take a crisis of some sort to bring this country back to the middle. I pray Obama will start to do things that will bring the nation together. Unfortunately, his policy is based on class warfare and keeping us divided. I had such high hopes 5 years ago. Sadly, the history books will show how he has been one of the most ineffective leaders to ever sit in the Whitehouse. He still has time, but unless he starts leading, this country we will continue to go nowhere until he is finally gone. Peace & God help out leaders do the right thing.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  12. Not A Fan

    I really don't care for the pope. All he's doing is trying to repair the reputation of the church, while still not holding clergy responsible for their atrocities on children. All in the name of a myth.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  13. Tori

    It upsets me to see so much hatred towards Republicans and Catholics in this post. I'm a Catholic Republican and I believe this Pope is the best thing to happen to the Catholic Church in decades. Pope Francis shows that Catholicism is not a hateful religion as most non-Catholics tend to believe. Rather, it is a religion of deep caring for all people. Thank you Pope Francis for showing the world what it truly is to be a Catholic.

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

      I don't see anyone saying they hate republicans or catholics in these posts...I see a lot of hatred toward gays and a lot of ignorance...

      So do you think that God would really own a gun and be a republican?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • conrad

      Much more work needs to be done regarding the role of women in the church and society in general. Women have been an underclass for nearly all of human history. This really needs to change. If a sincere and deeply committed spiritual woman felt inclined toward priesthood then it should be allowed. It would benefit the church and the people to restore women to the spiritual throne alongside men. If it is only about potential relationships between women and men that seems very disingenuous alongside an apparent willingness to accept openly gay relationships among priests and other clergy.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Capt Nemo

      Intolerant and bigoted Catholics and Republicans bring upon themselves the condign opprobrium you decry.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  14. AgnosticKids

    Each and every one of you are all idiots.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • MikeinAZ

      Im not, I know that god is hanging out with the easter bunny, little red ridinghood and santa claus.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • God

      LOL! It looks like someone has stolen Agnostickids handle...

      How sad that someone has such a little "member" that they can't speak for themselves and they envy how clever the real Agnostickids has been.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Milostan

      Learn how to write. Making grammatical errors when trying to bash an entire religion makes you look awfully foolish.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  15. Srb420

    All Religions are BS. They are made up by man. All you need to know is Believe in God. Not the church.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  16. me

    As a non-practicing Catholic, I am over-joyed to see that the Pope is letting go of some judgments that go along with the religion. Those judgments, along with the guilt and shame, are what turned me away from the Church in the first place. I have been looking for a reason to go back to the Church, and may have just found it.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • conrad

      I agree. I do think though that the willingness to agree to gay relationships while solidly keeping the door closed to women in the priesthood is symptomatic of profound mysogyny. All manner of adjustments and provisions are made to accomodate the differences among men, but women are not even considered. Where is the progress? Women are spiritually equal to men and it should be acknowleged and manifested in life and in the church for the betterment of all. I firmly believe this is what God would prefer.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:12 am |
      • me

        I do agree with you, but at this point, I see a little movement where there wasn't any before. Time will tell how much movement will happen.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  17. Mike

    Education will continue to be the biggest threat to organized religion. The more knowledge you have the less likely you'll be able to accept mythology.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • JCC Jr

      Seriously. But myths are fun to read. Odin and Thor freaking ROCK !!!

      July 29, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  18. allenwoll

    .
    The pope is an excellent politician and leader - BUT he needs a better, more useful product to sell ! !
    .

    July 29, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  19. Sitara12006

    Well that statement is surprising considering the catholic church always want to run everyone's life and all governments. They went to great lengths in the past to oppress. I guess things are changing especially since catholicism is on the wan and they need people in the pews

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

      100% correct. This just proved that the bible, jesus, church history, church values in the past, church teaching in the past have no credit, no value, just a temporary policy to work with the time it was in The current pope can change whatever he sees fits to survive with current society mood and society values. Final aim is just to reel in new followers, that is the real purpose of the church.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  20. Monza79

    Opens up hot butt-0n? That headline- were you SERIOUS

    July 29, 2013 at 10:51 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.