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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. JiminNM

    But what does God's Word have to say about gays? It is the Pope's responsibility to communicate that information. If he doesn't have the courage, then who does he worship, God or man?

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

      What??????????? is this GOD wishy washy or what?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Observer

      What does God's word have to say in the Golden Rule? Oooops.

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

      Jesus never said anything about gays. The only people that did claimed God spoke through them. Notice the trend?

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

      You capitalize "god's word" like it means anything. If you are talking about the bible, it is just a collection of scribblings that have become more and more distorted over the years to the point where they would probably be unrecognizable to their authors. It is the responsibility of the pope to have a set of balls and not to perpetuate intiquated and ridiculously bigoted ideas in the name of some distorted idea of "the greater good" – and taking such a stand is the picture of courage.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • tekstep1

      God has nothing to say about gay people. Thats why the Pope can speak about it in such compassionate terms. I'm really beginning to like this guy...

      July 29, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Allan S.

      I think God's message is clear.

      John 8:7: They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!"

      Seems pretty clear to me. You are allowed to hear God's word and believe in it, but you have no right to judge other's sins. If you think your judgement is equal to God's, then you, my friend, are breaking a cardinal law.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  2. Agnostickids

    Hey haters, why you were worrying about gays

    20,000 children starved to death.

    Google it, 20,000 children die every day from poverty....and you're worried about gays being loved by God or the Pope....

    Interesting.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Agnostickids

      Oops! While, not why...

      July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • kk

      and yet people of religion give exponentially more than those without it... google it.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • Agnostickids

        I did, and there is NOTHING on the internet that says religious people give more than non believers. Wow. What was it that Jesus said about giving to the needy, but not boasting about it?????

        July 29, 2013 at 11:13 am |
        • kk

          http://secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=generous_atheists

          even you websites will admit that religious give more, though the article tries to defend atheistic altruism

          July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am |
        • kk

          How are you gonna say that Christians don't care about the improverished and then go ahead to say that Christians should hide their compassion. I'm sorry. I guess Christians are supposed to always be criticized for their selfishness since they are supposed to give in secret. Check your verses. I think Jesus means pride.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:32 am |
      • sam

        Bullshit. Some religious people make sure everyone can see them being charitable; they make noise about it. It's the quiet ones, and the non-faithful, who donate the most but you never see them.

        A lot of religious people do it because they're told to, or compelled to. Big deal.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
        • Taylor

          Your comments are so ridiculous. Look at yourself get upset over other people giving to the poor and needy because they are Christians. Because of what? Some prideful shade of jealousy.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:27 am |
        • kk

          I like how you said "some." Maybe read the bible for a second and you'll see that Jesus condemns these hypocrites as well.

          I also like how you said "A lot." You must be a half empty kind of person.

          I guess atheistic ungiving is much better than the manipulated religious giving.

          Will any atheist/agnoistic admit that there is even a shred of good in religion? I guess this is the only absolute truth for you guys. Everything else is relative.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • AE

      Please tell me you are trying to help those children.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:13 am |
      • Agnostickids

        Yes, I am. Kids and animals at 2 different shelters. Are you???

        July 29, 2013 at 11:13 am |
        • AE

          Yes – I'm doing the best I can to help.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Taylor

      That is a weak argument. There is no reason that Christians cannot address both issues better. When the Nazis were killing Jews they were also starving. I don't think you wanted to say at the time "let's focus on the Jews starving" because the other issue was a problem too so how about we address both better.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • AE

      There is enough food on the planet to feed everyone.

      In my opinion, due to human greed and corruption not everyone is being fed.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  3. Erlo

    How are 1 billion people still following this scam?

    July 29, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • TYRANNASAUR

      MASS STUPIDITY of the guilt, shame and fear taught to the morons is the answer.

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

      i guess atheists don't fall for scams. The atheists are riding along on their high horses while us christians play in the mud of our peasantry.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  4. Tillydilly477

    It's work being a person of Faith and sharing that Faith with others..but I have joy in my life because of my Faith. Words of hate don't stop my joy.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  5. Amanda

    It's amazing to see a Pope who is as liberal as Francis is. He may not be the epitome of "liberal" but for a pope, he is pretty forward thinking in my opinion. Good for him for standing his ground on the issues of gays. Who cares? I wish the entire church felt this way but obviously that's not going to happen, not any time soon anyway.
    People who are divorced in my opinion should absolutely be able to recieve communion. If we shouldn't judge gay people, why are we judging divorced people? Maybe they got out of an abusive relationship in which case divorced is justified, in my opinion. As for women being preists–it's tradition. Not that it's OK for women to not have the same rights as men within the church but it's tradition and I don't see that ever changing unfortunately.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  6. kjmoran

    Before the headline makes your summary, read the more about the press conference here: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1303260.htm

    July 29, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  7. Agnostickids

    You don't like my posts against God?

    Maybe you should pray for them to be removed...

    July 29, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • johno54

      Hey kid, 20,000 kids starve each day because of the inherent evil of men even like yourself. God has given us the means by which we can feed each and every person on this planet. This promise has been however abrogated by men like yourself who think that war chaos and other evils should be the order of the day.
      So we end up with people starving because no one will teach them how to fish in their own environment but in order to show God how good and kind they are they send them food which they eat in a short time and become hungry again and even more desperate after the fact.
      Adding gays to this matrix is just like throwing another log on the fire. I surmise that this is how evil people stay warm on their cold nights.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:16 am |
      • Agnostickids

        Freak.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  8. Truth Can Be Unpopular With Some

    To those who would hate the pope for what he has said, you must also remember that there were many in Christ's time who did not like or agree with what Jesus said and did, e.g., the Pharisees, the Sadducees, kings and others. They actively fought against Him in a cowardly manner. We see much of what is happening here when a person with a good mind presents things as they are. Let us therefore embrace the Pope's message and put an end to prejudice and discrimination and intolerance against Gays and Lesbians. It is something whose time has rightfully come.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  9. Russ

    I am an atheist, and former Catholic. Been one for quite some time. However, I saw a show on PBS recently about the Buddha, and am very intrigued. It seems Buddhism is about this life, not an afterlife. And, it is about finding your own personal answers to the big questions. I am going to check it out further, and maybe you should too. Religions that talk down to you, dictate to you, and tell you what is right or wrong are out of place today when people are educated and can think for themselves.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  10. JFCanton

    Much of the meat in what the Pope said addresses technicalities.

    The fact that a divorced person is not considered to be in perfect standing and thus technically shouldn't receive Communion doesn't mean they don't receive Communion. My aunt is on her third-and-a-half marriage, everyone knows it, and she goes to Communion.

    And it's not like there has been any sort of policy of trying to root out gay priests. If they are actively gay, yeah, one would imagine that would be a problem... but the same would be true if they were actively straight.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  11. Solitaire

    Its seems like there is far more hate in these comments than there is in this new Pope's heart.

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

      Yes.

      We certainly live in remarkable times when the Pope is more respectful and tolerant of gays than many people on this board!

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

      Summer vacation

      July 29, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  12. DAMN DUDE

    PEDOPHILE ALERT AGAIN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ANOTHER WEINER BOY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

      Ok. We'll keep our kids away from you. Thanks.

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

        lol. That was great! 😉

        July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  13. Richard Bergstrom

    "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!""

    Was that a Dan Brown "Angels a& Demons" reference from the Pope?

    July 29, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  14. BubblesB

    Finally a Pope who's come into the 21st century instead of hiding in the past. He's already becoming a great Pope and he's only held the office for a few months. God bless him.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Not A Fan

      Oh yeah. He's really done a lot to all the clergy that have abused kids for decades. And he's said so much about it!

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

      Maybe if the pope tok time to read the Bible, he would be able to judge based on God's Word! And it's quite CLEAR!

      July 29, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • AE

        What did Jesus say about hom@s@xuals?

        July 29, 2013 at 11:16 am |
      • Joe

        Maybe he's leaving it up to God to judge, not himself. Who are you and I to judge our fellow man. We've all sinned in one way or another.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  15. Kenman

    Thus continues the dumbing-down and selling out of the scriptures by the Catholic Church, and the liberal media is predictably elated!

    This pope's liberal indifference to the will of God will also sit well with all the liberal Democrats who claim Catholicism when they need a religious element in their campaign but live and legislate contrary to scriptural doctrine at every turn. It's been the religion of the Mafia, pedophile "priests", so-called royal families etc., and most "Catholics" are pro-choice/abortion and support politicians and celebrities who mock Biblical teachings.

    Catholicism has about as much integrity as Scientology, but I recognize that there are millions of practicing Catholics that are faithful and earnest, and hope they will save what they can of the faith.

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

      Kenman,

      You're having a tough time accepting the Golden Rule, aren't you?

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

      Where do you get your material? I do not see any of this written anywhere except your response.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • JCC Jr

      What, having the faith to hate ?

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

      Where is thhe dumbing down.....no human has the ability or right to judge the soul of another person. And, although the pope seems to understand that, you apparently do not. He did not approve the act but he accepted the person. If that bothers you then it might be a food idea to rethink your religion. Jesus was very accepting of sinners and welcomed them. He who is without fault cast the first stone.

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

      remember to save that slavery part too.

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

      What scriptures are being sold out?

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

      Do you work or even frequent places who are open on the Sabbath? If you do, you're not abiding by the will of God either. Seems to me you had better make sure you're not living in a glass house before you start throwing stones.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • flexy145

      You are the prime example of what's wrong if you rather care about the "scriptures of the Catholic church" than what the faith REALLY is about. If this pope can help to open the eyes of people such as you, he is a good pope. Actually, it will be his major mission to actually educate people what the Christian belief once really was about.....and open the eyes of those people who *consider* themselves faithful solely because they cling onto what you call "bible's teachings". "Bible's teachings", in a sense, are entirely irrelevant

      July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Gsdm

      Gosh Kenman, it must be so difficult and trying to be you – the banner carrier for all that is just and righteous on this world. I'm sure all the heavenly bodies – even the trinity – stands back in true awe of your righteousness. I'm certain your light outshines God's. We are so humbled by your presence on this CNN comment page.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • james Pfeiffer

      That's the most myopic, closed minded, self-righteous and obstinent utterance I have read in awhile. Congratulations! It is your kind of small exclusive thinking that turned me away from the church. This pope is already a breath of fresh air. You don't have to be a judgemental axxhole to be close to God. Nor do you, as a mere mortal, have the right to define holiness!

      July 29, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  16. Bobbie Jo Justice

    better, but you need to keep god out of it.

    people do not have to believe the religious fairy tale to be a good person.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  17. Meh

    You're a member of the catholic religion so its your JOB to judge eveybody else...
    guyinarobediddlingaboyspenls says what?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  18. Serge Crespy

    A QUESTION FOR POPE FRANCIS:

    Is it a sin to promote Jesus Christ as a "GAY SON OF GOD"?

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

      Since there is no evidence that such a thing is true it would certainly not bear scrutiny. Honestly, Hon, everybody is not a repressed gay.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  19. JC

    Who is he to judge? If you really follow the Faith then, no, no one should judge, but he should be pretty careful with his words versus the words of the Book that he purportedly, bases the Catholic Faith on. start with 1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV....seems pretty clear. Way too much gray area in his statement....it is only going to confuse people further. Its like a ShamWow commercial.....what you hear is not necessarily the whole story.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • JCC Jr

      But what did Jesus have to say about this ????

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

        Nothing.

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

      "start with 1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV....seems pretty clear."

      1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul gave a list of those who would not inherit the Kingdom of God. That list included the immoral, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and robbers. Sexual perverts is a translation of two words; it is possible that the juxtaposition of malakos, the soft, effeminate word, with rsenokoitus, or male prostitute, it wasn't talking about homosexuality as we know and understand it today.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:03 am |
      • John

        But your translation of the Bible doesn't conform to my narrow minded translation that allows me to be religiously bigoted against anyone I don't like! You're going to burn in Hell. #Sarcasm

        July 29, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • angbalti

        The question was what did Jesus say. The answer, nothing. Why is it that somehow we rarely hear what Jesus said. It is always Paul. Jesus said very clearly he who is without fault cast the first stone. If in your heart you think you are without fault, then go ahead.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  20. SDY

    Not carrying the keys to the atomic bomb?

    Your holiness, begging your pardon, you just set one off, so I guess you're just saying that since you used the bomb already you don't have the keys anymore?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
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