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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. Rahul

    Still closing doors on women though...

    July 29, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Evelyn

      Knock another door.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      There is no door for women to enter into the priesthood through.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • nadinesh

      There will be. One day soon. As long as women don't give up the fight. He might be a charming old fellow, and a refreshing change from a rather unpleasant couple of predecessors, but justice is justice and popes are just fallible elderly gents. The world changes even these King Canutes wade into the surf and hold their hands to stop it, to the cheers of their faithful.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        dream on nadine

        July 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
        • nadinesh

          I shall, dear sir. I shall. I am heartened by the new crop of humans as our generation passes away. I hope to live to see it, though.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • James PDX

      Well, they are the original sinners who got us kicked out of Eden. Besides, if you read the old testament you can tell how much God doesn't like women and thinks they are really icky.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Women cannot be clergy. They are not allowed to speak in church. What good is a clergy member who is not even allowed to speak in church?
      Corintians 14:34
      It is obvious that men created the biible, and saw women as property or at best second class citizens. Women should always obey men.
      God does not believe in equality.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • nadinesh

        LOL! I see a lot of fear in these remarks. But know that a lot of the Christian faith is based not on Jesus, but upon Paul and his followers, who say a great many, often contradictory things. As people increasingly return the words of the three early Gospels, they are becoming ever more skeptical of the anachronisms and cultural taboos in the later books, masquerading as forever truths. After all, Catholics never read the Bible, historically. It's all traditional. Personally, I find the book of James the most wonderful. But each and every book contradicts the others. There is no consistency.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
      • nadinesh

        Oops, and I should add that the remarks about women not speaking in Church, and so forth, were actually inserted by a copying scribe centuries later, according to Biblical scholarship. There are many such instances in the "Holy Scriptures."

        July 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
      • Get Real

        Meh, keep them out. Who wants MORE priests?

        July 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • Get Real

          And the same goes for celibacy. Who wants 400,000 priests producing 8-10 offspring each!?

          July 29, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        no fear nadinesh. The bible is a construct of men to control the behavior of the people. It has no bearing on my life whatsoever. Ever since I found so many parts of the bible to be flat out false, there has been little reason to believe it is anything other than a book on how to behave 2000 years ago. Since I will likely never go to that time, it is irrelevant.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  2. Fred

    Who is he to even comment?

    July 29, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • AE

      The man had millions of people show up to listen to him speak.

      You are commenting on an article written about him – you clicked on it.

      I think he has earned a right to comment. Just like you!

      July 29, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • sam

      Huh?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Agnostickids

      Who are you Fred?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  3. Plato

    Every child molesting priest should be excommunicated from the Church.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Evelyn

      Thats what is actually happening.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Merrillee

      They also should be prosecuted, which is also finally happening.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  4. Princess X

    To Peace, Love, and Freedom! Watch Obama, Monroe, the Pope, and more at youtu.be/emMptHv4b3k

    July 29, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  5. charles bowen

    I'm a recovering catholic turned Buddhist but i've gotta say I Like This Pope, and he is long overdue his touch may save this church from itself .....Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    July 29, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  6. Al

    Reblogged this on itsaboutfreakintime.com

    July 29, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  7. VladBudapest

    Very clever. They seem to welcome gays with the plan to capture them into the church and then switch them to self-hating straight pretenders. Also, in a non-committal way he says that women should play a bigger role in the church with no plans to change the status quo. Ever.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  8. Correctlycenter

    The word of God (the bible) is the standard in which a Christian should live their lives accordingly to the will of the LORD. Any person who deviates from what the word of the living God says does not represent the Lord Jesus Christ...

    July 29, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • baelknight

      Defying Christ who told you not to judge also seems to be not following his teachings as well.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Observer

      Yep. Bring back slavery and discrimination against women and the handicapped. Well thought out.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • sam

      So....just the new testament, or the old one, or what?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Eric

      The Joke's on you idiots, believing in old writings. Wake up, stupid.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • charles bowen

      The word of God was written by man the greatest of all liars.....as in ive got to control these crazy israelites , i know says Moses i need Ten Commandments and the rest is just history...... Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

      July 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Plato

      Nothing like a hypocrite who is too ignorant to realize he's no better than the people he judges. I'd say you're worse, personally.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  9. dswe

    Christ hung out with sinners like the adulteress and even Judas. Why is this thinking so new to everyone?

    July 29, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Fred Evil

      Because Xtians know VERY little about Christ. There are VERY few true Christians any more.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:54 am |
      • AE

        God loves the imperfect Christians, too.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  10. Jeff

    If there was a God, he wouldn't be a Christian.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Kianasmum

      God is not religious. The different religions arose because of the different thought processes of man. Jesus was not Christian either.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • vincemcd

      Hello Jeff. First, please know that I deeply feel as an American, and human being, that you have the right to believe or reject God and the Bible. I affirm your right to completely disagree with, and even ridicule what I believe. Having said that, please consider that if you reject God, your right to do that carries great consequences. If He is God, then He is supreme and does not have to be Who you want Him to be. So with care in my heart for you, I would ask you to personally consider the words of Jesus, who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me." They are clear words, spoken lovingly by a Savior who loves you. Again, you have the right to reject them, but not the right to determine the consequences.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
      • aldewacs

        @vincemcd: Sorry my friend, all consequences belong only to the believers. Rational people cannot be made to accept future decisions by a god "just in case he exists".
        You, and people like you, are relying on primal fears of the unknown, and are cooking up all kinds of stories and scare tactics to achieve a measure of control over others. Your words are kind and carefully chosen, but we can see right through them and observe the puppet strings.

        Too bad, so sad. Not buying it.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  11. Holly88

    Wow, I can't believe this one. I do not agree with most of the Catholic "rituals", but this is disgusting. Sure we should show mercy, but MY interpretation on this one is where he says," If they have good will." We do not go to heaven through good works, or good will!!! Only through the father. I don't know if the Lord will have mercy on gays and lesbians who continue to lead that lifestyle. If they turn their back on that lifestyle and repent it may look different. Only they and the Lord will know when a swift judgement comes. There's no hanging out up there and talking about why they did what they did. Oh, and as for purgatory, not in the Bible and doesn't exist.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • baelknight

      Must be difficult choosing to defy your own God, who told you not to judge others... a quote supposedly taken from His own mouth.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • cedar rapids

      We do not go to heaven through good works, or good will'

      why not exactly? it would seem to me to be a pretty good way of determining who would be rewarded after death.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:49 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        Because your and my good works are like filthy rags

        July 29, 2013 at 11:56 am |
        • cedar rapids

          'Because your and my good works are like filthy rags'

          why? why would a god claim that good acts are not worthy of being declared good? especially from a god that likes to push that people live their life in a certain way?

          July 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
      • Holly88

        Because everyone thinks they are good or they do good works. If that were true there would be no reason for judgement day. Also, there would be no reason to love the Lord. I'm a good person and I repent of my sins, because I want to follow God and love him. I try to turn away from the sins that I have repented for. Even the people that have turned their backs on God or don't believe think they're good people.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          ' If that were true there would be no reason for judgement day. '
          And? what point is there to a judgement day? why have one?

          'Also, there would be no reason to love the Lord'
          So you love the lord because to do otherwise would be to condemn you to hell?
          That doesnt strike you as being a strange reason to love someone?

          July 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • sam

      'Lifestyle'. How does this ignorance persist?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Nate

      Can someone be unborn? Once you accept Christ as your Savior and are born again, can you be unborn? You can't, even if you make the conscious decision to live in sin the rest of your life. The sin will have consequences - you will no be happy if you know Christ and continue to live in sin.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • aldewacs

      ".. If they turn their back on that lifestyle and repent it may look different..."
      --
      Please educate yourself. Gay people are born that way – they don't CHOOSE a "lifestyle"...
      PS do you also ask black people to "turn their back" on their skin color to become white so they fit into your little world better?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  12. popefraudulence

    He has direct access to God. Yet he won't use it to ask simple questions so we get a simple answer. A question like "Is abortion wrong?" We'll have an answer in two seconds.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      The answer is yes. Abortion is wrong. That's why he's not discussing it. It's not an open topic for the Church.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:57 am |
      • Observer

        Bill Deacon,

        Maybe he's not mentioning abortion since the Bible never mentions abortion.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
        • Agnostickids

          Indeed bill....

          July 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
        • Jesus Says

          The Bible definitely teaches that the unborn are persons because the unborn possess personal attributes, are described by personal pronouns, Jesus is called a child at conception, the unborn are called children, are protected by the same punishment as for adults, are called by God before birth, and are known personally by God just like any other person. Since abortion is murdering a person, abortion is morally wrong

          July 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
        • Observer

          Jesus Says,

          Nope. Try again. The Bible says if you fight and cause a woman to have an abortion, the penalty is just a FINE paid to the father (of course they ignore the poor mother). If you hurt a PERSON, the penalty is "an eye for an eye".

          July 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
        • Apena

          I thought you said the bible never mentions abortion..

          July 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • popefraudulence

        pope should also ask things like: is the morning after pill a sin? and then if God says Yes, we can make it illegal.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Jesus Says

      He, like ALL of us have direct access to God. As Jesus died on the cross he paved the way for all men to reach God and have a relationship with him. Jesus said I am the way to the father. The Pope does not have any special power that we don't have ourselves.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • aldewacs

        Exactly. I had an angel visit me last night and he told me abortion is OK. Glad that's settled now.
        Darn I forgot to ask about the winning lottery numbers for the coming draw.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  13. ronjayaz

    Wow! Talk about a switcheroo! It's just to stop the mad exodos from the Church.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Holly88

      Agreed!! Now, the Catholic Church can't even stand their ground!

      July 29, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        People seem fascinated with this pope. He says some things in such a way that it gets your attention. Then when you think about what he actually said, you realize he is giving you the straight Catholic catechism. You just think it's something new when actually he's just presented it in a way you can finally hear.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
        • aldewacs

          Like a papal Ronald Reagan. Great communicator, but multilingual

          July 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  14. amercon

    The Catholic church won't let priests marry, but perverts and pedophiles are alright. One pope disagrees with another pope on theology/morality, so who is right, what happened to their so called infallibility? Maybe we should stick to what God says in the Bible and forget about popes.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  15. Erika

    HE DIDN'T SAY "IT WASN'T A CRIME" AS YOU JUST REPO
    RTED; POPE FRANCIS SAID "IF SOMEONE IS GAY AND HE SEARCHES FOR THE LORD AND HAS GOOD WILL, WHO AM I TO JUDGE?"

    July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Bob Logan

      The pope is the CEO of his church.He "has" the right to judge and should send these perverts of his to prison. Besides, Jesus himself was a jew so what makes the catholic church the "true" religion. Mafia money,making them rich,is the answer.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  16. J. Wangsness

    " '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."

    This comment really irks me. I know the Pope didn't say it, but it implies that we gay folks have done something wrong and therefore need to be shown mercy.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • M Hurtt

      in response to -J. Wangsness- it shows great mercy in that he is not judging those previously shunned by the church. What should irk you is the other individuals posting here who take offense at his proclamation to love and not judge ALL people-

      July 29, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • James PDX

      A better way to interpret is that previously gays were being persecuted by the church, and the new pope has implied that should end, thus showing mercy from the previous ideology. Interpreting it this way is not only more accurate, it removes your need to feel so irked.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  17. Observer

    Matthew 7:12 “Treat others as you want them to treat you. THIS IS WHAT THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS ARE ALL ABOUT.”

    The Pope might actually practice that. No wonder so many believers are upset with him.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  18. James Lubunga

    I am very dismayed by the Pope's statement. How can a pope miss the word to sy that issue. That is an abomination toward Roman Catholic church and christianity in whole.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Observer

      Eating scallops, lobster, and Alaskan king crablegs was an "abomination" too. Yummy!

      July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • sam

      You're dismayed that the pope is a good guy?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Abomination?
      How very Old Testament of you.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Plato

      Question: Did every human go to hell before Christ was crucified? You dope.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • cedar rapids

      apparently lending money and charging interest is an abomination as well.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  19. nikkifrancois

    Reblogged this on My Life as Nikki and commented:
    Pope Francois is AWESOME.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  20. southernwonder

    bible should reflect the will of the people.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Apena

      The bible should not reflect the will of the people. It reflects the will of God Almighty. He does not change over time as men do. Men do change as of recent to be politically correct. To say that being gay is not a sin is incorrect. To say that God still loves the sinner and wishes for you to repent is another matter.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • sam

        Each translation reflects the will of whoever was in power at the time.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
      • Kianasmum

        God does change over time. You have not read the Bible or do not remember when God showed mercy to those who begged for lesser punishments. Jesus Christ even told his followers who asked about Moses' instruction about divorce that Moses said what he said "because of the "hardness of their hearts but from the beginning, it wasn't so." This reveals a God who tells people either what they need to hear (even if it's not the truth) in order to achieve a certain outcome or tests people to reveal the righteous from the evil at heart. It is better to be kind to to be correct – this is why Adam and Eve were not supposed to eat from the tree of knowledge. It makes people want to be right all the time and God did not want people to think this way.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
        • Kianasmum

          sorry "better to be kind than to be correct"

          July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
        • Jesus Says

          Mal.3:6 " I the Lord do not change." The concept of omniscience suggests that the Lord knows everything there is to know — past, present, and future. He has never “learned” anything, nor has he “discovered” a new fact. He is never “surprised” by what men may do.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'Jesus Says
          Mal.3:6 " I the Lord do not change." The concept of omniscience suggests that the Lord knows everything there is to know — past, present, and future. He has never “learned” anything, nor has he “discovered” a new fact. He is never “surprised” by what men may do.'

          so in other words he set adam and eve up and didnt 'discover' what they had done but knew they were going to do it. Kind of makes the whole concept of free-will moot as well.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The "will of the people" is what got you into this mess in the first place.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
      • Observer

        Bill Deacon,

        The "will of the people" is to ignore the Bible's support of slavery.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
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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.