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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. Massman

    This Pope's humility and candor are refreshing.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  2. OhioCatholic

    I am glad to have a compassionate leader of the Church. But since priests take a vow of celibacy, isn't this a moot point? (in a perfect world)

    July 29, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • paul

      It is not a moot point. Gay people have been persecuted by the church since its inception. The irony is that a huge proportion of their priests are gay. If you were gay living in a catholic home, the preisthood was a sort of a salvation from getting married to a woman.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  3. thepopehas spoken

    Wonder how the church gowers are going to feel on sunday, when the gays come rushing in holding hands in church, Its not a sin he said so ! interesting. The young will like this move the OLD bigots NO chance ... when your losing money and people to ISlam you will take anyone .

    July 29, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • mickthequick

      Church "gowers"??? Your spelling abilities sort of make everything you say moot.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • SMITVICT

      Very happy that they are at church, fully believing in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Any other questions we can help you with?

      July 29, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Marcel Moreno

      The Lord said: Love the sinner, not the sin

      July 29, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • Capt Nemo

        Thereby falling into the foolishness that being gay is a sin. Sorry, but I don't buy that, on several levels.

        Biologically, for one: I've known too many gay people (including my own brother) to believe this "lifestyle choice" nonsense. The VAST majority of gay people are born that way, and, whether they are at peace with it or not, that is what they are.

        Theologically, if God made people gay, then how can a just and loving God hate his own creation? Personally, I have met too many gay people to believe that they are any better or worse morally than straight people; some are angels, some are fools, and some are evil. Just like straight people.

        Legally: where does it stop? We justify hatred of gays based on religion, what's next, left-handed dentists without tonsils are to be rounded up for internment? Or will we just go after the Jews again?

        July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  4. Agnostickids

    If god made us in his image...

    then why aren't we invisible too?

    July 29, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • The fact of the matter

      HE is invisible to you. Not to others.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:39 am |
      • jack

        One of the best responses I have EVER seen! Thank you.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:50 am |
        • Damia Savon

          So please give a physical description of God.

          July 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Yon

      LOL! That was funny.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • paul

      And I suppose life arising from a primordial soup of chemicals is less miraculous to you?

      July 29, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • Richard Cranium

        Since that is what happened, I would not call it a miracle, just an amazing happening. I just wonder how many other planets in the universe it has happened on. Since the primary 4 elements needed for this to happen are the 4 most common elements, it is a safe bet that somewhere else, life exists.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  5. Rico53

    Lev 18:22. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
    This is GODS law,i wonder why the pope does not teach the law as it is written.This is not judgement of another it is obedience to GOD

    July 29, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Agnostickids

      because he knows that your bible was written by men, not a god.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • The fact of the matter

        Written by men following God's instruction. Nice try.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:40 am |
        • Agnostickids

          Where does it say that they were following god's instruction? Where in the bible does ONE single person say, I'm writing this because god told me to????

          nice try. LOL!

          July 29, 2013 at 9:43 am |
      • jack

        Up yours

        July 29, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • NCT

      That's because the Catholic church is based more on Tradition than the Bible. They are falling away instead of preaching the TRUTH.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:39 am |
      • Capt Nemo

        Catholics don't believe the bible is inerrant. Big difference there.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Jay051684

      According to Lev 19:19
      Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
      Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

      Why are these laws not as important to religious people?

      July 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |
      • mnfolkgirl

        Because they can't use it to justify bigotry.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • KnSnV

        That's easy, it doesn't fit their agenda!

        July 29, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Yeahyeah

      No bacon, shrimp, or polyester either. Stop trotting out that tired misrepresented bible verse. Jesus changed so much of the Old Testament ways. That's why we don't do animal sacrifices anymore.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • mnfolkgirl

      Once again, that line from Leviticus is taken out of context. It is in reference to acts done while worshiping a false god. The lesson is also continued in the next book which contains what is known in Christianity as "The Greatest Commandment" – it's not your job to judge others. That's God's job.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • rev

      Leviticus is one of the most socially conflicted books in the bible. It promotes slavery (including your children), misogyny, shunning of the lame, out-dated ideas about clothing, hair, and punishments. We have accepted ALL of this to be wrong, but this one and only line in that entire book is supposed to be correct? Get real.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Drew

      "... neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee."
      Leviticus 19:19

      You better not be mixing fabric types, that's a sin too. To quote Reverend Lovejoy on his thoughts of the bible

      "Y'ever sat down and read this thing? Technically we're not supposed to go to the bathroom."

      July 29, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • LeRoy_Was_Here

        No, no. You're just not supposed to ENJOY yourself when you're going to the bathroom!

        July 29, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Photo Phil

      Judge not lest ye be judged ... Love thy neighbor ... Let he who is without sin cast the first stone ... The Pope is simply following the word of God and the teachings of Jesus as opposed to doggedly condemning people based on one line in the bible. If it is a sin, then it is up to God to judge, not us.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • paul

      You are interpreting from a book that was written in ancient hebrew , translated to greek, and then to latin, and finally to English. Suffice to say, a lot of meaning and context are lost in translation. Examples abound. Anyone who quotes from the bible and considers that the literal word of god is a moron.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Capt Nemo

      Do you also take your rebellious son to the elders of the city to have him stoned at the gates? Pick and choose is what you do, you just don't admit it.

      Did you make the proper oblation of beeves at the temple this sabbath? If not, you're going to hell...

      July 29, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  6. Grim Reaper

    The Pope is a politician

    July 29, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Darko

      Thank you. It's all about money. I'll never understand how some people become so brainwashed.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • NCT

        I'm surprised how brainwashed you have become. Always continuing to say that WRONG is RIGHT. If it's wrong, then it's wrong. Just because you and a bunch of other politicians who are hell bound say it's right, doesn't make it right.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  7. ffg

    I don't judge either. Just feel disgusting.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  8. Pete in SF

    Follow those beliefs that lead to deeper compassion for yourself and others.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  9. Don

    It is good to have an open mind on issues, and I thank Pope Francis for his merciful and understanding approach. Jesus didn't spend time with the self-righteous. He welcomes sinners – that includes us all. God bless you Pope Francis.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Yon

      Except that you don't know hardly anything about the bible. Those were edomites. Yeshua said that whoever sins is a slave to sin, and slaves to it will be cast out of the kingdom. This pope is gay, that is why he can't judge.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  10. laminblake

    Finally a pope that gets it. We have no right to judge others when we ourselves sin. That is a message directly from Jesus.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • mustardseedhead

      We are told to judge ourselves and put ourselves to the test. Meaning, use discernment in all that you do so that you do not violate God's word – REGARDLESS of someone speaks against what you are doing or not. To speak against it or for it or to remain silent, does not make it any less offensive to God. Don't live to hear feel good messages so that you can continue to do what feels good to you, but maybe a stinch in God's nostril.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Baby K

      sin is a sin and this pope has to say this just to defent thousand of Roman Catholic that molested kids maybe the pope might say next that Michael Jacson was a saint

      July 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  11. bojangle

    nothing new here. this is church doctrine. paraphrased as 'love the sinner, hate the sin'. Pope Francis is just saying it in a different way and the media goes crazy.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • George

      Yes, there is something new. He is saying it. Others would not do that.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  12. Bob

    If Christianity makes a comeback, thank this guy. He appears to be the real McCoy. When the Pope says things that make the hard-liner evangelicals cringe, he's moving in the right direction!

    July 29, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • LIB

      As a catholic, I really love this Pope.He is also the saint which I recognize. St. Francis. the saint for those who are impoverished. He is a real Humanitarian. He understands that No man is to be worshipped. He understands that no one is to be judged by others. Only God. As for all you Atheist on here, we don't care about your nor believing in God. Please find another article to spew your hate for any religion.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  13. Agnostickids

    This article left out the comment that the Pope made AFTER he said he wouldn't judge gays....that hom ose*ual acts are still a sin. Um...what a hypocrite! LOL! People, don't buy into this ridiculous man that is trying to pull the catholic church out of it's mire.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Agnostickids

      Again, I put out a post that was ignorant and immature. I apologize to all.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Christina

      The Pope is not trying to do anything. If you want to place blame, blame this news story for trying to twist his words to fit their agenda. You don't have to agree with the Pope, but it isn't his fault CNN has an agenda.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  14. SuZieCoyote

    This organization will die, nice pope or no. Women have had enough of men, none of whom are in any kind of real relationship with women, but who wear dresses, telling us how to act so G*d will love us. It will take time; deprogramming takes a couple of generations. But, it is on its way out.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  15. JP

    Actually it says in the Bible that the Pope uses in 1 Corinthians 5 12-13 It isnt my resposniblity to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning 13. God will judge those on the outside; but as the scriptures say " You must remove the veil person from among you"

    July 29, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  16. child of midian

    Imagine the "infallible" leader of the worlds largest Christian church says gays and atheist are "okay" ... oh man should he beef up security.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Damia Savon

      Actually he did not say that at all. He said it was not his place to judge which is established doctrine. Not judging someone is not the same as approving. People are reading way too much into it simply because he didn't get all fire and brimstone.

      It is the same church, blithely rolling into the 19th century.

      July 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  17. HenryMiller

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

    If it's good enough for the Pope, it ought to be good enough for the Republican Party.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      GOP is mostly Protestant.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:30 am |
      • LIB

        GOP is a mockery against religion. I don't know what religion teaches racism against the President of the US or anyone. GOP are hypocrites. The Bible says we are to help our neighbors who are in need. The GOP says differently. They don't want to help create jobs so that their neighbor will be able to help themselves. The GOP stands against everything their religion speaks for.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:46 am |
      • Capt Nemo

        Same Christ, though. Keep that in mind...

        July 29, 2013 at 11:25 am |
        • Capt Nemo

          My comment is in reply to this assertion:

          >GOP is mostly Protestant.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  18. M

    This is a wonderful pope with a good heart. He recognizes that it's time to move toward God and away from politics. I also predict he will die mysteriously very soon.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  19. Bill

    Wow!

    July 29, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  20. mustardseedhead

    Religious figures have a tendency to rewrite the bible with opinions. Catering to the masses feelings and emotions and pocketbooks. It is much easier to pick up the bible (the real TRUTH) and read what it says about EVERYTHING, since the word is what the people need to hear. If the pope is not going to be the "judge" of them, and in acknowledgment of that, doesnt the pope believe people should hear what the one that will judge them has to say – about EVERYTHING. Being in a position of power and influence giving opinions is a form of standing in the way of the real truth. Doesn't this mean that the Pope is now judging God's word to not be good enough? Or maybe he thinks that the people are better than God's word? Are these people so afflicted that the prefer a feel good message instead what is really going to help them. If one can stand up among millions and give opinions – then he has stood "in judgment" of God's very word to say to that God's word is not good enough for you, listen to me instead. Makes no sense. One would have to be Catholic or gay, I guess, for it to all make sense – or not.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • steelerguin

      Well said.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Damia Savon

      Or you could be utterly clueless like yourself. I find it hard to believe you can understand the Bible when you cannot understand a couple of sentences.

      The Bible states that God, and only God, is the judge. It is not for you to judge people. It is not for the Pope to judge people. It is not for your mother's cousin's half-brother to judge. God will do the judging. He was merely pointing out the obvious.

      All your other rantings are based on a complete misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Pope's comment. Frankly way too many people are getting excited or upset simply because the Pope stated the obvious.

      July 29, 2013 at 2:28 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.