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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. Realist

    Anyone who sees this other than as a thinly veiled play to retain power over an increasingly non religious world .. is as delusional as the Pope himself.

    July 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  2. skarphace

    There is more than one method to finding "the truth".

    One method requires evidence. This method requires that a claim bridge the gap between "hypothesis" and "theory". This requires repeatable demonstrations as to the validity of the claim, and requires that the claim be able to withstand any efforts to show that the claim is invalid. If it does so, then the hypothesis becomes theory. However, even then, in order to remain a valid theory, the claim must withstand any future attempts to prove it incorrect. Many theories are refuted and new theories develop as technological advances and more knowledge becomes available. This method is called "science".

    Another method requires faith. The only requirement for a claim to be considered valid under this method is that one person insists that the claim is true, and that others believe that claim is valid. The more people that believe this claim, the more valid the claim is considered. This method requires no evidence of any sort. In fact, it relies on the absence of evidence. In addition, any attempts to prove the claim invalid only require the response "you don't have faith". This claim will stay valid as long as there are people who believe the claim is valid. This method is called "religion".

    July 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Colin

      The second method also involves dismissing all other conclusions arrived at by exactly the same method. The believer makes a leap of faith to his or her chosen god(s) and then disbelieves all other gods arrived at by other people leaping in different directions.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
      • D

        Is it just me or didn't God acknowledge other gods. Furthermore,he pointed out these other gods were not to be before Him as he was not given the glory. Finally, the other gods were humanity's way of explaining. The Bible is the living testament of God. It It may have been rewritten,but is very much in line with ancient scripture. This was written before then Crusades,before the rise of the age of Islam.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
        • denver

          Does it really surprise you that a tenet of most religions is to assert that the other religions aren't true? There are religious traditions that predate Christianity by thousands of years and there is no clear, objective rational for worshiping the Abrahamic god over Zeus or Ahura Mazda.

          July 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • denver

      Let's be honest: The second sort of "truth" is entirely subjective and subjective truths really aren't very "true" at all.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • D

      You are very insightful. However, faith goes beyond just accepting one's claim. The faithful, in FACT, have similar experiences with the Holy Spirit. They may differ in personal experiences, but the end result comes from what they believe in. If you closely examine the last piece of your post you will find that applies more to atheists, since they are taught. Difference between believers and nonbelievers is that one has experienced the truth while the other is asking for the proof.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
      • denver

        D: The statement that, "The faithful, in FACT, have similar experiences with the Holy Spirit" is unfalsifiable and entirely subjective; it's not a "fact" at all. A group of people who adhere to a particular doctrine will believe similar things, but nobody has ever independently derived Christianity. People are taught Christianity.

        And the "difference between believers and nonbelievers" is that some people are comfortable admitting they don't know where everything came from, why we're here, or what happens when we die while others need a constructed narrative for comfort.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Jarvis

      God is not found by the first method, He is found by faith. Once you find God, He is the only "evidence" you need.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
      • Megan

        Um, actually that's called psychosis, a neurological disorder within your own brain where you just believe whatever you tell yourself.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
      • denver

        I wonder what it's like to be able to assert your ability to believe in something for which there is no proof as proof of that thing...

        July 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
        • Jarvis

          It's great. From the Book of Hebrews: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen...(onto verse 6) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

          July 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
        • denver

          Glad you think it's "great" but don't expect to be able to make anything approaching a coherent logical argument for your position and, failing in that, don't be surprised when people find you rather unconvincing.

          You've arbitrarily chosen one doctrine over all of the others and you're happy with your choice. But the choice is still arbitrary.

          July 29, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  3. Des Perado

    Ummmmm…Kemosabe…at least Pope Benedict had the sense to retire while he was ahead
    Now comes “Pope” Francis spouting blasphemies to make himself the high…walking dead !!!

    July 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Jon

      Judge not least ye be judged.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Holy Man

      The pope cannot speak blasphemy, because he is infallible. In fact, questioning the pope is blasphemy, if you're a Catholic, so I suggest you keep your mouth closed from here on out, hillbilly.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  4. topcat

    what is inadequate about women that they cant be ordaned?

    July 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  5. 1Norfolkgirl

    It's not his place, or anyone's place to judge, except God, but it is his place to teach the Catholic doctrine and to lead all Catholics. Surely he cannot be neutral on any issue that may go against the Catholic faith, but he needs to be true to his faith and his church. He's not helping anyone if he chooses to deflect the tough questions.

    July 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Yeah get a life.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • skarphace

      Was he being neutral? Did he say that being gay is no longer considered a sin? I did not read that. He was merely saying that being gay is a "pardonable sin", much like divorce. He is not saying that he will not judge the sin. He is merely saying that he will not judge the sinner. The latter is God's job, not ours.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • Jarvis

        Good statement. Of course it's pardonable. I have never known a Christian who did not believe your statement. We hate the sin, not the sinner.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • theSwede

      At some point they gave up the burning of witches and people probably complained then as well.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • norman

      even the religious kooks have been taught gays are normal-if you dont accept it, fade into oblivion as a bigot-your choice

      July 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  6. NorthVanCan

    "great mercy"
    Oh, Gee, thank's Doc!

    July 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  7. Steveop

    Don't let the pope's comments fool you. What he's really saying is... "God will judge the gays". I can't believe in this day and age we are still having these conversations. What's so wrong with being gay? Who are we to tell others who they can or cannot love? The Catholic church should be the last to speak out about gays when half their priests enjoy the company of little boys. Everyone needs to grow up, and those who judge gays are probably a little gay themselves...and you know what, there's nothing wrong with that.

    July 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  8. jayhawk

    When will the other shoe drop? This Pope might already have a husband and this is a ease into letting the world know.

    July 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  9. not for it

    this is an gross and unnatural act. get your own church

    July 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • skarphace

      Wrong. You may not want to believe it, but there are gay animals in nature. Therefore, it is natural.

      In addition, the Church is more the Pope's then it is yours. Therefore, maybe you should get your own Church.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • Jarvis

        The Bible calls it unnatural.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • skarphace

          Nature is not subject to the Bible. It is subject to reality. In other words, it doesn't matter what some man, over 2,000 years ago, considered "natural" or "not natural". If it occurs in nature (like pot), then it is natural. If it doesn't (like meth), then it is not.

          Note: of course, if man is "natural", then everything we do is "natural" and that includes making meth. As an example, a bird is "natural", so a bird's nest is "natural". The argument is was man created as part of nature or separate from nature. Christians, for the most part, believe the latter. However, that is another argument.

          July 29, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Some guy rebuffed your advances huh? You'll get over it.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Wat

      He literally does have his own religion. His word is that of the Catholic religion at the highest order. You on the other hand, may have to "get" your own.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  10. Landru

    I applaud his take on this. I am straight but hey, who am i to judge. This pope realizes he isn't god.

    July 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  11. Veritas Lavinga

    Hate the sin, Love the sinner. Pope's got it right, I hate to say.

    July 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  12. Ken Poole

    7 things you need to know about what Pope Francis said about gays

    Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-what-pope-francis-said-about-gays#ixzz2aTC4Le1H

    July 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  13. Ken Poole

    Pope on gays drives media wild: http://www.catholicleague.org/pope-on-gays-drives-media-wild/

    July 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  14. MRP

    This sounds like a deliberate attempt by the Pope to have hell frozen over...

    July 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      So the gays can use their Ice skating outfits?

      July 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Hmmmmmmmm

      So the gays can use their Ice skating outfits?...

      July 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • skarphace

        One commenter named "Hmmmm" and another named "Hmmmmmmmm", both making almost identical comments.

        Hmmmmm.....

        July 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  15. lionlylamb

    The unshackled freedoms beckoning the civilities of pride infested indignations around moral servitudes dare disregards the very peacefulness of liberty's libations and tolerances for the commoners sakes... Life can no more wash itself clean and as its dirtiness piles up the bigot's shovels are implicated and made ready while hypocrisies dump trucks back up in station keeping places of ambiguities lusts... Society's wayward garbage haulers these dumping trucks are... The eating of this thing and drinking those other things excrete upon social decadences the urine and fecal wastes of the socially diseased... Some dare yell out, :There is no God" yet deep down many do fear Him and the only way such God haters can float above the streams are in deniability's chastisements... "Carry on" I say.... Carry youself on...

    July 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      I do not fear that doesn't exist.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • M.R.

      Gastrinomical feedbag. Spitter's remorse. Verbal schaedenfreude mothra.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Glenn Parker

      Carry on, my wayward son. There'll be peace when you are done.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  16. JimBob Jones

    This is nothing different than what he Catholic Church ha taught or decades. If CNN actually read he Church's teachings, it wouldn't embarrass itself with ignorant headlines.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Agreed...they are acting like there's a change when there's none.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • The Dogman

      The Church is hypocrisy at the highest levels. Point blank. Organized religion makes me want to throw up and puke all over. Take a look at the Church. Think really hard about defending that mess.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  17. Jarvis

    "Who am I to judge?" Oh yes, the traditional liberal line when justifying sin (usually stated as "Who are you to judge?"). There is much confusion about this. There is sound basis in the Bible for this sin to be deemed sinful, as one among many other sins, and recognizing what is sinful is not in itself being judgmental; for if no one could label and acknowledge sin, there would be no confession, no forgiveness and no need for Christ to save, cleanse and deliver. What is being judgmental is the well acknowledged (in Romans) human trait of condemning others and not yourself, pointing out the sins of others to make yourself appear as better than them while being blind to the fact that you yourself do the same or what is just as bad. It is condemning others as deserving God's judgment while falsely seeing yourself as not deserving of it, when in fact you are. It is also treating others who are involved in sinful behavior with an ungracious, non-comp@ssionate mentality, instead of being caring, helpful, and understanding of everyone's human frailty.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jarvis

      Sorry about the double post, it took me over an hour to get through CNN's filter, I revised it like 30 times.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Conservative

      Heed his words, and stop judging, hypocrite.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • Jarvis

        Funny, I condemned hypocrisy.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Daws

      Ironically if there wasn't that poke at "those darned liberals" you'd sound just like them. Maybe that means they aren't as bad as they've been made to seem by others.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • HAHA

      Right dude. YOUR opinion on how Christianity should work should be the basis of all Christian beliefs. The way that YOU perceive your religion is the way that everyone should view it. Not the person at the highest power of your religion (aka the Pope). I'm glad he is saying that it shouldn't matter if you're gay or not. Someone else being gay has absolutely NO AFFECT ON YOU. GTF over it already

      July 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • skarphace

      I think you missed the Pope's intent entirely. He was not making a "liberal" attempt to justify a sin (as if that has anything at all to do with being "liberal"). He is merely saying that it is not his place to judge whether or not an individual person will be condemned because of that person's sin. Every human being, with the exception of Jesus, was a sinner. God will judge all of us. That should be enough for anybody.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  18. Jarvis

    "Who am I to judge?" Oh yes, the traditional liberal line when justifying sin (usually stated as "Who are you to judge?"). There is much confusion about this. There is sound basis in the Bible for this sin to be deemed sinful, as one among many other sins, and recognizing what is sinful is not in itself being judgmental; for if no one could label and acknowledge sin, there would be no confession, no forgiveness and no need for Christ to save, cleanse and deliver. What is being judgmental is the well acknowledged (in Romans) human trait of condemning others and not yourself, pointing out the sins of others to make yourself appear as better than them while being blind to the fact that you yourself do the same or what is just as bad. It is condemning others as deserving God's judgment while falsely seeing yourself as not deserving of it, when in fact you are. It is also treating others who are involved in sinful behavior with an ungracious, non-comp@ssionate mentality, instead of being caring, helpful, and understanding of human frailty.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Blah blah blah. Another political low-life trying to create a political argument on a religious blog for no reason.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  19. Kathy

    I'm not Catholic, so I don't really get it. But, if a priest is supposed to be abstaining as part of his vows then why is there an issue of gay or straight? Does that mean he isn't abstaining?

    July 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Creepy Ascrcker

      This isn't about priests, it's about the churches stance of gays in the general population. He wouldn't touch the pedophile priest issue.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Worship Warrior

      Good point!

      July 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Kathy, you are right. For a priest, the issue isn't about orientation, it's about the sacrament of Holy Order. For the rest of us it's not about orientation, it's about chastiity. Now sit back and watch the board be dominated by an argument on the meaning of chastiity

      July 29, 2013 at 5:01 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.