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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. Adam

    Who am I to judge?!?!? Um, you're the leader of a religion which at its core purports to know of the divine authorship of a particular book, wherein the Creator of the Universe–in no uncertain terms–tells us that "those people's" lives are forfeit. That's who you are.

    Stop pretending you're a reasonable human being. You're the puppet of a invisible monster. Show us your ugliness so that we may know the true nature of your Church.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Daniel

      Let's see. 2000 years of spreading the message about Jesus' love throughout the world, or one goober on a computer. One has a lot of fruits to show for its labor. The other is most likely just a fruit

      July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Adam

      The products of the Catholic church are millions of already dead or currently parentless, childless, dessicated AIDS victims in Africa ("Sure AIDS is bad," says the Pope, "but not as bad as condoms!", thousands upon thousands of molested and tortured minds and body's of our young, and–since your so key to go back so far–the hundreds(?) of thousands of accused witches, warlocks, demons, and pagans, burned and quartered for the hundreds of years that the Church ran the world.

      Behold the fruits of your pitiful Jesus. He cannot save your precious Chruch, or if he could, then he chooses not to. For shame, Daniel.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • God Bless America

      In 38 months. Rev.11:1-2

      July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  2. mydizzylife

    This makes me proud of my church. Jesus wouldnot have turned his back on anyone. I love this Pope and he is getting it right!

    July 29, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • tas20036

      Well, aren't you easily pacified. He hasn't actually DONE anything.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Jazzy

      Amen! Well said!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Frank

      Jesus will turn His back on unrepentant sinners. Do not be deceived. Let me ask you a question, why do you think Jesus came?

      July 29, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  3. DGfromMI

    Being "Gay" is an immoral act...God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve...We are all sinners and pray for forgiveness and work hard to right our wrongs...

    July 29, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Janet

      "Being "Gay" is an immoral act"

      The Biblical condemnation of homosexuality is based on human ignorance, suspicion of those who are different, and an overwhelming concern for ensuring the survival of the people. Since the Bible regards homosexuality as a capital crime (Leviticus 20:13), it clearly assumes that homosexuality is a matter of free choice, a deliberate rebellion against God. We have learned from modern science that people do not choose to be gay or straight; hence it is neither logical nor moral to condemn those whose nature it is to be gay or lesbian.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
      • Daniel

        Modern science has not found your "gay gene". Sorry to disappoint. Being gay is a choice. A bad one at that

        July 29, 2013 at 10:19 am |
        • Capt Nemo

          Read up on what science has found about physiological differences in the brain of gay people, the epigenetic basis being uncovered for being gay, and other science proving being gay is "normal" as part of the human body.

          Then get back to us. I'm sorry, but science trumps thousand-year-old ignorance.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • hubert39

      I hope you don't take the Adam and Eve story serious.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The Pope's point here is that being gay is NOT a sinful act.
      Acting on it is.
      Being straight isn't a sin – but fornication is.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Hammerdown

      Adam & Eve had two sons.
      Cain & Able.
      No daughters.
      So where do the rest of humanity come from ?
      Adam, Cain & Able, banging Eve.
      INCEST.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  4. Pamel

    I knew he was the Antichrist.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Beelzebub

      What, you knew because you are his butt buddy?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  5. Lee

    Our actions will be measured on judgement day by our Lord...good works, good will alone will not save us. We must take our salvation into our own hands as no one on this earth can and study the scripture as this was the tool given to us. We are sinful creatures and all have fallen short of the glory of God. I believe that the Holy Ghost guides us. For those who have accepted God, the Holy Ghost is that voice that urges us away from doing wrong. Listening isn't always easy as we want to do that which pleases us. I fear that being worthy of entering the gates of heaven will be a difficult task.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • MikeinAZ

      When he includes the requirement "and searches for the Lord..." he is still showing his bigotry. Atheist show good will also, yet he judges them. Glad he is at least beginning to give some ground, but why doesn't he approve gay marriage?

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

        I think he is saying as a faithful servant of God referring to his faith and what those faithful of God should move toward. If the Pope doesn't support gay marriage then that is his choice to do so as we all have choices and must live by the consequences of those actions. Only God will judge the wicked from the righteous.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  6. Bill

    A pope who is a real Christian; who would have thought it?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  7. Adam

    I love this guy. So much progress, so fast. Francis appears to be the key to the Church remaining relevant into the 21st Century and beyond.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Bender Bending Rodriguez

      I agree!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • tas20036

      Pretty words is not progress. Turn pedophile priests over to the authorities. Then we can talk.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • Beelzebub

        Learn English and then YOU can talk....

        July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  8. jayman419

    Sure, I get it ... when regular people say this, we're lefty pinko commies. But when the Pope says it, he's just spreading the Gospel's message of compassion.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  9. Jesus the Christ

    Christians claim to be full of the love of Christ until some tries to take away their bigotry and hatred.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Rediranch

      Unfortunately there are a number of non-Christians out there who claim to be followers of Christ who then turn people away from the Word. Sunday morning Christians. However, just as I do believe that all atheists are evil satan worshipers, you should not believe that these people accurately represent real Christians.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  10. Jim

    Hell why not accepts Gays they butt f-ck the Altar boys and cover it up. The Catholic Church has a history of wrong doing and should disassociate itself from true teachings of God’s word.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Jesus the Christ

      Jim...you seem to be a bender yourself...

      July 29, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • tas20036

      You hate gays. We get it. Most things that gays do in the bedroom, straights do. Grow up.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • YeahRight

      "Hell why not accepts Gays they butt f-ck the Altar boys and cover it up."

      The fact you don't know the difference in the definitions between a pedophile and a gay shows you're uneducated.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  11. rh

    This guy is a terrible manager. Telling the truth and following the guidance put down by his Boss?

    There is hope for the world's Catholic's, and for the rest of us too. A little more understanding and a lot less judgement would make the world a safer and healthier place.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  12. thepopehas spoken

    I’d take it a step further …who is he to judge anybody? He’s just a bloke with an imaginary friend.

    Oh, I forgot to mention, this same bloke is head of an organisation whose priests have been responsible for numerous acts of child abuse…and he thinks he’s in any position to judge people?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • tas20036

      But he's got the hat, you know, the one that says he is the head of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalos.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  13. DSP2

    "Who am I to judge?"??? Ok Pope Francis, you are leaving a little bit out of what Christ has said and done here. The woman who was about to be stoned for adultery was also told to SIN NO MORE.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • rh

      She was told to "sin no more" but adultery is against the Ten Commandments. There is NO commandment regarding sleeping around before marriage (as long as neither party is married) and NO commandment about being gay or masturb8ing.

      Those who pick and choose what is a sin other than the Ten Commandments have a problem.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Emerald

      "The woman who was about to be stoned for adultery was also told to SIN NO MORE."

      Everyone knows the story about Jesus and the woman about to be stoned by the mob. This account is only found in John 7:53-8:12. The mob asked Jesus whether they should stone the woman (the punishment required by the Old Testament) or show her mercy. Jesus doesn’t fall for this trap. Jesus allegedly states, let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her. The crowd dissipates out of shame. That story was not originally in the Gospel of John or in any of the Gospels. It was added by later scribes. The story is not found in the oldest and best manuscripts of the Gospel of John. Nor does its writing style comport with the rest of John. Most serious textual critics state that this story should not be considered part of the Bible.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Rediranch

      "If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? "

      I assume the above FULL quote is referring to God hating the sin, but loving the person. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, that means that they are resisting the temptation/feelings they are having and not acting on them. Those who do are welcome in the church, just not as leaders.

      Same with any other sin. You have to resist temptation and resist acting on the sin. If you continue to sin without repentance, you are not welcome at the church, nor are you allowed to be in a leadership position in the church.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  14. Ryan

    All of this confusion is answered by God's Word in Romans 1:18-32

    "18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

    20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

    23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

    25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

    26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

    27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

    29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

    30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

    31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

    32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."

    July 29, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • thepopehas spoken

      ALL written in that 2000 bc language ENGLISH ?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:04 am |
      • Ryan

        @thepopehasspoken

        God has spoken...your job is to make sure the Pope sticks to God's Word, and not his own. Seems as though the Pope is foregoing his responsibility to correct those in the church who teach while openly living a lifestyle in direct violation of God's Word.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:08 am |
        • thepopehas spoken

          Why don't you topple him if you don't like his words.. just like morsey ..... you seem to be the man of the church the voice , how many years you studied at the vatican... thats right ZER0 . Matthew 6:5-6.....now you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. THERE SHOULD BE NO CHURCHES PERIOD according to the same BOOK?

          July 29, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Observer

      Read the Golden Rule someday. That's near the top of the list of commands.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:06 am |
      • Ryan

        yes, and if I were in direct violation of God's law, I would want someone to treat me the same and point out what God's Word says, instead of hiding the truth.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • TomBuchanan

      And all of the confusion as to whether or not giant playing cards like to play croquet is answered by Lewis Carroll's Word in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," Chapter 8.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
      • ChateauLibido

        LMFAO!!!

        July 29, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • olga79

      And you must be...God.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • Ryan

        No, but unlike most Catholics, I've read the Bible, and I don't need the Pope to tell me what God's Word says....

        July 29, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      From all that, I don't get that God is specifically condemning ho/mose/xuality but rather He really doesn't like apostates.
      And note also the use of the word "natural" – the people turned against their natural predilections.
      What if same gender attraction is someone's natural state? They then would be angering God by pretending to be straight...

      July 29, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  15. Yngvi

    A Pope who is humble, modest, compassionate, forgiving and has a deep understanding of the human condition. This Pope is turning out to be something his predecessors were not, a decent human being.

    Under his guidance, the Church may just change its wicked ways.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  16. thepopehas spoken

    While a positive statement, the arrogance is astounding; "the problem is lobbying by this orientation". So the pope will accept the existence of gay people as long as they aren't a problem, as long as they keep quiet, as long as they keep their views to themselves. If gay groups hadn't lobbied over many years now, I sincerely doubt the pope would have made this statement.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  17. Jesus the Christ

    Funny how everybody loves the Pope until he goes against their personal bigotries.

    Yeah, not so many Christians left in the world....just a whole mess of catholics.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Ryan

      Everyone wants their ears tickled, no one wants to hear truth anymore.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  18. korkea aika

    Finally someone gets it. Good move Pope of the People, Francis.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:01 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.