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September 19th, 2013
11:01 AM ET

Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

By Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors

(CNN) - Pope Francis said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians, expanding on explosive comments he made in July about not judging homosexuals.

In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, the pope also said that women must play a key role in church decisions and brushed off critics who say he should be more vocal about fighting abortion and gay marriage.

Moreover, if the church fails to find a "new balance" between its spiritual and political missions, the pope warned, its moral foundation will "fall like a house of cards."

The interview, released by Jesuit magazines in several different languages and 16 countries on Thursday, offers perhaps the most expansive and in-depth view of Francis' vision for the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope's comments don't break with Catholic doctrine or policy, but instead show a shift in approach, moving from censure to engagement.

Elected in March with the expectation that he would try to reform the Vatican, an institution that many observers say is riven by corruption and turf wars, Francis said his first mission is to change the church's "attitude."

"The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things," the pope said, "in small-minded rules."

"The people of God want pastors," Francis continued, "not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."

MORE ON CNN: New interview shows why the pope is so beloved 

The interview was conducted by the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal based in Rome, over three meetings this August at Francis' apartment in Rome.

The pope approved the transcript in Italian, according to America magazine, a Jesuit journal based in New York that initiated the interview and supervised its translation into English.

Advance copies of the interview were provided to several news organizations, including CNN.

Jesuits from around the world submitted questions to Spadaro. Francis answered them with the frankness that has become a hallmark of his young papacy.

To begin the interview, Spadoro bluntly asks, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergolio?" - Francis's name before he was elected pope.

"I am a sinner," the pope answers. "This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

The pope didn't mention any particular sins, and Catholic theology holds that all humans are sinners, a consequence of Adam and Eve's original transgression. Still, a pope describing himself foremost as "sinner" is striking.

MORE ON CNN: The pope said what? Six stunners from Francis

Offering new glimpses of his personal life, Francis said he prays at the dentist's office and felt trapped in the Vatican's traditional papal apartments. (He moved to a smaller one in a nearby building.) He has a taste for tragic artists and Italian films and keeps the will of his beloved grandmother in his prayerbook.

But it was the pope's vision for the church's future  - painted in broad strokes - that's sure to rile or inspire Catholics, depending on which side of the church they sit.

Here are some highlights:

On Women

In July, Francis said, emphatically, that the "door is closed," on women's ordination, a statement that disappointed many Catholic liberals.

But that doesn't mean the church should consider women secondary or inferior, Francis said. "The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions," he told Spadora.

Francis also called on Catholics to think hard about the function of women in the church.

"Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed," the pope said. "The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role."

On Homosexuality 

When Francis was a bishop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he received letters from gays and lesbians who said they were "socially wounded" by the church, he said.

"But the church does not want to do this," Francis said in the interview.

The pope then recalled his comments in July, when he told the media aboard a flight to Rome, "Who am I to judge" gay people?

MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis on gays: 'Who am I to judge?'

"By saying this, I said what the catechism says," the pope told Spadaro. The catechism, the Catholic Church's book of official doctrine, condemns homosexual acts, but says gays and lesbians "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity."

"Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."

Francis said that someone once asked him if he "approved" of homosexuality.

"I replied with another question," he said. "`Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being."

Abortion, gay marriage and contraception 

Some American Catholics grumble that Francis has been largely silent on signature Catholic political issues.

"I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that," Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said earlier this month.

Francis said that he's aware of the criticism, but he is not going to change.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods," he told his Jesuit interviewer. "I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that."

But the pope said the church's teachings on those issue are clear, and he clearly believes in those teachings, so what else is there to say?

"It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," Francis said.

False prophets and quick decisions

Only false prophets claim to have all the answers, Francis said.

"The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt," he said. "You must leave room for the Lord."

But church leaders, including himself, haven't always practiced humility, the pope admitted.

Many of the bad decisions he made while leading Catholics in Argentina came about because of  his "authoritarianism and quick manner of making decisions," the pope said.

That won't happen again, Francis said, as he begins to steer the church in a new direction.

He didn't offer an exact course, but he said change will come. Sooner or later.

"Many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time," he said. "I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Gay rights • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (3,625 Responses)
  1. guest

    Why is it that some unbelievers think that “if there is a God” everything should be rosy? The Bible tells of many calamities that happened to good people. There are predictions of bad things that will happen to good and bad people. Even at His dedication ceremony one prophet said of Jesus: (Luke 2:34, 35) "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed– and a sword will pierce even your own soul—“ Matt 10:34, Jesus said, “Think not that I came to bring peace. I came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” Matt 24:6 “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you are not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” Matt 24:7 “there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers [various] places.” (Brackets mine] These few texts don’t make everything “rosy” to me.
    So why do some people call God, the “Sky fairy” or “Santa Clause” or some other silly acronym; they only make themselves look ignorant, because the Bible does not promise only good things to happen to His people. Do some people think that just because God is all powerful that, that is reason enough for God to control everything so nothing bad happens? God doesn’t make any such promise (actually, just the opposite).
    The reason bad things happen is because this planet is a sinful fallen planet and God does/has allow/ed bad things to happen as an example to the rest of the universe of what sin will do. But God has promised that at some point in time (His own time) He will put an end to all this evil and wickedness, but it is going to get worse before that happens. If you think things are bad now, you haven’t seen how bad things will get. God has told His people they will suffer, but to keep faithful. But be aware, worse things will happen to evil ad wicked unbelievers in the end.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • edward

      Bad things happen because of God. how do I know? God says so:

      Isaiah 45:6-7
      King James Version (KJV)
      6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else.

      7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • ME II

      "Why is it that some unbelievers think that “if there is a God” everything should be rosy?"

      Look up Theodicy. Why would a supposed all-loving god create pain and suffering?

      September 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • snowboarder

      assuming you put any "faith" the the declarations of the collection of myths and fables called the "bible"

      September 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • doobzz

      "Why is it that some unbelievers think that “if there is a God” everything should be rosy?"

      I don't see anyone saying that. Can you point out some examples?

      "So why do some people call God, the “Sky fairy” or “Santa Clause” or some other silly acronym; they only make themselves look ignorant, because the Bible does not promise only good things to happen to His people. "

      "Santa Claus" is the imaginary being, "Santa Clause" is a Tim Allen movie. An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word (e.g., ASCII , NASA ) and doesn't apply here. Sky fairy refers to imaginary beings who "live" in the sky. And we look ignorant? LOL!

      "Do some people think that just because God is all powerful that, that is reason enough for God to control everything so nothing bad happens? God doesn’t make any such promise (actually, just the opposite)."

      We are just asking why an all seeing, all knowing, loving "father" doesn't do anything to help his children.

      "The reason bad things happen is because this planet is a sinful fallen planet and God does/has allow/ed bad things to happen as an example to the rest of the universe of what sin will do. But God has promised that at some point in time (His own time) He will put an end to all this evil and wickedness, but it is going to get worse before that happens. If you think things are bad now, you haven’t seen how bad things will get. God has told His people they will suffer, but to keep faithful. But be aware, worse things will happen to evil ad wicked unbelievers in the end."

      More empty proxy threats to control people through fear of punishment, along with front row VIP seats for the "special" ones, so they have a good view of the torture of those nasty unbelievers.

      September 19, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Apple Bush

    My thorns, now flies; buzzing around my gruesome head and face
    My wasted body finally brought down; breathe still in me just a whisper
    Nurtured and cleansed; bandaged and cared for
    Now I am risen to say my final farewell
    Do not worship me; do not mourn for me
    Do not build churches for me or profit from me
    I am a man, born of a woman from the seed of my father
    I am as you are; a man and a human being
    Learn from the sacrifices I have made; learn from the hypocrisy
    Remember me as a friend

    September 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  3. treasure

    according to the "national america of statistics" 87% of all catholic priest have molested children, mostly altar boys. If their priest molest their flock molest. I would not let my boy within 20 yards of a catholic. When I see them I say to my children "run, run go to a safety place".

    September 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Nannalow

      There is no such thing as the "National America of Statistics" and in actuality, the actual percentage is close to 4%, and it is estimated that between 1% and 5% of people in America in general are child molestors. So in actuality you are no more likely to have your child molested in a Catholic Church than in any other place in America. What was so tragic about the Catholic Church and what made it so scandilous was not that it happened so frequently but that the men who committed the acts were trusted so completely – and that the Church itself covered it up. But the actual frequency was no greater than any other population.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  4. cooluser

    Why would the gays want to be members of the church? It's like the Jews insisting on being members of the Gestapo! LOL!

    September 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  5. dan

    Why would you a say a Pope calling himself a sinner, is striking.

    Peter our first pope replied to Jesus that he was a sinner.

    I believe that Pope John Paul went to confession one a week. Hardly, striking for the greatest of servants to call themselves sinners.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  6. Jon

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-TIACu0aKQ&w=640&h=390]

    September 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Betty

      I'm not so sure about that – maybe with a little vinegar.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  7. Bill Tweakin'

    Quit following me I got no more to give you people I got no more to give so no coffee... I'm done. Done.
    But I wasn’t done. I was only pouring foundation. That is when it happened. Yeah I guess it is like a cell. It has dark spots, corners. There is a lighted area but the bulb flickers on and off more than it used too. Strange to be a rabid animal in a cage you built yourself and when they try to save you….bite them…then ask them to come back.
    to eat a steak, politely rest your butter knife through a perfectly cooked filet that melts in your mouth like warm, fresh spoiled tuna.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Shuncky

      shut up already

      September 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
      • guest

        Why, does it strick a nerve?

        September 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • The Pope

      Agreed

      September 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  8. Scots Dignity

    ...and though they grieved and rent their clothes, it was in the pub the followers gathered for darts and dark ale which they hoisted in sadness and drank with great sorrow. Many libations they consumed and they called it the blood of the son of God.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  9. Brampt

    The Catholic Church is the "mother of all harlots"... Why harlot? Because despite she says that God is her husband, she commits "adultery" will the kings of the earth... Then you have other little "harlots"her daughters, that keep on mingling in politics...

    September 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  10. ko

    keep watching the kardashins folks. nothing to see here

    September 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  11. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    And the evolution of religion continues .. truly a survival tactic, evolve or die out.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  12. Ernie

    Finally a man with a brain. I was raised Roman Catholic and I am gay. I go to church for the world of our Lord not what some man in the front of the poppet tries to teach me, GOD makes no mistakes and he loves me the way he made me. So get over your self. This Pope is on the right path everyone else is on the wrong path.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Dippy

      Pulpit, not poppet.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • joe

      I go to church for the world of our Lord
      ------
      Just think about how ridiculous your statement is. "Our Lord". Such a primitive idea. "King of Kings". Always the primitives made their God seem just like them because they wanted to be Gods themselves.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  13. Byron

    Religion leaving politics to focus on personal faith? The audacity! ... This is the way it should be for every religion. I like how it took 230 some years since the Founding Father came up with the notion for it to actually start sinking in....

    September 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  14. ed dugan

    Hey bartender, give me a St. Peter, scotch and holy water on the "rocks".

    September 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  15. Dave

    as the official religion of the Mob is anyone surprised?

    September 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  16. montyross

    Dont worry about the unborn soon the whole world will "gay" and the subject will go away. "and he will set up the abomination that makes desolate in the holy temple"

    September 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      You do realize that gay people can and do have children. Nice quote too, it's quite a reach to match that to same gender relationships. Now if they were born sterile that would be a different story.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  17. Bill Tweakin'

    God exists because a Grandma said so in 1952.

    God exists because kings covet great wealth and power.

    God exists because evangelists say so.

    God exists because you have a feeling.

    Evidence is not needed to establish the reality of God, only tradition.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  18. Kenrick Benjamin

    The Singularity- a single unit of energy that include, the four forces(Pure Energy).

    September 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • doobzz

      A pickle is a vegetable or fruit that has been put in a brine, vinegar, or other solution and left to ferment for a period of time, by either immersion in an acidic solution or through souring by lacto-fermentation.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  19. PJ

    What a wonderful Pope. We are truly blessed to have him lead us at this time in history.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • doobzz

      Just like his clergy led children into the sacristy for a game of guess what's under my cassock.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Mark

      If you really want to understand the catholic church, and the spirit behind it, visit be4thefire.com. Check out the Vatican exposed link, and all other videos as your heart desires. Remember, the same spirit that built the Vatican is working through this Pope. Watch the videos, and decide for yourself if the Pope is spreading false doctrine that will lead people into Hell.

      September 20, 2013 at 9:38 am |
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About this blog

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.