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The quotable Pope: 11 most surprising sayings
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. Bob

    Imagine that, a pope who preaches love, not hate. Kinda sounds like...Jesus Christ. Glad to see the pope leading Catholics back to their roots.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • doobzz

      Imagine that, a pope who makes a show of being "different" while the RCC continues its conspiracy to hide pedophiles in the clergy and practice bigotry against women and LGBT.

      Business as usual.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  2. chew

    Dah!!!

    $100 billion and counting for the lawyers / litigation within !!

    aka

    ongoing investigation " no comment"

    too funny

    September 19, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  3. Michael

    The Spirit of lawlessness is already prevailing; now the MAN OF LAWLESSNESS Hhas to appear. Pope sounds as if he is the forerunner.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • korkea aika

      Michael....Law for you appears to mean some agreement by the majority to stone the minority. Laws have 'spirit' and this Pope knows it. That's a good lesson for you.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • sean barton

      Mike,
      You're a nut bar, aren't you?

      September 19, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  4. Jim J

    If God isn't real, how did He create man in His own image?
    Checkmate atheists!

    September 19, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • drefromla

      Lol, what?
      you are adorable

      September 19, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Lucifer

      Ummm well, he didn't create man in his own image because he does not exist.
      CHECKMATE JIM!

      September 19, 2013 at 11:31 am |
      • Jesus Loves You

        You are a fake Lucifer. Lucifer believes in God and knows Him. Actually, Lucifer rebelled against God. Look around, everything you see , even your very life was created by Him. How anything in this world can be of existence without a creator. When you see an artwork, could you deny that there was an artist who created it. Everything you see, your system in your body, digestive system, nervous system, DNA and everything. These are billion times more complex than an artwork that you could see in a gallery. How could you deny the Almighty Creator?

        God knows what's in your heart. You are full of vile and blasphemous spirit. You better repent if you still be given a chance. Before when Jesus closes that door for you, sorry what's going to happen to you. The people who were following Jesus were sinners who accepted Him as Lord and Savior and their lives were changed. Jesus is offering His salvation to anybody who will accept Him. Time is running short, you will never know you may die today. Jesus said. He is knocking to the door of your heart and if you open that door and let Him in you will dine with Him but if you rejects Him you are choosing your only eternal destination. Choose between life and death. You are a human and your ancestors were not apes and monkeys.

        Jesus died on the cross for your sins and He rose again from the dead. It is your choice to accept His gift of salvation or not. No matter what you believe you cannot change the fact that Jesus was born on earth and became a living sacrifice. There are so many writers who wrote about Him, so many changed lives , so many miracles time after time. Even a few decades after His resurrection, the world was turned upside down because of His teachings and changed lives. The greatest human government at that time was even threatened of His teachings that's why there were so Christian martyrs that gave up their lives and did not renounce their faith.

        You can believe whatever you want to believe but you cannot stop Jesus from coming back to earth.
        When He comes you better get ready as that time because ...
        every knee should bow,
        in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
        and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

        You cannot change this reality. You have a choice... fullness of life that Jesus offers or be with the devil and demons who rejected him.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
        • rusty66

          Presuming to speak for God is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

          September 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • jonds

      What? Checkmate my rear!!

      September 19, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • stargoat

      lol. That should stump those ridiculous atheists. Good job.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Dave

      "He made us in His own image" Really? What would an almighty, omnipresent deity need to appendages, eyes, ears etc? And before you go on about "image" meaning soul, seeing how people actually are and think then he really must be one very sick individual.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • Jesus Loves You

        If you only close eyes and for one moment think who you are... you are more than a body. You only think of physical attributes.... God is the Supreme Creator, that's why humans are also given the capacity to build, create their own inventions. The attributes of creativity. the attribute of being compassionate. If you are not defiled of sin you will see more clearly... accept the salvation that Jesus offers and when you repent of your sins and follow Him you will know more... and eventually you will conclude that God created you in His Image in Likeness. He breath that life that you have. When you become a Christian day by day God will guide you through His Holy Spirit to know more about His Son who died in your behalf. You can call God your Father, and you will discover so many things in life ... you will see How Jesus sees the poor, the helpless, the sinners and eventually you will know that indeed you are created in His Image and Likeness.

        September 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
        • Creole

          Agreed with you; even though your posts are too.... long, you make a lot of sense!

          September 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Miriz

      Who said we were created in God's image? Oh yeah, God... kinda makes me think of the TV comercial, "You can't put anything on the internet that isn't true. Who said that? The internet."

      September 19, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Rich

      That is circular reasoning. You assume man is made in Gods image. Not so. God is real, but the bible is the work of man. Full of contradictions, errors and hate. The old testament is the original work of political spin, and still the best. Mostly written in the 7th Century BC to justify Josiah becoming the leader of a United Monarchy and the priest of the temple becoming the leaders of Judaism.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • O'drama ya Mama

      If no one has ever seen God how do we know we are created in his image? Why would God create people with deformities?

      September 19, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • Jesus Loves You

        Man chose sin. Sin separates us away from God. Sickness, deformities and death are consequences of sins. Humans became sinners and human DNA became contaminated.

        That is why Jesus died on the cross to restore us back to God. He is coming soon to put things back in order.
        '
        Jesus died on the cross for your sins and He rose again from the dead. It is your choice to accept His gift of salvation or not.

        Jesus said. He is knocking to the door of your heart and if you open that door and let Him in you will dine with Him but if you rejects Him you are choosing your only eternal destination. Choose between life and death. You are a human and your ancestors were not apes and monkeys.

        Jesus died on the cross for your sins and He rose again from the dead. It is your choice to accept His gift of salvation or not. No matter what you believe you cannot change the fact that Jesus was born on earth and became a living sacrifice. There are so many writers who wrote about Him, so many changed lives , so many miracles time after time. Even a few decades after His resurrection, the world was turned upside down because of His teachings and changed lives. The greatest human government at that time was even threatened of His teachings that's why there were so Christian martyrs that gave up their lives and did not renounce their faith.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • stevef00

      Wow, Jim J....are you really that stupid? Athiests don't believe in god, so by direct logic, we don't believe he created anything in his image! What a dumb statement on your part.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
      • Jesus Loves You

        Look around, everything you see , even your very life was created by Him. How anything in this world can be of existence without a creator. When you see an artwork, could you deny that there was an artist who created it. Everything you see, your system in your body, digestive system, nervous system, DNA and everything. These are billion times more complex than an artwork that you could see in a gallery. How could you deny the Almighty Creator?

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

          One again, "JesusLovesYou," STOP trying to convert people. Just because someone says they are an atheist doesn't mean they are begging you to tell them your little stories and to "save" them. No one cares what your imaginary friend wants, thinks, believes... and we should be free to say "I am an atheist" without a zealot like you trying to change their ways.
          Would you like it if I responded to every post of your with my beliefs? That you're an ignorant and arrogant sheep, blindly following liars and thieves who are feeding you stories and scaring you into submission with the fate of your eternal soul.

          Is that what you want to hear? Stop trying to make people believe what you do. We prefer common sense.

          September 19, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • Jesus Loves You

          I cannot contain sharing the goodness of Jesus. I want to share the gift of forgiveness. How bad a person I am if I know that some people are walking in that dark pathway that leads to a ravine and did not warn them.

          If you only experience what I am experiencing day by day and how He answers my prayers and leads me ... you will not let a day pass without the assurance of a free gift of His love and salvation.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Amanda

      "God" was created in man's image*

      I think your comment must've been a typo 🙂

      Checkmate?

      September 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
      • King chaz

        you speak of things you have no knowledge of, but fully KNOW your beliefs to be correct. I beg to differ- you do not KNOW what you have not experienced. Can someone who has never experienced love truly speak of it? Can they deny that it exists just because they haven't seen it, felt its impacts on their heart, or logically explain its existence? It is entirely illogical to have feelings for something outside of one's self to the point of causing actual pain and agony. This is what Love can do to us. It can make us feel unbelievably good, and/or excruciatingly bad. For those who have experienced true love, this is completely understandable. But it's illogical to those who have not experienced it. Love, like faith in God, is based in experience- not logic. Faith in Jesus is exactly the same in that once you have experienced true faith, then it is completely understandable. But until you step out (in faith), ask for forgiveness, and TRY to believe, then you will never experience that which countless folks have dies for over 2 thousand years... A purpose higher than yourself which will lift you to heights that you never thought were possible. Jesus, just like love, must be experienced in order to understand. But unlike human love, Jesus is there for the asking- any day or night. Just believe!

        September 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Robert

      So it is god that is responsible for all those fat American's at the Denny's on Sunday morning? .... God really needs to go on a diet!

      September 20, 2013 at 12:14 am |
  5. Rock Stone

    If you're not catholic why does anything the pope says matter?

    September 19, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • korkea aika

      i'm a conservative observant Jew and I like this Pope. Every once in a while I take a seat in the back of the catholic church near me. I like the atmosphere and the rituals and the colors and the people. Sometimes, I even get the message. So this Pope only encourages this behaviour. I'm a cross-over, no pun intended.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:32 am |
      • greenriverkate

        No, you are an intelligent human being! I have gone to other churches and not been struck dead by God! I want to learn! Although I am a recovering catholic, I am spiritual! I harbor no ill feeling against ANY religion! We all have the right to believe what we do. On the other hand we do NOT have the right to shove it down others throats or in their faces! And it is getting so bad out there with "Christians", I get angry fast with their hateful condemnation of others beliefs!

        September 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
        • Creole

          Explain "recovering catholic" . I left the Catholic Church because it was becoming very confusing to me; I embraced my spirituality, and feel much better about myself, and I also see the World in a different light;

          September 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Pest

      It shouldn't, but unfortunately Catholics are large enough in numbers so as to be a threat to non-Catholics if they strive to implement their nonsense legislatively (which they do).

      September 19, 2013 at 11:34 am |
      • TELew

        It is absurd to suggest that members of the Catholic Church would somehow "band together" to adopt odious legislation. The Catholic population is simply too diverse and represent the whole spectrum of political positions.

        On the other hand, if conservative Christians of whatever striped banded together–then there would be something to worry about.

        September 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Dave

      I'm agnostic bordering on atheist and have utter disdain for the Catholic church, however this Pope is actually going against the hate message. It's rather refreshing.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  6. Anthony

    i'm really starting to like this guy, I hope all the christian in this world are reading this. and if you ever had a hateful thought about women, gays, lesbians, anyone who is different from you, i urge you to heed this man's words, mind your own business and just tolerate and love your neighbor for the person they are, and not who they bring into their bed (so long as it is a consenting adult). maybe its not to late for Christianity after all./

    September 19, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Cindy

      As a christian, we dont hate nor judge no one! thats what GOd is here for and he loves us all.. I do know as long as we follow him and his words, we will have eternal life.. However you must repent from your sins and the bible does list them all, we are all sinners but we must confess to him and please only him. We must love and forgive all! I don't know who calls himself a christiuan and hate
      s

      September 19, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  7. Mary

    Yet he still thinks it's ok to decide whether women live or die, as in N Ireland. Hypocritical pig.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Creole

      Have you been drinking???!!? I didn't read the part where he he decides if Women should" live or die"

      September 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  8. Bob

    Maybe the pope is gay & hes trying to Hide it.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • bczu

      Aren't they all?

      September 19, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Durundal

      You really need to work on your trolling

      September 19, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Amanda

      I prefer to think that he had an intellectual breakthrough and he's now an atheist

      😀

      Unlikely, but hopeful thinking.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  9. delemeester

    He can interfere all he wants in his voluntary membership's spiritual lives. But the church should stay out of the lives of non-members and let us be ruled by a government that treats all its citizens with equality under secular laws.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Creole

      And which Government that might be???????

      September 19, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  10. Anthony

    Really starting to like this guy, I hope all the christian in this world are reading this. and if you ever had a hateful thought about women, gays, lesbians, anyone who is different from you, i urge you to heed this man's words, mind your own business and just tolerate and love your neighbor for the person they are, and not who they bring into their bed (so long as it is a consenting adult)

    September 19, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  11. Dennis

    When the blind leads the blind...they both fall into the pit.
    Being biblically correct outlasts being politically correct everytime.
    The Truth is the Light

    September 19, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • delemeester

      What parts of love thy neighbor and love thy enemy and render unto ceased what is ceaser's don't you get? If you embrace the death sentences and pro-slavery parts of the old testament instead, then ask yourself why Christ had to come at all if the old testament was so perfect. It wasn't and he had to come to show a new way. No more an eye for an eye but now to love and leave whether someone is going to hell up to God's decision.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  12. keith

    I agree only a psychiatrist can help their illness.....

    September 19, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • bczu

      Make sure you seek help for yours.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • delemeester

      How old were you and what process did you go through when you were deciding to be straight or gay? What, it never crossed your mind? Why can't you accept that God made everyone in his image? Maybe we gays are here to test your ability to live up to Christ's plea that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • drefromla

      you are a tool Keith and are the one with the illness.
      go get a life you loser

      September 19, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • stevef00

      keith....if you are referring to the illness one has that believes in a fairy tale spirit that makes you obey his every command or suffer a fiery afterlife, then I wholeheartedly agree. If you are referring to anything else, you are an idiot!

      September 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • sugarbella777

      What illness? Crazy people like you who think God only loves "some" and not "all". Agreed!

      September 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  13. Bill Deacon

    This pope is a brilliant communicator. He demonstrates a genius for injecting the Catholic faith into modern secular conversation.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • doobzz

      Good morning, Boof.

      You must have pitched a huge tent when you saw two stories about your latest pope-a-dope this morning.

      Brilliant communicator? He's got a great PR department. Anyone can read a speech.

      A genius for interjecting Catholicism into modern secular conversation? If you consider making generalized statements that say nothing new so remarkable, every pope is a genius.

      Why won't he address the RCC's continuing conspiracy to hide child molesters?

      Poor Boof, clinging desperately to the hope that the RCC will become relevant again.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • Creole

        A bit cynical aren't you?????

        September 19, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  14. RPR

    This Pope might actually get me to consider return to the catholic church, but probably not.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Trevor

      Returning to the "church"? Are you returning to Christ or a group of men, as Christ is the head of the "church" NOT the Pope or any other "man"... The "church" is what individuals of like mind/beliefs get together and "do" in fellowship with each other strengthening, encouraging and loving one another.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • Peter the Rock

        The Church came before the Bible. Jesus said to "take it to the Church". The "Church" is the "Pillar and foundation of truth"...this is what the Bible says...so YOU should follow the Church. Then you must seek the True Church...which is the RCC.

        September 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  15. Hingle McCringleberry

    It's interesting that it took the church this long to learn"Judge not lest ye be judged'

    September 19, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • korkea aika

      Practice what you preach and look at yourself and ask 'what have I not yet been able to learn'. Then you'll see that your post is not relevant, as this one is not.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  16. LouAZ

    The use of supernaturalism to manipulate and control people is the world's oldest confidence scheme, it relies on the ritual abuse of children at their most impressionable stage by adults who have themselves been made childish for life by artifacts of the primitive mind.- Your Mom on a CNN comment.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  17. Louie

    Looks like the coward took the easy way out...

    September 19, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • greekdj

      What do you mean by that?

      September 19, 2013 at 11:26 am |
      • Lucifer

        Well what he means is that he does not approve of what the pope is saying. Most right wingnut catholics (the minority) are going to squeal like little beeatches now because the pope isn't telling them what they want to hear. So right wingnuts, if you don't like the church now.... GTFO.

        September 19, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  18. Cesar

    Regardless of approval or not for gays...the church still strives on making everyone feel guilty all the time.

    Repent, repent, repent!!! Guilt, guilt, guilt!! Got tired of it.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • why why why

      All religion is based on either Guilt or Shame.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:22 am |
      • Nate

        I disagree, Christianity isn't, though there are many who make it that way due to their own misunderstanding.

        September 19, 2013 at 11:32 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.