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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. OperationSpiritualMission

    This is for the many who likes the Pope and his ideas doen't mean that standard is for all Chistians, just Catholics. I want to make sure that you have a basic understanding when you don't see that standard used by all Christians. The Pope doesn't rule outside the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There are thousands and thousands of Christian sects, each with their own doctrine.
      They can't all be right – but they can all be wrong.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • Sara

        Talk to one of the growing crowd of Omnists.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
        • ME II

          Ohmnist: resistance is inevitable.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
      • AshRed at CNN

        ^ what he said.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
        • OperationSpiritualMission

          I will gently try to do my best not to offend you. What did you mean about "what he said"? Did you mean what did he say? or whatever he said? Please clarify.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • OperationSpiritualMission

        ...but I am sure that Catholic is the right one for you or else you would never made that comment.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  2. JIM St Louis

    I just adore this man for his way with words, for his ability to make quotes that make one think about their comments/actions, and for his 21st century thinking.I hope Francesco lives a long, long time to serve all.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Nobody can make another person think. They might be meditating or more commonly passed out.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  3. Dr. Kynes

    Against all better judgement.. I like this pope...

    September 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bill

      You can like the man without liking what he stands for.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Pat Reardon

      Dune reference. Nice. But I doubt the pope is the Kwisatz Haderach...

      September 19, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  4. dski

    So, apparently there is no area of people's lives that the Catholic Church should be involved in. So why do we need them?

    September 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  5. Bob

    Catholics need someone to hate.

    Who are Catholics going to hate now?

    September 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Brian in DC

      Just you Bob.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Guillermo López Coriant

      We don´t hate, we are sinners like anyone else. The Pope want us to change, so please respect our feelings.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  6. Brent

    I wonder if Rick Warren seen this. Maybe his son would still be alive today if he took this approach.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • OperationSpiritualMission

      I hope and pray to God that nothing bad ever happens to your loved ones, and if it does by chance I hope that Rick Warren or other people would not say some unsensitive, thoughtless, and inhumane comment like yours. Seems like that you don't care about other people's feeling, but I think you want others to be sensitive to your feeling. It's okay because I will be sensitive to your feeling if some horrific happens to your loved ones, and I will even give you money to cover for expenses. I will pray and house you if you need me to.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • Joey

        Rick Warren might as well have pulled the trigger himself. He spent his whole life telling his son he didn't deserve to life, and then acts surprised when his son kills himself? Give me a break.

        September 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Rocío Rinaldi

      Ahh bueno, se manifiesta cada vez más el espíritu de anticristo en este hombre mezclando verdad con la mentira. Una de sus citas dice "Si una persona es gay, y busca al Señor y tiene buen testimonio quién soy yo para juzgarlo?" Ok, no somos nadie para juzgar condenando a alguien que se acerca a Dios pero eso no significa que deba seguir en sus pecados, sino discipularlo, enseñarle lo que el Señor nos demanda en su Palabra. El Papa ha dicho también que la iglesia NO TIENE QUE INTERVENIR ESPIRITUALMENTE en la vida de los gays. Oo CÓMO??? Con estas palabras niega lo siguiente escrito en la Palabra de Dios: "A tí pues, hijo de hombre, te he puesto por centinela de la casa de Israel: tú oirás la Palabra de mi boca y los amonestarás de mi parte. Cuando yo diga al impío: "¡Impío, de cierto morirás!", si tu no hablas para que se guarde el impío de su camino, el impío morirá por su pecado: pero yo demandaré su sangre de tu mano. Pero si tú avisas al impío de su camino para que se aparte de él, y él no se aparta de su camino, él morirá por su pecado, pero tú libraste tu vida" EZEQUIEL 33:7-9

      September 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  7. Apple Bush

    If I had piece of wood I would make it a yo yo
    If I had a yo yo I would tie a string to it
    If I was me, I would make me into a yo yo with a string attached to it and practice

    September 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  8. oshptest

    So this guy is pretty cool and is making me feel better about the Catholic Church (I defected years ago.) But what about the next guy? Or the guy after that? When you place too much power into the hands of one man (who ISN'T Jesus) you run the risk of your church swinging one way, then another, then back again. I prefer to belong to a church that keeps the focus on Jesus always and not on "the guy in charge."

    September 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  9. Jack 2

    Has this Pope forgot what has broght their church down in the first place? The gay priests have put the church where it is and now this kook wants to embrace them more and say it's ok. The church is lost.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You seem to be confused about the difference between paedophiles and ho/mose/xuals.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • Jack 2

        I'm not confused at all. you are. If you are male and you put the male anatomy in you mouth or body you ARE gay no matter what age the MALE is. So if he was 17 and you were doing this to the victim then you are a paedophile but when he turns eighteen you aren't? You are the one that's very confused. In fact, you are in denial.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Paedophiles are not attracted to 17 year old because 17 year olds are (genreally) se.xually mature in a physical sense.
        Perpetrators with a more or less exclusive interest in children are labeled fixated. Fixation means "a temporary or permanent arrestment of psychological maturation resulting from unresolved formative issues which persist and underlie the organization of subsequent phases of development".
        By contrast, other molesters are described as regressed. Regression is "a temporary or permanent appearance of primitive behavior after more mature forms of expression had been attained, regardless of whether the immature behavior was actually manifested earlier in the individual's development".

        Doctors Groth and Birnbaum studied 175 adult males who were convicted in Massachusetts of se.xual assault against a child. None of the men had an exclusively ho.mos.exual adult se.xual orientation. 83 (47%) were classified as "fixated;" 70 others (40%) were classified as regressed adult heterose.xuals; the remaining 22 (13%) were classified as regressed adult bise.xuals. Of the last group, Groth and Birnbaum observed that "in their adult relationships they engaged in s.ex on occasion with men as well as with women. However, in no case did this attraction to men exceed their preference for women....There were no men who were primarily se.xually attracted to other adult males..."

        The Vatican's problem isn't with "gay" priests – there are not a disproportionate number of abusers in their organization.
        The problem is that they covered it up.
        According to the John Jay report, 918 of 1872 (49%) substantiated allegations of abuse against Catholic clergy were addressed by sending the priest off for psychiatric counseling and then moving him to another parish, with nary a whisper to law enforcement. This number does not include priests relocated for reasons other than charges of se.xual impropriety.
        The 'Crimen Sollicitationis', which outlines how the church is to handle accusations of se.xual impropriety against clergy, was Top Secret for decades. It explictly stated that anybody involved in this type of investigation, including the accuser and potential witnesses, are sworn to secrecy regarding any and all details, upon penalty of excommunication (a fate worse than death for the devout).

        I'm not confused, sir.
        You're just an ass and a bigot.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • captainbryce

        If by "confused" you mean completely retarded, then I would agree.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • sam

        I don't think Jack can be taught, Doc. Save your breath on this one.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
      • Jack 2

        these replys shows I got some gays upset that i don't agree with their habits

        September 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          @Jack
          I know – verifiable facts are so gay, aren't they.
          Facts are sterile- but myths have flavour!

          September 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          I'm not even gay so keep on speculating troll.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
        • Jack 2

          Doc, you didn't post any verifiable facts

          September 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • Sara

        Some of these priests were pe.do.philes and others statutory rapists. While some confused legal definitions get this wrong, pe.do.philes are attracted only to those before puberty. If you look at the cases in the church, some are post puberty where it is easier to distinguish se.xu.ality. Most males, regardless of se.xu.ality, are attracted to young, but post puberty males or females. In the modern world we have important practical reasons for disallowing this.

        Yes, with those under age it is often opportunistic with little regard to the gender of the victim...just whoever is available. But this is not always the case and some have distinct gender/se.x preferences. There's a pretty mixed bag of abusers.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Bill

      Thankfully this Pope reads the whole Bible, and not just the GAYS ARE TEH EVIL!!!!!!!!!! part.

      Go read Matthew 25 again.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Really? I guess you failed history class and missed the Inquisition days?

      September 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  10. drake wolf

    Remember what God did to Sodom and Gomorra, God is the same yesterday, today and tommorrow, and forever more/ His views wont ever change. That's nice a wonderful peace loving God slaughtered everyone it created in a brutal ball of fire and sent them all to burn in a fiery hell forever. I sure love this God. 🙂

    September 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • rIC

      AMEN BROTHER ! ! ! ! It's good to know that even if the Pope doesn't read the bible (clearly this HAS NOT) people are still smart enough to!! Beware of the world's NEWEST false prophet! !

      September 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  11. joney

    Read every word attributed to the Pope...nowhere did he say "leave gays alone" as in the disingenuous CNN headline.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      So you are going to keep bullying gays because you don't have an education?

      September 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
      • Jack 2

        Does going to school more for an education make it Ok to be gay? So if i go to school more will murder or stealing be ok too?
        What's your point?

        September 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
        • Bill

          Splinter/Beam sir.

          September 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
        • What is going on? FREEDOM

          Wow you missed the entire point of the comment. Judging by what you posted farther above I can see that you are definitely one of the failed and/or high school dropouts.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • doobzz

          Geez, put your teeth back in and try to hit the spittoon, Jethro.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • sam

          More dumbass comments from a dumbass.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  12. Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

    The Gnostic gospels were indeed "scripture" far more so than the present form of the so called "Holy Bible". In fact, these scriptures tell the tale of Jesus the man. Married, a Buddhist, a nudist, a true renaissance man of his time.

    The Greek Phase: ανοιχ τή ο δο ιτ, simply means, "what time did you get in last night?” Loosely translated into today’s vernacular.

    We know that the so called "missionary position" was so named after Jesus walked in on Mary Magdalene and Joseph having relations. He condemned their activities saying, "...you have soiled my sheets, you have confused my mission and compromised my position."

    September 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      Sounds guileful, gayful but not joyful.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
      • Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

        It is my understanding that many have enjoyed very much.

        September 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  13. dear pope

    please make an comment on useless G20 meetings, where billions of money goes waste on security, where one can solve world hunger with them instead.
    I recommend 20 skype account + 20hd quality webcam from bestbuy to replace G20.
    Thanks papa i love ya.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  14. drake wolf

    Leave Gays alone? might as well- they are all going to hell. I would rather be in hell than be with peace loving people like you.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  15. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Whatever will the Guns Over People tea potty do now? Call the Pope a liberal?

    September 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  16. Bramlet

    Sometimes I wonder if this is the first pope that has actually entered into the Kingdom, unlike the false prophet before him. You could just tell that guy wasn't enlightened.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  17. Brent

    This pope is awesome. He has the religious zealots going nuts. It really does make for an entertaining afternoon reading comments.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • 616

      You need to read better, mostly it's been the fanatic atheists people that are abndwagoning here.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  18. Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

    If you read both Timothy and Phillip, there are passages which describe in detail that Jesus was cremated.
    We know this because his friends were asked to take his ashes to the Sea of Galilee and deposit them over, "...the lapping waves of His Father's own sink basin".

    Furthermore we read in a passage from Timothy that, “…the ashes were as grains of sand. I have tasted his body.” This passage is thought to have been incorrectly translated into the last supper myth.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • 616

      Yeah, umm..proper citation would require you to offer up specific verses.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

        Indeed you would 616, but I am, alas, a busy man.

        September 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
        • doobzz

          How did you get your "Ph.D." if you are so prone to making unfounded statements and then saying you are too busy to provide a proper citation?

          Must have been one of those Caribbean "universities".

          September 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  19. vehementgoat

    god seems to conveniently change his mind a lot, particularly when society rejects his primitive teachings.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Almost as if it were made up by a bunch of Iron Age goat herders huh?

      September 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
      • Carbonman

        More accurately, Bronze Age goat herders for the Old Testament, early Iron age for the New Testament. Fairy tales and selective history in any event.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • rker321

      Not God, men.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
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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.