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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. Hell and destruction are never full

    Hell and destruction are never full
    Nope, yer stuck with Pandora's box being non-virginal. At first it was, "We want the gubmint outta the bedroom!!" Now it's, "We want to have our bedroom in da parade! Vote for us!!"

    September 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  2. macbaldy

    This Pope gets it...the earth is no longer flat. Dogma for dogma's sake has been the bane of the Catholic Church for centuries. Faith in dogma is a human penchant that wears thin in the face of reality. Spirituality bogged down by dogma has too many limitations to thrive. That's why Catholicism has been losing its following in Latin America.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Jesus

      You sound like a total fool. Did you get dropped on your head at birth?

      September 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Jan

      Agreed, but even more than that. He gets the inclusive, loving, humble teachings of the fellow that is the underpinning of all Christian denominations.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  3. Ken Poole

    Get the whole story here: http://www.catholicleague.org/pope-comments-on-abortion-gays/

    September 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  4. ldkjralkejrel

    Francis, I will start respecting you and the Catholic church as soon as you stop discriminating against women and lgbt people in all church positions and teachings.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  5. thykingdomcome-thywillbedone

    This is the voice of diception telling Adam and Steve what they want to hear.
    1Tim:1-5
    1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
    If you follow this lie, you are a candidate of hell.
    Pope if you know you are a sinner, please repent and stop deceiving others. Wanting to fill the catholic Church with people is your aim. Stop speaking for the whole chuch we don't belive these lies.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • WilltheFree

      You do realize that participation in a written forum requires you to be able to write clearly and express your point in a way that others would understand.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  6. samaritan1945

    This is a Pope without precedent! A Man of God who admits it, accepts it, loves it and turns to the Lord for guidance and direction. A wonderful example of how a Leader should speak with his people. Openly, honestly, sincerely with love and compassion for all. Surely in this world of troubled times and terrible consequences Pope Francis was put in place by GOD! To that I can only say "Thank You, Jesus!"

    September 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  7. Texas Anne

    The church needs to allow priests to marry and accept already married people into the priesthood.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  8. Colin

    Have you ever been to a Catholic mass? It's really weird. At one point, they honestly believe that grocery store bread and wine turns into the flesh and blood of Jesus because the priest does some hocus pocus over the top of it. I swear it's true – and the grown adults believe this, it's not just a pleasant tale they tell their little kids. Grown adults!!

    Weird.....

    September 19, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      They ring a little bell when it happens, just so you know when it happens. Otherwise it's not obvious to the naked eye.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • AE

      Jesus just said do this in remembrance of Him on the night He was betrayed and sentenced to a torturous death.

      He didn't say understand this in remembrance of me. Or accept Colin's limited and flawed understanding of what it means.

      Just do it and remember his death. Not so weird.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
      • Joey

        Actually it is still pretty weird.

        September 20, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  9. Reality

    To all the misguided "believers" out there, your salvation is at hand:

    Tis mind boggling that your religions can be brought down to earth in less than ten seconds. With this in mind should not the moderators of this blog and their buddy Stevie P be looking for new jobs?

    Again for the new members:

    To wit:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e. the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • OwMySkull

      I'd love to see a scan of the inside of your head. Like a fire drill at the state asylum.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Vic

      There is no evolution, therefore atheism falls flat.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
      • WilltheFree

        Atheism isn't intrinsically connected to evolution. You don't need to be an atheist to believe in evolution, and not all atheists would assert that evolution as stated is true and proven either. Atheists just accept the fact that there is no proof of a divine being.

        September 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
        •  

          Godless Vagabond
          Don't make it too complicated for Vic. He's pretty slow.

          September 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  10. DudeListen

    Damn right he is, who makes the cookies and cakes for Sunday Church? the Women yep that is right, and my fellow MEN why do we go to church on sunday? to eat cookies and cake, PERIOD enuff said!

    September 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  11. Jon

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znXodfwdDL8&w=640&h=390]

    September 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  12. Black Dynamite

    Leave the gays alone! Keep going after the kids.....
    BD

    September 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  13. t3chn0ph0b3

    Seriously? CNN's top story is on the "Belief Blog"? Lame. Completely and utterly lame.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  14. Paolo

    I am an convinced atheist but I have a LOT of respect for this Pope: He is the best thing that happens to the Catholic Church in many many years.
    Thank you Pope Francis for your honesty, open mind and intelligence.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Me

      I agree, but don't expect that he will be pope for long. He will either be canned, or assassinated. There are too many closed-minded bigots in the church to put up with his open mind for very long.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  15. TomGI

    "...women must play a key role in the church"

    Translation – send money to the catholic church.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  16. harleybird

    WOW! He doesn't realize his church has already fallen like a house of cards?

    September 19, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Francesco

      In what sense? Catholicism is growing and vibrant in many parts of the world.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  17. whattim

    If the church went after gays there would be no more priests.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  18. Victor

    Here is the link so you can read the actual article, since journalism is dead: http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview

    September 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  19. Colin

    Religion hey? Let’s ask a few questions about religion and everyday life.

    Q.1 The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in an “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Astronomy;

    (b) Cosmology;

    (c) Psychology; or

    (d) Judaism, Christianity and Islam

    Q. 2 What is the only thing capable of making 40% of the country utterly stupid enough to think the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake:

    (a) paleontology

    (b) archeology

    (c) biology; or

    (d) Judaism, Christianity or Islam

    Q. 3 Please complete the following sentence. It is not uncommon in many parts of the World for a young man to strap a suicide vest to himself and blow himself up and members of a rival __________

    (i) corporation

    (ii) university

    (iii) research insti.tute; or

    (iv) church?

    Q. 4 It is only acceptable as an adult to believe Bronze Age mythology like talking snakes, the Red Sea splitting, mana falling from the sky, a man living in a whale's belly, a talking donkey, superhuman strength, a man rising from the dead and angels, ghosts, gods and demons in the field of:

    (a) history

    (b) literature

    (c) anthropology

    (d) religion

    Q.5 I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am being obstinate and closed minded due to my:

    (a) hetero$exuality

    (b) genetics

    (c) nationality; or

    (d) religion.

    Q6. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian, Muslim or Jew who believes that prayers are answered

    Q7. Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    Q.8 The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q.9 What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they MUST believe under threat of “burning in hell” or other of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “God is comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas all religion is regional and a person’s religion, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than a matter of upbringing; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.10 If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Q.11 Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) the mafia

    (c) A drug pusher; or

    (d) any given religious organization

    Q. 12 I believe that an all-knowing being, powerful enough to create the entire cosmos and its billions of galaxies, watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty" (like protect myself from disease with a condom, for example). I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions; or

    (d) A regular Christian, Jew or Muslim following my religious belief

    In short, nothing in history of human endeavor can make otherwise smart, functioning people believe the most implausible of supernatural absurdities the way religion can.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • TomGI

      Does your boss know you're wasting company time with this?

      September 19, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • smartaz

      What are you when you create a wall of text no one cares about?

      September 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Paolo

      Colin, why are you going so off topics instead of acknowledging that this Pope has said something smart and honest ?
      And I am an atheist by the way....

      September 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
      • Facts.

        Sorry, you have to give him multiple choice options for him to be able to answer you. And make sure they all are hostile and intolerant to any viewpoint that is different from his.

        September 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      But if it's God's word, it has to be true, or at least believed. Every bit of it. So believe the parts that seem true, then engage in the hard part of religion: believe the parts that are absurd.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • harleybird

      Wow. What you know about religion you might could fill a thimble. Sure you do describe most false religions but if you want to know truth then honestly seek and ask and you will find the truth and the truth will set you free.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • Colin

        And let me guess, Harly Bird, the one true religion would be.......yours, right?

        September 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
        • Twist

          Just like the correct viewpoint about religion would be.......yours, right?

          September 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
        • Madtown

          The truly correct viewpoint about religion is...................unknown and unknowable.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • harleybird

          Well...how about you go find out for yourself? Make a list of all the religions you know of and then start crossing out the ones that endorse wars, teach patently false doctrine, etc. You'd be surprised what you end up with. Point being is you need to do this yourself and decide for yourself. Only if you're interested in finding out. I would surmise you're only interested in repeating tho he you've read...I could be wrong though.

          September 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
        • stillwaiting aka Basho1644

          Point being: I've done that, long long ago, and they've all been crossed off the list. Which leaves me with ... the simply awesome natural world.

          September 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
        • harleybird

          It is difficult to break free from false teaching and practices that have been taught for hundreds of years but a lie is a lie no matter how many believe it or repeat it. I say try again and this time pray for guidance and support. I know even after being a bible student nearly 40 years it can still be difficult to explain certain beliefs and it might take you really digging into certain religions and not believing what you've heard or read to really discern what they are truthfully all about.

          September 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
        • AE

          Crossed off all the religions... and there is Jesus Christ.

          September 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • AE

      Copy. Paste. Repeat.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • fourjz

      Jesus Saves Acts 2:38 "Repent,and be baptized,everyone of you,in the name of Jesus Christ,for the remission of sins,and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

      September 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • Eva

      Hello Colin,
      I believe in God and Holy Trinity and feel sorry, that just because your little brain can't comprehend God you will end up in Hell.
      I strongly recommend reading Bible to cure your sick soul. Instead of chasing $,watching
      TV with stuffing yourself with potato chips you should spend more time on healing your spirit and opening your heart to God. There is still time for you to find God before is too late.
      take care

      September 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
      • Colin

        Hell, hey Eva? Now there is one of my favorite Christian superst.itions. Think about it. I don't have to kill, I don't have to rob, heck, I don't even have to litter. All I need do is have an honest, rational and reasonable disbelief in the Christian god, and he will inflict a grotesque eternal torture on me a billion times worse than the death penalty.

        And he loves me.

        It is a silly, childish superst.ition that should never have made it out of the Dark Ages.

        September 19, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
        • Facts.

          It is not a silly, childish superst.ition. It has helped us enter into the modern age and spurred great medical and technological advances. You are failing at using logic to defend your prejudices and biases.

          September 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Facts.

      His circular reasoning and logical fallacies are amusing to read! Post some more! 🙂

      September 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • Colin

        You don't know hwat circular reasoning is, do you.

        September 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
        • Facts.

          Why is Colin's opinion true? Because it is reasonable. Why is it reasonable? Because it isn’t faith. What happens if you reject faith? You think Colin's opinion is true.
          What a beautiful circle. 🙂

          September 19, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  20. D

    "Only false prophets claim to have all the answers, Francis said." Doesn't religion say that god has all the answers? Hmmmmmmmm

    September 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Dapple

      I don't think God counts as a prophet. If he is what everyone says he is, he is a much higher being and God can't be wrong and if you think he's wrong then you're going to Hell. So they say.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.