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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. Maynard

    My mama told me that Jesus would never fart in the wind.

    September 19, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Observer

      Yes. It says so in Delusions 3:16.

      September 19, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
      • Athy

        And yet again in Crapola 6:9.

        September 19, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  2. Reality

    Dear Francis,

    For your edification:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

    September 19, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Veritas

      I hope you do not think to highly of yourself brother. Your comment only demonstrates how much of a small thinker you are. Thinking must be a painful exercise for you.

      September 19, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Jesus Loves You

      I feel sorry for you for what you are missing. Day by day we are experiencing the love,goodness, grace, mercy, miracles of Christ, we follow Him because He is our shepherd. His Words transform lives throughout generations. Compared to the authenticity of the Resurrection your existence is just a fairy tale. Act now before it is too late for you. He is knocking to the door of your heart, if you let Him into your heart, he will still forgive you, believe him, and make Him Lord of your life and follow Him.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
      • Reality

        (from Professor JD Crossan's book, "Who is Jesus" co-authored with Richard Watts)

        "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

        "Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets." Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus' last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."

        "In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life."

        September 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
        • Jesus Loves You

          You can quote anybody's opinion but his or your opinion will not change the absolute truth. It is your choice to reject Jesus... as what Jesus said you will die in your sins unless you believe in Him. I hope you did not make it your final choice, otherwise, you will be forever separated from God forever and forever. I do not know if you can practice atheism in your future destination as demons also believe that there is God and they even trembles by the Name of Jesus.

          September 20, 2013 at 2:47 am |
        • Reality

          Circu-mstantial evidence that their is no god:

          Number of "god's" creations who died horrible deaths from the following diseases:

          1. 300,000,000 approx.
          Smallpox

          2. 200,000,000 ?
          Measles

          3. 100,000,000 approx.
          Black Death

          4. 80,000,000–250,000,000
          Malaria

          5. 50,000,000–100,000,000
          Spanish Flu

          6. 40,000,000–100,000,000
          Plague of Justinian

          7. 40,000,000–100,000,000
          Tuberculosis

          8. 30,000,000[13]
          AIDS pandemic

          9. 12,000,000 ?
          Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague

          10. 5,000,000
          Antonine Plague

          11. 4,000,000
          Asian Flu

          12. 250,000 or more annually Seasonal influenza

          September 20, 2013 at 8:06 am |
        • Reality

          Oops, make that "there is no god".

          September 20, 2013 at 8:09 am |
        • Jesus Loves You

          You are right that people are dying of sickness and diseases. Sin separates us from God and these sickness and diseases are all consequences of sin. That is why out of God's abundance of Love, He gave His Son to redeem back humans to Him and to die for our sins in our behalf. Jesus is coming soon to restore back things. Please if Jesus today is knocking to your heart, open your heart. If your are in doubt, I challenge that in a span of two weeks, pray or talk to God for at least 10 minutes, tell Him you doubt Him, challenge Him to reveal to you who He is. I believe God will remove the scale on your eyes and will appreciate the wonders of His creations.

          I wonder you believe a painting was created by someone and you would not think about it but the complexity of the universe, it is expanding, it is moving, the galaxies are also moving and expanding, the same way with the solar system. Who made all of these so perfect, those are much more complex than an artwork? The DNA in all living things who Wrote that Genetic Code or Program that is much more complex than a computer program. You believe that CNN.com was created by someone or some group of people but how come you deny the Architect of much more complex things.

          Act now, while there is time before the Creator take your life that you don't even own. He just loaned it to you. Do not let the hour pass by not to heed God's voice. I prayed for you today and for everybody here who no relationship with Jesus. I was weeping as God imparted to me a small portion of His love (it could be just 0.000000000001 of His Love but I couldn't contain it and He gave a glimpse how deep and high and long and wide was Jesus' love when He said. "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing?" God loves . This is my final response to you but please heed to His voice.

          September 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  3. bostontola

    The pope said he is a sinner. Being g a y is a sin. Why would one be worse than the other? He's just stating the obvious. Religious people who deni.grate ga.ys are not very good Christians. Judge not...

    September 19, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • Athy

      They're not even good people.

      September 19, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  4. Some guy

    This is probably the first pope I have connected with. I've been a catholic for 29 years now. This is how the church should have been run the entire time.

    September 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • jermel p

      I'm not catholic but having someone actually conform to what the bible says and not to what tradition dictates is a true relief. All of us Christians believe in the same good who spoke the same words healed the same sick people but we can't even come together to follow his 2 main commandments

      Love god with all your heart mind and soul
      Love your neighbor as yourself

      September 19, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
      • jens gessner

        But the Bible that you believe in is pretty clear on the issue. Review Lev. 20:13. THAT is what your Bible says.

        September 19, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  5. Bill

    Thankfully, there is at least one man in religion that respects the rights of others.

    September 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  6. Zanarkand

    Attendance and donations must be getting bad...only reason I can think of for the church to back peddle like this.

    September 19, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • William

      Are you this mans judge?

      September 19, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  7. tom briardy

    he's the coolest guy in a dress I know.

    September 19, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  8. Frank

    Many of the galleries of the conscience need not and should not become public libraries. But sooner or later rocks and hard places will meet, and specific, judgmental statements will become necessary. But only for certain domains of conduct, as well as for beliefs which demonstrably and gravely threaten a more reasonable future.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

    • Say it plainly.

      September 19, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  9. Bootyfunk

    so the pope is saying the bible is wrong? awesome. it's good to see a christian religious leader speak out against the bible, a bronze/iron age book written by ignorant men that thought the earth was flat.
    lev 20:13 says g.ays are abomination and are to be put to death. disgusting h.omophobia.
    it's good the new pope realizes the bible is not inerrant - now if only he admitted he wasn't.

    my fiance and i are straight against hate. we fully support our g.ay brothers and sisters in their fight for marriage equality.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  10. Mike V

    Better than nothing, but not nearly far enough to undo all the damage the church has done

    September 19, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  11. Whatever

    At the end of the day, the Catholic Church (or should I say, the catholic church) is a criminal organization.

    The roots of criminality have been firmly planted long, long time ago. The catholic church continues to harbor criminals, and as such, must be eradicated.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  12. E

    Please read the original interview this came from. This
    "journalist" took EVERYTHING out of context. So sad that he has to distort the Popes words to try and push an agenda and confuse more Catholics. If you have a brain, find out what the pope actually said. All these articles on liberal websites have distorted his words. Go here for the full interview....http://www.americanmagazine.org/print156341
    Don't slander the pope until you actually read this.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  13. aroth

    Not religious and never will be. But as far as popes go, Francis seems like he's better than most.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Athy

      I agree. As long as we have to have Catholics, they should be herded intelligently. This guy seems to be up to the task.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  14. lizzy10

    I like this guy. Now if he would just get rid of the silly changes that were made about a year ago, maybe I'd go back to church.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • David Cramer

      My mother bought me a used copy of the Catholic "Manual of Prayers", copyrighted in 1916. And the Nicene Creed and prayers back then are the same ones we're forced to use now. So as bad as it seems to be stuck with the new Mass, we're actually going back to what it was traditionally. Some of the words still seem uncomfortable, but I feel better at least understanding they weren't just pulling then changes out of their butt.

      But of course that's probably not the real reason you quit attending Mass is it?

      September 19, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  15. JM

    There's a reason Jesus said (many times) that the people who think they are going to be in heaven (self-righteous hypocrites) are not while people they look down on are. People who truly realize that God is love and wants us to turn to him are the ones he accepts.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      The whole God thing might have some utility if it encouraged people to turn to each other and treat each other as equally deserving of dignity and a fair share in life.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  16. tony

    Do you need a closet gay son in order to found a mega church?

    September 19, 2013 at 9:33 pm |

    • Jesus was fairly open about it. He just didn't flaunt it.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  17. Reality

    To all the misguided "believers" out there including Francis, 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 9:29 pm |
    • Skepticatbest

      Ignorant. (This from an atheist)
      It is not about the facts, it is about the 100's of Millions of people that DO believe. More power to them. Be happy. I just feel really bad that you have to berate these people to feel better. We get it: Intellectualism is your religion. Mine too.. Unfortunately, I'm just more "devout".

      Get some help sir. (This has nothing to do with you not being a believer, as we are both "in the same boat")

      September 19, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
      • Skepticatbest

        It has to do with you being the very embodiment of "hater".

        September 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
        • Skepticatbest

          "Easter"???!

          Get your facts/ words/ religions, and their beliefs right, or else you make all non-believers seem like you... Yikes.
          P.S. Buddhism is not a "religion" per say.

          Ughhhh.... Just start going to church, you are sullying the name of the rest of us.

          September 19, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
        •  Dippy

          It's "per se," not "per say."

          September 20, 2013 at 3:06 am |
      • Reality

        John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

        The Situation Today
        Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

        It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.
        ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        September 19, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
        • Jesus Loves You

          That is not true, that 95% is a big lie. Anybody can claim that number. Show us the statistics worldwide with a breakdown of each country. There are so many factors behind these. How about the element of time. One is time. It is not constant, centuries upon centuries it is changing. Before Jesus was born there was no Christians but in a matter of of 2 centuries, Christianity flourished. The same thing with Hindus, Muslims. As time passes by things change.

          Human in the innermost part of his being is craving for the Creator. Everything around us and including us are proof of His creation. His fingerprint is there. How is it when you look at a painting in the gallery, you do not doubt that there was an artist who made it? How much more is the universe, the galaxies, the perfect distance of earth from the sun to sustain life, the universe moving, the galaxies are moving, the solar system is moving. Who designs it? Who Controls it? What keeps the nucleus of an atom together? Who holds and sustain it? The systems in your body, the nervous system alone is trillion times more complex than the artwork in the gallery. How about the genetic code, DNA who programmed it? I am computer programmer by profession, I have not heard of a program that nobody had made. Of all computer programs that exist somebody wrote it. But the DNA is much complex, it has the genetic code to produce specie of its kind. How can it be developed by random act of nature. How is it possible? It may be more possible to drop a single needle in the whole of the galaxy of Milky Way and able to find it by a person in one second than the awesomeness and perfection of the systems that we see everywhere. God designed and architected all of these.

          The most awesome thing is the God who created you became human to save whoever will believe Him. According to the scripture, Jesus holds all things together. He created everything, invisible, visible, powers and dominions. He even holds the nucleus of the an atom together as the scientists cannot explain what energy holds it. Act now, believe in Jesus and follow Him, He is coming soon.

          September 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • D

      Actually religion as as defined is the belief in a person, place place or thing that has associated traditions or rituals. And is practiced by people as a way to live. That also includes atheists if you didn't get the memo.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
      • jens gessner

        That is the weirdest definition for 'religion' I have ever heard. And I get all the memos.

        Encyclopedia Britannica: "Religion: Human beings' relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine."

        Merriam-Webster: "an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods."

        Oxford: "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods"

        I regard nobody as holy, sacred or divine. And I particularly do not believe in a 'superhuman controlling power".

        September 19, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  18. Arnie

    The Church says it doesn't allow women priests because Jesus only selected men to be apostles, But he only selected Jewish men. So if Gentile men can be priests, why not Catholic women ?

    September 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm |

    • Or ponies?

      September 19, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • D

      Of course they can be priestess. Did you know that women who are very religious with a man that is no, there is only a 17% chance that the man will become a follower of God. If it's in reverse the woman will be 85% more likely to be a follower of God.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Jim

      There were women disciples with him as well, but the apostles were chosen to represent the 12 tribes of Israel, supposedly. The gospels contradict each other in how they were chosen.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:14 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.