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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. Becky

    The popes just keep getting worse and worse.

    September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Kenman

      They have become products of OUR culture, politically correct, the last thing that this world needs! They betray God and every follower!

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

        uhh better watch what you say. If all religious people are like you, I dont think people will believe nor follow you. A man of God should not be full of hate nor do judge other people. Honestly, Shut it. Hypocrite.

        November 27, 2013 at 4:35 am |
  2. Patrick Marima

    We need leads up on this matter

    September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  3. Michele

    I am a confirmed non-believer, but I am loving this guy. Finally, a voice of reason speaking from St. Peter's chair! Whatever is out there, I hope it takes good care of him. If the RC church hopes to survive, it needs to listen to Francis and take heed of what he says. I never thought they would elect a Jesuit (too intelligent), and after THIS Holiness gets done, they may ban the SJs from eligibility. You go Francis!!!!

    September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • doobzz

      I'll wait and see when and if he ever deals with the pedophiles he's hiding.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Aine57

      The difference between censure and engagement is immense. I find him fascinating, too!

      September 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  4. Gerald

    For religion to survive in this day and age it needs to take the same stance this pope is taking and more. One religion can't dictate how the whole world should be, it can't run your life, tell what you can do with your body, or teach wrong or wright as they see it. It should not be involved in politics or government but stand out against world injustice. If as an individual you feel the need for religion in your life then you need to convict you self to that religion as long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else, is to radical or extreme. To many world injustices have been committed in the name of religion. Let your conscious be your guide and don't be a hypocrite. There an old saying "Let me remove that splinter from your eye when you can't remove the log out of your own eye". This goes for you and religion as a whole.

    September 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • grafixer

      Yes. The days of "ruling and controlling" people through fear are over. Mankind has grown up enough to where most have some level of education, and no longer are so easily fed propaganda and fear. They think. That doesn't mean they don't believe in a "god". It means they are no longer controlled by fear.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
      • GayChristian

        Amen!!!

        September 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  5. DaveinJersey

    Why CNN and liberals thing this is a front page story when the US Economy is stagnant, ObamaCare is a disaster, and Obama's inexperience has destroyed our reputation in the world is beyond me.. CNN is a leftist propaganda rag.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • greenriverkate

      Go post somewhere else! No one forced you to read this story!

      September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • GayChristian

      Why are you on this website then. DOW just hit record high yesterday. Stick you head back in the sand and keep being a bigot.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Wake up!

      America's global reputation has been in toilet for far longer than Obama has been in office.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • GayChristian

      Dear God, please save me from your followers!!!!

      September 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Cunning Stunts

      Please put yourself out of your misery.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • GayChristian

        Another loving Christian....

        September 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • rusty66

      Obamacare is WORKING, and conservatives are fouling their knickers.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
      • Pot

        wrong article. Stop bringing that up, get over it. you're constant whining will do us no good.

        November 27, 2013 at 4:39 am |
      • Pot

        sorry Rust wrong button clicked. Sorry again.

        November 27, 2013 at 4:41 am |
  6. Patrick Marima

    Yeah the Pope said something sense on gay and lesbian matters. As the church they should not interfere with this matter but just to respect them as human beings as the word of God doesnt allow us to judge. He should not make decision that will make the church fall apart since this is the church founded by christ himself. We will hold him accountable

    September 19, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Melody

      I agree, as we should not judge. However the gay community is shoving it down our throats (no pun intended) with the gay marriage. Churches have the right to say "hey, we don't believe this is right and we don't endorse it". The minute anyone says that or a church says that, the gay community is up in arms and shouting about being judged. Um, not judging just asking you to respect others beliefs as you are asking other to respect yours. Religious groups are being held hostage and villified in the media all the time because they have now changed the definition of marriage instead of creating a union of their own, decided they didn't care what others thought. Case in point: a baker chose not to make a wedding cake for two lesbian woman because she didn't believe in it. So, guess what, they took her to court. Wow, talk about shoving your belief down the worlds throat.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  7. John P. Tarver

    God bless this Pope.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Patrick

      I believe He has.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • doobzz

      Why don't you say "God bless the children who are watching this pope hide the priests who molested them"?

      God didn't bother to help them when they were bent over in the sacristy, maybe he'll hear their prayers now. They better hurry though. Now that the NFL season has started, he'll be too busy helping Tony Romo complete a pass.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Pot

        What? are you high? I hope you're not a Christian.

        November 27, 2013 at 4:42 am |
        • doobzz

          Why do you say that? Do you hope I'm going to burn in hell or are you afraid you'll have to sit next to me at the heavenly banquet?

          Aren't you supposed to show kindness to and try to convert heathens like me?

          November 27, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  8. Michael Wiese

    Christianity: The belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can give you eternal life if you symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood, so he can remove an evil force in your soul that is present because the first woman in the world talked to a snake and ate an apple.

    Yeah, makes perfect sense.....

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

      I've never heard it put that way... but, yes... that's a valid description of Christianity. All religions have their "hocus pocus". The objection I have with most organized religions is that they are "exclusive". "Believe what I do – or you are doooooomed." That's just narrow and ignorant.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Laura

      We get it – you aren't a Christian and think our beliefs are wacky, crazy, whatever. But people like you are just insulting about your views. If you don't believe it, then just say you don't believe it and move on. What is the purpose of even commenting on a religious blog – go to an atheist blog.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
      • doobzz

        Who are you, the belief blog hall monitor?

        September 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
        • Laura

          Uh, no just someone who is tired of insulting, rude people, regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation.

          September 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
        • Cunning Stunts

          Laura

          Uh, no just someone who is tired of insulting, rude people, regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation.

          ---------------------------------------------------

          You mean, like the gay hating Christians ?

          September 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Joseph

      Amusing, but unnecessarily disrespectful to Christians who read this blog.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Badhair

      Ah, but you forget the concept of transubstantiation. It's not symbolic; the bread and wine actually transform into the bocy and blood of Christ.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
      • doobzz

        Yuck.

        September 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • jar8818

      Jesus did not ever say he was his own Father; that is a lie that the apostasy, foretold by Jesus, promoted. If you read the Gospels yourself, you will see a far different picture than you do now. Jesus is most likeable. Would you try it?

      September 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Scott

      Yawn. Thanks for summing up your misunderstanding of Christianity. You are an atheist, we get it. Here is your cookie. *hands Michael a cookie and pats him in the head*

      September 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • stayaloft

      Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
      May God bless this Pope.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Rafael

      People who claim not to believe in anything like agnostics ,pagans and similar kinds have always existed. You are the victims of the religious and political systems of this world; that´s why you react the way you do. You think you deserve it all or you are in control of your lives. The reality is that you don´t control and you don´t know anything. However, one day when you close your eyes, you will wake up to a new reality that is "eternal".
      You will regret your words about the Lion of Judah. I will pray for your soul.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • ThereUgo

      Atheism: the religion that believes that if you put a bunch of screws, nuts and gears together in a box for millions of years, they will be joining by themselves until forming a beautiful watch.

      That makes perfect sense...

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

        lol, excellent.

        September 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
      • Amanda

        I can't tell if you're making a joke or if you are actually stupid...

        a.) Atheism is not a religion.

        b.) Most atheists' non-belief is back by SCIENCE (I know, this is a foreign term for you guys, but try to stick with me)

        c.) The formation of this beautiful watch (I believe you are referring to the Earth?) is the same as the formation of any other planet, and the progression of which can be tracked back millions of years.

        No, we don't know how the universe came to be, whether by a "big bang" or any other theory. The difference is we don't make up a fictional tale to describe what we don't know. We simply say that we don't know.

        September 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
        • ThereUgo

          Amanda: I can't tell if you're making a joke or if you are actually stupid...
          Ans: No I’m making a joke of your stupidity

          a.) Amanda: Atheism is not a religion
          ANSWER: Let’s see. You either believe everything in the universe and on earth came randomly or an intelligent mind is behind it. Because nobody was there at the beginning of everything, both atheists and theists need to have faith.

          b.) Amanda: Most atheists' non-belief is back by SCIENCE (I know, this is a foreign term for you guys, but try to stick with me)
          ANSWER: I really love when SCIENCE backs atheist’s faith using words like “perhaps, maybe, possibly, might happen...” I prefer not to stick with you.

          c.) Amanda: The formation of this beautiful watch (I believe you are referring to the Earth?) is the same as the formation of any other planet, and the progression of which can be tracked back millions of years.
          ANSWER: It doesn’t matter if it took thousands or millions of years. The point is if the universe and life forms by ITSELF like a watch does if you put all the pieces of it in a box… and wait millions or trillions of years.

          Amanda: No, we don't know how the universe came to be, whether by a "big bang" or any other theory. The difference is we don't make up a fictional tale to describe what we don't know. We simply say that we don't know.
          ANSWER: You just demolish your entire argument about Science backing your entire believe system. You just say that you don’t know if the “bing bang” theory is true, so it could be a fictional tale too because it tries to describe something that you don’t know. And of course you’re going to say that science will back you up by saying, maybe, perhaps, could be, it’s possible, that this happened.

          September 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
        • stevef00

          ThereUgo....I believe what Amanda was saying, and I agree with her wholeheartedly, is.....just because science doesn't have all the answers (they were, however, able to refudiate many myths in the bible) doesn't mean you get to say that it was done by a wizard with a magic wand. Faith must be based on something....I have faith that if I fall off a building I will hit the ground rather hard. That faith is based on the scientific principle of gravity. You have faith that there is a god....unfortunately, it is blind faith, as there is really no way to prove there is a god, just the same as I can't prove there is not one. However, logic dictates to me that the idea of your god holds no more water than were I to believe in Zeus or Thor. Richard Dawkins said "we are all athiests...some of us just take it one god farther".

          September 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  9. Rock Reynolds

    Interesting comments by a Pope.
    Rumors are that the last Pope was ushered out, because of his involvement with a gay organization within the Vatican.
    I wonder if these proclamations are to get us prepared to "forgive" the previous Pope.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Abraham

      that wont suprise me at all

      September 19, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Abraham

      Fundamentalists may be fond of saying the Catholic Church "invented" the doctrine of purgatory to make money, but they have difficulty saying just when. Most professional anti-Catholics—the ones who make their living attacking "Romanism"—seem to place the blame on Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from A.D. 590–604.

      But that hardly accounts for the request of Monica, mother of Augustine, who asked her son, in the fourth century, to remember her soul in his Masses. This would make no sense if she thought her soul would not benefit from prayers, as would be the case if she were in hell or in the full glory of heaven.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Giggidy

      I think it's going to be up to the probably countless boys he "diddled" to forgive I'm. Not us and not god.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  10. Xavier

    He needs to interfere in the lives of pedophile priests in a decisive and immediate way

    September 19, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  11. GayChristian

    Christians are always "crying" about how they are persecuted. HMMM...Pot calling the kettle black maybe?

    September 19, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  12. some_guy24

    Religion is a business. And when sales are low you have to adjust your product for the consumers.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  13. gustavo alvallero

    What this pope is doing is preventing the church from disappear, if the church doesn't update and adapt to modern realities it is bound to become irrelevant among young people, and once the old audience of today pass away, the church is going to be dead to.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Mark

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

      September 20, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  14. Xavier

    He needs to interfere with the lives of pedophile priests in an immediate and decisive way,,,,turn them over to the secular law for prosecution with the evidence that has been amassed by the RCC.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  15. Landru

    This guy has an abundance of common sense. I am not religious in any sense of the word but I really like what this man has to say. He's getting it right by me.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • doobzz

      Do you consider his refusal to address the RCC's conspiracy to hide child molester priests "getting it right"?

      This is just more of the same with a different bow, to distract the sheep from real issues within the RCC.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  16. Landru

    This guy has an abundance of common sense. I am not religious in any sense of the word but i really like what this man has to say. He's getting it right by me.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  17. fjaowpef

    I "pray" for the day when the majority of the people in the world aren't weak-minded, brainwashed, illogical, irrational, ignorant, gullible m0r0ns who waste their lives on obvious fairy tales.

    September 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • DaveinJersey

      Since you are so brave and all people are brainwashed fools believing in fairy tales.. Be a leader and draw a picture of Mohammad and post it as a fairy tale.. Liberals are such close minded cowards.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • Cunning Stunts

        Jesus was a liberal.
        You are a moron.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
      • stevef00

        Making quite a leap there Dave....are you assuming that all Christians must be republican and all athiests liberal? You really are an idiot, you know that! I only make the assumption that all adult believers in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and any god are not very bright, and all athiests have some form of intelligence. Using that assumption, I have been right many more times than I have been wrong.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
        • Kevin

          I think Dave's point is you who hate religion are cowards since you only attack when it's safe to attack. If even a fraction of the attacks against Christians were levelled at Muslims, you might deserve an ounce of respect for your principles. Pretty obvious you don't.

          September 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • stevef00

        Uh....actually Kevin, I don't mind attacking any and all religions (if you re-read my post, you may notice I said 'any god'...that goes for Muslims, Episcopalians, Mormons, etc). So....once you learn to read, get back to me...

        September 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Giggidy

      You wouldn't happen to be an athiest ? Lol

      September 19, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • ready1923

      No it's much better to be weak-minded, brainwashed, illogical, irrational, ignorant, gullible m0r0ns who waste their lives watching television and believing what they read on internet chat rooms.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  18. GayChristian

    Walk a mile in my shoes!

    September 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • No Thanks

      No, thanks dont want AIDS

      September 19, 2013 at 11:52 am |
      • Roger that

        Walk a mile in a student's shoes and educate yourself.

        September 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
        • GayChristian

          I am educated. You hateful hypocrit.

          September 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • demovsemperor

      I knew there was a good reason to be an atheist.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  19. Bill-Recovering Catholic

    As a result of the new Pope’s comments, a plume of ‘OMG’ smoke was seen rising from the former nunnery that Pope Benedict lives at. At the same time, Swiss guards investigated reports of a ‘spinning like’ sound coming from John Paul II’s tomb. And upstairs inside St Peters, visitors to the body of John 23 were struck by what appeared to be a smirk or grin on the body of the pontiff!

    September 19, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Wow

      don't forget the wailing and gnashing of teeth heard on the Rick Santorum for president bus.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:02 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.