July 29th, 2013
08:48 AM ET

Pope Francis on gays: 'Who am I to judge?'

By John L. Allen Jr. and Hada Messia, CNN

Aboard the Papal Airplane (CNN) - Pope Francis said Monday that he will not "judge" gays and lesbians, including gay priests, signaling a shift from his predecessor and offering another sign that the new pope is committed to changing the church's approach to historically marginalized groups.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis said in a wide-ranging news conference aboard the papal plane.

Though he was answering a question about the so-called "gay lobby" at the Vatican, the pope indicated a change in tone, if not in teaching, in the church's stance towards gays and lesbians more generally.

The pope was flying back to Rome from Brazil, where he spent the past week celebrating World Youth Day, an international Catholic event that drew millions.

Taking questions from reporters aboard the plane, the pope addressed nearly every hot-button issue facing the Roman Catholic Church: its alleged "gay lobby," Vatican bank corruption, the role of women, abortion, homosexuality and his own personal security.

But it was the pope's remarks on homosexuality - the fact that the head of a 1 billion-member church said that it's not his place to judge gays - that caused the widest stir.

"Pope Francis's brief comment on gays reveals great mercy," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at America, a Catholic magazine based in New York.

"Today Pope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone," Martin said.

The pontiff spoke  for an hour and a half in the back of the plane that was carrying him back to Italy after his first international trip as pope to Brazil, where he was greeted by massive, frenzied crowds at every turn.

"I'm happy. It has been a beautiful trip, spiritually speaking; it has been good to me. I'm tired enough but with a heart full of joy," he said.

Here are the highlights from his press conference.

On the 'gay lobby' and homosexuality

The pope addressed the issue of an alleged "gay lobby" within the church. Hints that the Holy See contained a network of gay clergy surfaced last year in reports about a series of embarrassing leaks to Italian journalists.

The "Vatileaks" scandal factored in Benedict's shocking decision to resign this year, according to some church experts, as it impressed upon the 86-year-old pontiff that the modern papacy requires a vigorous and watchful presence.

"There's a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I've never seen it on the Vatican ID card!" Francis said.

"When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency (to homosexuality) is not the problem ... they're our brothers."

The problem, he said was, lobbies that work against the interest of the church.

In 2005, during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued directives barring from the priesthood men "who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called 'gay culture.'"

Francis' brief remarks seem to signal a sharp shift from that policy.

On women

The pope also spoke out about the role of women in the church, saying it needs to be deeper and not end. But he brushed aside the possibility of ordaining women as priests, saying the church had spoken on the matter: "The church says no. That door is closed." He did say that more work needed to be done theologically on the role of women in the church.

On abortion

Pope watchers have noted that Francis said little to nothing about abortion on his trip to Brazil. Abortion is illegal in Brazil, except for cases in which the health of the mother is at risk. Laws were recently changed to allow abortions in cases in which the child would be born with certain life-threatening birth defects.

The pope said he had nothing to say on the trip about abortion because the church teachings against it were clear and this trip was the time for "positive" news.

On divorce

"I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch," the pope said when asked about divorce. He said the group of eight cardinals tasked with reform will explore the issue of whether divorcees can receive Communion, which they are currently barred from doing.

On the Vatican Bank

The pope conceded he was unsure what to do with the Vatican Bank, which is known by its acronym IOR.

"Some say that it would be better if it were a bank, others say that it should be a foundation. Other say to shut it down. These are the suggestions going around. I don't know. I trust the commission's members that are working on the IOR. But I wouldn't be able to tell you how this story is going to end."

And as for what was in the black leather bag he carried onto the plane? A razor, a prayer book, a diary and a book about St. Theresa, but, the pope joked, "Certainly not the keys to the atomic bomb!"

He said he carried his own bags because, "It's normal, we have to be normal. We have to be accustomed to being normal."

CNN's Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Brazil • Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (3,302 Responses)
  1. Carrie

    God is love & mercy & grace for all but sin is sin. Disappointing the Pope can't stand up for God's Word (Bible) instead of white washing it to "people please" everyone.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Thomas A. Hawk

      Carrie, yes, under Christian theology, sin is sin but it is not for the Pope to judge. It's not for you to judge. It's not for me to judge. The only judge is God.

      The Pope is, in effect, saying "I am not God."

      Does it really make any sense to disagree with someone who says "I am not God?" Even most atheists would end up agreeing with that. Sheesh.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
      • Judge

        god uses men to judge, that is why he says "to choose wise and understanding men with knowledge to judge according to my laws, statutes, and judgments!" Or are you expecting him to come through the clouds and strike someone with lightning???

        July 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'to choose wise and understanding men with knowledge to judge according to my laws, statutes, and judgments'

          where is that from exactly?

          July 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
        • nadinesh

          It's from Deuteronomy 16. But it instructs them to promulgate Mosaic Law - the law as the Lord gave to Moses.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          Not sure what translation he is using becaus eI cant find anything close to that.
          I see stuff about judges and just judgement and stuff about not taking bribes and the like but thats it. Nothing about 'knowledge to judge according to my laws, statutes, and judgments'

          July 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
      • maggie

        It is not for the Pope to judge but it is his job to tell people what the bible teaches and this is not what the bible teaches.

        July 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • James PDX

      Jesus told us that we are ALL sinners and therefore not worthy to judge others. Are you saying that Jesus was wrong? Or did you have trouble understanding these simple and wise words that Jesus gave us?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • AE

      Jesus takes the sin of the world. He forgives all sin – past, present and future.

      Jesus didn't seem to say much about h@mos@xuality, but he did have a lot to say about divorce.

      I've seen a lot of divorced people "throwing stones" at g@ys. Maybe they should stop and take a better look at themselves?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        How is it possible to forgive future sins?
        If your god can see into the future, then there is no free will, and that would indicate I am not responsible for my own actions, since they were set before I was born.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          Its a conundrum for sure.
          Apparently god knows everything that will ever happen so free-will is indeed a myth as what you do has already been determined but at the same time god also had to 'discover' what adam and eve did in the garden; he apparently did not forsee it.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  2. Jon

    Very sad....in saying that this – he is kind of endorsing decades of abuse by gay priests. Its like having a fork tongue....one side says this is wrong....the other side says this is ok. How can he do this..? It would have been better for him to say nothing....these truly are the days when they call evil....good.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • sam

      You're assuming all pedophiles are gay. You're wrong. It's not the same thing. Where do people even get these ideas?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
      • lbpaulina

        I agree that he is wrong, but I think you did not understand what he says. He talks about abuse and not about pedo*hilia. This is what you think, and, above all, he says that gays can be pedo$hile. That's it. Your statement is far different.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
        • Hammerdown

          **** he is kind of endorsing decades of abuse by gay priests

          These are his words.

          July 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Johnny, you are quite the fool. The grand majority of gay men and women are not abusing children. Perhaps you should be put in prison because you are male, and so is the guy that kept 3 girls hostage for ten years. You fit the bill, don't you?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  3. Bill

    Yes...but what's impressive is that 3 million Brazilians showed up for mass at the beach. Given changing demographics in America–and the emergence of a Mexican Catholic majority–the views of this pontiff should be relevant to every American, regardless of race, gender or who you happen to cuddle with–what he says will matter down the road!

    July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Lee S

      Lol Nice try but no. read the first amendment dingus.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  4. AgrumpyDude

    Religion is a big lie. The sooner people realize it, the better off the world will be.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Frank

      You're life may be a lie but that doesn't mean truth does not exist.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • aldewacs

      More and more people are recognizing that religion is a sham and a scam.
      Education is a wonderful thing. So is independent critical thought.
      Religion is on the way into being marginalized, often accelerated by its own pronouncements.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  5. Frank

    Who wants Judgement? Look out, Pope Beast who helps the anti-christ. Here it comes. Sodom and Gomorrah ain't got nothin' on you.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Fortune telling is a waste of time, Fran.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  6. lionlylamb

    The Pontiff is said to be mankind's godhead... Then does that mean the RCC is the godhead's embodiment and all of Christendom are the godhead's children being birthed by the RCC..?


    July 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  7. Joseph

    Perhaps the church will join the 21st Century with this Pope. He is very Refreshing.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Or perhaps the world will realize the relevance of the Gospel

      July 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        Do you really want that Bill, since the God Spell is irrelevant?

        July 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  8. MyToesSmell

    Whew! Thank you Pope Francis! Now I won't feel ashamed or confused when Father McGowan fondles me after Tuesday night bible study.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  9. tstorm92

    Growing up In catholic school I got sick and tired of feeling guilty about "everything". This pope's remarks are "so" typical of the church... On one hand the pope says "who is he to judge gay people", then with the other "but the church still considers it a sin". I'm done with Catholicism! Sounds too much like the Republican Party !

    July 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      It's no namby pamby religion. I'll give you that. God bless your journey.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • nadinesh

        Namby-pamby? Indeed not. A deep-rooted monolith of intolerance, responsible for the violent and cruel death of millions and millions of humans whose only fault was disagreeing with their count of the fairies dancing on a pin. As Jews and Muslims burned to death during the Inquisition, their priests made the sign of the cross and said: "God bless your journey."

        Hardly an endorsement of moral authority.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  10. samuel


    July 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • AgrumpyDude

      You remember it? Wow...you're old. Is that why you are yelling....hard of hearing? If you cared to read some real SCIENCE books, it's fairly widely understood that a meteor or comet hit not all that far off and rained fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah, not Jebus. Go do even some basic research that will disprove the whole biblical fairytale as a bunch of neanderthals who didn't understand science and had no other way to explain things than through odd folktales that gut spun more as told.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Wow, you're right! It's a good thing that Lot offered his virg*n daughters to the men outside his house (what a wimp!) so that the men could r*pe them...

      July 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • tstorm92

      That's a really ignorant thing to say. You want to believe in such a strict old testament view of the bible then you should also have facial hair and never eat shell fish. You're archaic judgmental views are why people leave the church in droves.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
      • nadinesh

        Please don't blame the Hebrew Bible. If you didn't like it you shouldn't have adopted it. It's a convenient cop-out to, once again, blame Jews for your moral blindness.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Kimberly


      It is helpful to post both passages of Jude, 1:6 and 1:7 together, as they are meant to be read this way.

      6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

      Note that the humans are exhibiting the same behaviors as the angels. Note, also, that the sexual immorality and perversion mentioned isn't homosexuality. Scholars who have studied this passage have concluded that the perversion alluded to is actually rape, which was rampant.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • James PDX

      That whole "hate the sin, not the sinner" line is a complete cop out to escape Christ's mandate not to judge others. Until you you are without sin, you better put down those stones, son. And Jesus already told us that none of us is without sin.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
      • .

        " "hate the sin, not the sinner" "

        It's not found in the bible, Gandhi said that "hate the sin, love the sinner."

        July 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      Ezekiel 16:49-50 "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  11. rafterman11

    "Who am I to judge?"

    Then the Pope added: "I mean, what do you think I am, a Republican?"

    July 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  12. BCG

    What does this mean anyway? “searches for the Lord and has good will". The bible is clear, Jessus is the WAY, TRUTH, LIFE. If the Pope read his bible once in a while, and searched for the LORD himself, he would of said something different being the spokesman for GOD.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      What would the Pope had said if he read his bible? I mean, really, you think the POPE hasn't read the bible? He's probably finding it hard to find the scripture where Jesus says to hate gays....

      July 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • AgrumpyDude

      The whole bible is a big falsehood. Pretty soon, the only marginalized groups will be Christians and other religious zealots.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • nadinesh

      Jesus' only words about gays was very accepting: “For there are eunuchs who are born thus from their mothers womb, and there are eunuchs who are made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who are eunuchs for the kingdom of heavens sake. Let those who can accept it, accept it.” Matthew 19:12. Perhaps the Pope knows more than you about this?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Lenny Pincus

        We're talking about gays, not Mitch McConnell.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
        • nadinesh


          July 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • lbpaulina

      I'm just wondering: who are you to judge? Are you an arrogant man who thinks to have a greater education than the Pope? Ridiculous.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • James PDX

      Based on the teachings of Christ, the Pope got it correct that he, like every human being, is a sinner and therefore not worthy to judge another.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Carlos "lobo" Danger

      Catholics = scientologists...they just make stuff up as they go.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  13. TroyOwen

    What do you mean "Who am I ..." your the freekin Pope!

    July 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • jay105000

      That was a sing of humility. who am I to judge others?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • David

      Who is he? just a representative of a church, nothing holy, not much he could do other than I wash my hands, this could happen to me of a relative so, Who Am I to judge?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Thomas A. Hawk

      Troy, hopefully I understand your confusion. The Pope is saying, in effect, that he isn't God. Do you agree that the Pope isn't God?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • James PDX

      According to Christ, every man is a sinner and, therefore, unworthy to judge another. Jesus did not hand out any exclusions, even for the Pope.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Lou

      He is talking about Christ being the Judge, not the pope: "He will come again to judge the living and the dead....."

      July 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  14. jrcomo35713

    I just think that folks must give this pontiff a little more time. Its entirely too many subjects to address all at one time. I think he will revisit the role of woman as well as everything else he has addressed. At least he is in positive mode. I'd settle for anything positive the Vatican is offering these days as opposed to nothing at all. God Bless Francis.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  15. Nick

    Like any of us actually care if uptight, hypocritical catholics frown upon my life. Frown away.

    Remember folks, this is the same group of people that are responsible for burning people at the stake, and other forms of murder and torture for not doing as they insist.

    Thank God they don't have that power anymore.

    Go away, weirdos.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Really?

      The Pope shows a sign of reform towards the acceptance of gays, which only became mainstream accepted in certain areas. Even TODAY it is not universally accepted. Let's be realistic, if you don't live in any of the Liberal infested states and you're gay you're not exactly in friendly territory. The leader of the largest organized religion in the world that happens to be extremely conservative comes in public and says "Who am I to judge?", a sign of humility and respect since he is the freaking pope, and all you can say is go away? You sir, are a joke. All I hear from my gay peers is that they want acceptance in the church, looks like that's on a faster track that gay marriage in all 50 states.

      P.S. – The whole "OMG the Catholics killed all these people", sounds a lot like a parallel to blaming whites alive today for slavery. Get over yourself, nobody in your family was burnt at the stake, I can guarantee that.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  16. John

    Christians are not suppose to pray in public (seriously people, read the book) or judge others. So, I guess this is a good start. A couple thousand years too late, but one out of two isn't bad.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • AE

      Matthew 6:5–8 has nothing to do with whether we should pray in public or not. This passage is related to the reason we are praying. When Jesus contrasted praying publicly versus praying privately, He showed how we should not be selfish but selfless. We should be praying selflessly and glorifying God for His many blessings—while laying up treasures in heaven.

      Read in context.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Brian L

      Yes very late indeedn, now if only the fundamentalists on the republican fascist side could acknowledge half of what the Pope just did, it would be a good start in this country as well.
      Don;t hold your breath, though.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  17. lionlylamb


    Shakespeare is a friendly sort but alas many know him not... A penny will no longer leverage open the skirted valor's seminaries of sequenced womanhood any more than of manhood's lamenting wayward vices... Keeping everyone's chastity as being held sacred is an elusive affair ever stoically to be and become the ravenous wolf's gainfulness...

    July 29, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  18. Matt

    Actually, it only matters to the news media, who is obsessed with the gay issue. The rest of us couldn't care less what the Catholic church says.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Agnostickids

      Hmmm...I don't know Matt...you're kinda sounding like you do care what the media says. You are, after all, on here, commenting....

      July 29, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  19. Fred Evil

    This MUST be a breath of fresh air for serious Christians, a Pope who actually tries to be CHRIST-LIKE!!
    Take notes you Xtians.....

    July 29, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • John Calvin II

      You're idea of being Christ like is a lie from the devil. Being Christ like in no way means including all sin and comprimising with the world. It means being gentle and merciful with the poor in spirit; the "bruised reed" and the "smouldering wick" that is about to go out, leading them to the saviour who would grant them mercy and forgiveness and who also cleanses from all sin because He is the son of the "thrice holy" God. He doesn't redefine sin. He doesn't sweep sin under the rug. God absolutely hates sin to the point where the scripture says that He is furious with the wicked every day. But He is also the God of all mercy and of all comfort. He saves sinners because He hates sin. If He didn't hate sin, there would be no need to save sinners from it.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • sam

        The moment you bring up something as silly as the devil, you lose all credibility in the conversation.

        Sin is a construct invented by man to keep the lower caste masses in line. It's a ridiculous notion.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
        • AE

          Sin are those things we do that separate us from God and other people.

          Selfishness, envy, jealousy, greed – character defects that take from this life rather than give. Or sin.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Reality seperates me from god.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
        • Athy

          Common sense separates me from god.

          July 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        What sin? To call homosexuality a 'sin' would be to imply they are do harming to society. Please explain how these people are harming society. What crime for which they would be jailed have they committed? See, not everyone believes the way you do and thus your belief does not matter in a secular country. These people have not chosen to be LGBT, it was after all their hetero parents that brought them in to this world. It is well noted that LGBT raise good kids and those kids are not necessarily LGBT.
        In the grand scheme of it, you wouldn't want someone sticking their face in your private business so have some decency and respect. People like you make christianity even less appealing. You use your belief to promote bigotry and hate.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • nadinesh

        What a depressingly perverted view of the blessed state of being Christ-like. You, sir, are a shameless cherry-picker. Whatever happened to he without sin casting the first stone? To taking the rafter out of your own eye? To loving your neighbor as yourself? You are in a terrible cage, constructed with violence, judgment, hatred. Well, we all are, I suppose.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          "You are in a terrible cage, constructed with violence, judgment, hatred." You must be referring to the bible.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • nadinesh

        What decent person, created in the image of our creator, would revere and admire and aspire to a deity such as you describe?

        July 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
      • Fred Evil

        You need to stop, take a deep breath, and take a long, hard look in the mirror, Xtian.
        YOU are what is hurting Christianity today.
        YOU ARE.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:30 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.