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. NYOD

    Who are you to judge? Duh, you are the pope. I thought it was the Pope's right to pass judgment on everything.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      No....God says, "judge not, lest ye be judged."

      New to the bible NYOD?

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

        And that passage makes perfect sense if you ignore EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE BIBLE.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
        • nadinesh

          Well, Carl, that's pretty much true of a good third of everything in the Bible, isn't it? Consistent - it's not.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  2. ljjm

    Bless Pope Francis I.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Yezabelle

      i agree i love this new pope

      July 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Bill Deacon


      July 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  3. Roy

    All I can say is the Malachi prophecy was correct about this pope.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Dormant dementias of prophetically incurring mass symbolisms girded ever so fancifully are the cat's meow...


      July 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  4. lionlylamb

    Though there be critical ones thinking among the topmost branches of civilizations trees of disparagement offerings: the rooted labyrinths of reasoned deducing ways offers little minded goodness to be availed unto the soulless seekers whose only wisdom is found within travesty's demonic exuberances laying ever wastefully towards all graven worded reconciliations that the demonic do behest against many a Holy Believer in and of God's most unrighteous beneficiaries as being an unholy divider in search of disenfranchised souls to devour and chew upon...

    July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • .

      Again, LL is the belief blog pseudo intellect because of their poor writing skills, don't bother reading their posts, just laugh and move on.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
      • Observer

        LL is his own biggest fan.

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

          Personally I think he suffers from some form of mental illness so I hope for his sake he seeks professional help soon.

          July 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • manhandler1


      July 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  5. Scott f.

    He'll save his judgement and condemnation for the women and girls of the world.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  6. Honey Badger Don't Care

    Who are you to judge? Hmm.....

    Well your bible tells you that you should kiII all gays, and unruly childeren, and quite a few other people. You should be judging.

    I'm just glad that we dont live by xtian laws. It would be much worse than sharia law.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  7. sally

    This pope may be a little more open-minded, but when I saw that sea of old men deciding who was going to be the next pope, it was clear to me that the Vatican has a streak of disdain for women's capabilities and their place in the church. I find it a complete put-off!

    July 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • nadinesh

      Yes, I agree. Most women will. it's wrong.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  8. Agnostickids

    If the sanct*ty of marriage is so important, then why aren't all you people protesting divorce?

    July 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      We are

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

        billy, billy, billy...you do nothing but troll these boards.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Merrillee

      Because those rules only apply to gay people seeking marriage. Sanctity flies out the window to these hypocrites when it's heteros.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Owl96

      There are times when divorce is appropiate, such as to free children and/or spouse from an abusive situation. The problem is not divorce, but remarriage after a sacrimental marriage is disolved in civil court.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  9. jp

    Yeah we could just allow people to pray to god directly for questions about our lives and potential sins but hey love to judge people.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  10. hockeyfan

    The only person that can judge another is God himself. If you want to know the answer to whether being gay is right or wrong in the Christian religion, read the Bible.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • James PDX

      And then keep your judgments to your self, as Christ commanded.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • CradleCatholicAgnostic

      The Bible only rings true if it fits your personal agenda. It's all hearsay.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Judge Judy is qualified and does a pretty good job.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  11. jamiedat

    What about the verse that talks about "men who lie with men?" Enough said. Or wait on what some man says about every issue.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • sam

      What about the verse that talks about shellfish? It makes no difference.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  12. tevii

    To those people quoting Leviticus and wondering why this pope is saying this.... you can live by Leviticus but he isnt JUDGING people for it. What all you religious kooks dont realize is, even if your religious nonsense were true, its not your job to judge, its "god's" its your job to live by his rules, not police his rules.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • jamiedat

      "What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men,  nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom." SIMPLE WORDING...no one judges...people can make their own choices but there are the consequences.....read your Bible maybe

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

        Sounds pretty judgy.

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

        Ive read the bible back to back. and what you just posted is completely irrelvant to my point. It is not up to you to judge, it is up to you to make sure you abide by god rules for yourself. If being gay is a sin then god will deal with it upon ones death. its not your business one way or another.

        I guarantee I know more about your religion than you do.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
      • CradleCatholicAgnostic

        Uh, yeah. Wouldn't want to break any egg shells around you, jamiedat! I suspect you've never "sinned." Wait, are you even human?

        July 29, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  13. Becky


    July 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Mirror time again?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  14. ksiner

    Don't worry, that's what we have Republicans for

    July 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • John

      You certainly knocked that one out of the ballpark.

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

      Ha! Lol. Nailed it!

      July 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Hammerdown

      BINGO !
      We have a winner.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  15. Normal_In_NH

    This Pope certainly seems to be the best example of a Pope in my lifetime. Incidentally, I would attend Mass if it were on the beaches of Rio!!!

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

      And yet the whole concept is still completely r3tarded.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  16. han`s von anal fart

    Well,it`s at least a small step forward.....

    July 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  17. Thomas A. Hawk

    BCG, "searches for the Lord and has good will" and "Jesus is the WAY..." are consistent statements with very similar meanings.

    While I have several differences with the Roman Catholic Church, saying the Pope is wrong when he has said something consistent with your position, is, well, baffling. All the Pope did was use different words. English is a vast language and there are lots of different ways to say the same thing.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  18. matyellott

    Who are progressives going to hate now?

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


      July 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      The smelly old pope that's living in luxury in a villa somewhere, hoping that the world will forget that he belonged to the Nazi youth...

      July 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      He still has not turned over the pedophile priests.

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

      Probably still the Pope, since he still discriminates against women. Or they would, if the liberals were not too PC to publicly denounce a popular religion based in a foreign country.

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

      The Republicans, who are now even less open-minded than a Pope! Pretty pathetic for the U.S. conservatives - looking more and more like dinosaurs every day.

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


      July 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      sounds like you hate progressives. Better watch that, hating is a no-no

      July 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • CradleCatholicAgnostic

      Guess you could then call Pope Francis a progressive! And to think conservative's are following his papacy! Ha! Irony at it's best!

      July 29, 2013 at 12:51 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.