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. AutoDeFe

    Excommunicate the hmsxls!

    July 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  2. Jason

    Did the pope just say bomb on an airplane???

    July 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  3. mrazjim

    The Pope, speaking in his official capacity as the successor to St. Peter (from his throne), he cannot be in error; his pronouncements on matters of doctrine and morals are infallible and are binding upon all Roman Catholics, and they are commanded to accept the decrees of the Pope without questioning.

    Do not Question the popes Values, he said gay is OK.
    This is the word of the lord. Period !

    July 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "speaking in his official capacity as the successor to St. Peter (from his throne), he cannot be in error; his pronouncements on matters of doctrine and morals are infallible and are binding upon all Roman Catholics

      Only in an ex cathedra Papal Bull.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Sean H.

      Where in scripture does it say that any man is infallible? God's word is the last word–not the word of man.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
      • mrazjim

        Romanism is a usurpation of deity. The Roman system, while it professes faith in a Trinity, really denies the Godhead by assuming all the honours and powers belonging to God. The Fatherhood of God is an almost unknown subject in Romanism. Where do you ever meet with worship directed to God the Father in Romanism? God's place as an object of worship has been taken over by Mary.

        The Pope has usurped the place of Christ by making himself the head of the Church, and the work of the Holy Spirit has been assumed by a man who claims to be the infallible teacher. Thus Romanism has virtually denied the work of a Triune well God by taking over the offices of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

        Peter, described by Rome as "the first Pope" and whose successors all the Popes claim to be, must therefore have been 'infallible', but the Bible says: "When Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." (Gal. 2:11)

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

      John Hagee may have a different take on this issue and he won't surrender to the Pope.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Billy Shears

      Infallible does NOT mean absolute truth. Before you bash catholics, know what we believe. Infallible means, its the final decision until its changed, if its changed. The catholics have had bad popes and their dogma overturned. As a church, we must have central leadership and that means SOMEBODY has to have the decision making ability, otherwise each church in each country will do whatever they think s right.
      The infallible aspect is much like the US Supreme Court, their decision is final, even if 1/2 the Country doesnt like it. BUT if furture generations see something wrong, it can and does change.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        Infallible does NOT mean absolute truth.'
        No it means inability to make a mistake.....and thus it does not need to be corrected, or changed, later.

        'The infallible aspect is much like the US Supreme Court, their decision is final, even if 1/2 the Country doesnt like it.'
        No its not like that at all because the Supreme Court does not claim to be infallible, not even close.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  4. JustAnotherBigotFullaChristianHate

    Well, the Fundementalists won't be happy with his comments, but then, they are a very un-happy greoup anyway .. Actually, the Very NAture of a Fundementalist is to be so absolute in you non-reasoning, that you dismiss all other facts to adhere to a belief system ... even if that belief system is flawed .... and so goes the life within a faithful religious person ..

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

      I am an evangelical Christian and very happy. I am certainly less judgemental than you are. It always amazes me how hypocritical the "enlightened ?" left is as they seem to claim Christians dislike people who don't think as they do all the while disliking those who don't think like they (the enlightened) do.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  5. lionlylamb

    The gullibility's pragmatists are relationally transcribed be they overtly religious and even of the mundanely inverted against anything religious... The ever hardening of bitterness offerings runs ever continuously upon the mainstreamed religious waters unending motions... For without believer’s sanctifications who would be the beneficiaries witnesses..? Does not a cold-heart seek ever the warmth of another's heartfelt wondering ways..?


    July 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Jeff

      Dude seek help for your mental problems because you are seriously messed up. Did you do to many drugs in college?

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

        No, it's called believing in a god.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
      • .

        LL is the belief blog pseudo intellect troll, don't bother reading, just laugh at their posts and move on.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • SkepticalOne

      Your post sounds like the babblings of a mad man.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  6. aldewacs

    (Pope): "When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby..."
    So it's ok to be gay, just don't mention it so it can be ignored.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Brandon

      ...As it should be.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  7. Dan

    “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” – not the Apostle Paul

    July 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  8. yuiyukl

    Complete Misquote on what he actually said.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  9. Daniel

    Touching. Still a little weird to serve some great being in the sky

    July 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  10. AutoDeFe

    The problem is that the hmsxls have taken over the priesthood. Benedict XVI, the last guy who tried to bust up their racket got booted out. Now this creep, who is probably one of them, has been selected to mainstream hmsxlty.

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

      Another xtians is lying for their God.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  11. reasonablebe

    finally, someone in the religious leadership in catholicism who recognizes that it is not for them to judge people based upon innate characteristics.... now if they will just recognize that while not the 'norm' in the sense of how most people are, it is well within the 'norm' as in what is naturally occurring.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  12. AutoDeFe

    Why is CNN not allowing us to use the formal name for gays?
    They use it in the article.

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

      You mean the word homosexuality? It gets stuck in the word filters because of the words in it.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Stevie49

      What? You mean homosexual? You can post homosexual. But you have to be smarter than the filtering algorithm to do it.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  13. QS

    In other words: "it's fine to be gay...as long as you still believe as I tell you to and ask forgiveness for being gay."

    Religion is such a crock!

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

      For a lot of these priests, religion is a c*ck.

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

      for the most part.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  14. Gerry M


    July 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  15. hrdwrknjoe

    Hey Christian Bigots – SLAP – brought to you by the POPE

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

      Except the Pope is the head of a false religion and cult...so it matters nothing what he says.

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

        Do you have courage of your conviction to use your real name and say that islam is also a fake religion? hmmm?

        July 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
      • Tricia

        So since he's the head of a false religion please educate us on the true religion? Because there are many roads to Washington, it doesn't matter which one you're on, just that you're on it. And as someone on a different road than the pope, I'm dying to know if I'm on the road to true religion or if you just believe religion in general is a farce because going by your words, this is not the case and if it's not the case I'm 99.9% certain you are judging another's journey to heaven and no Christian religion supports the sin of judgement as we all know it's to be left up to the maker, Him(her)self. So please, I'm dying here to find out what is the true religion so I can get on that path.

        July 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Realist

      the pope, cardinals and bishops belong in jails for the destruction to children's lives world wide,\..

      July 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  16. Mark

    "Who am I to judge?"
    Great answer, and a lesson to all of you holy rollers out there. Its not for you to judge, never has been.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  17. tulip

    Finally, a man of cloth who knows biology...and wow...non-judgemental? He is blessed!

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

      He thinks he is God or speaks for God; a rock knows more than this blaspheming fool...

      July 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        Hilarious, you used the term "rock" talking about the pope.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  18. James PDX

    Jesus told us that because we are all sinners, we are not worthy to judge anyone else. This pope finally acknowledged that this rule also applies to him, since he is also a human and therefore a sinner. Anyone disagreeing with the Pope's statement is also disagreeing with God and Christ.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Thomas A. Hawk


      July 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Jeff H.

      I am now convinced that the Catholic Church is evil incarnate.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  19. Doug

    But Pope Francis said God not only forgives those that sin and confess, He forgets.
    This comment was left out of the CNN report–The point being "Those that sin and confess"

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

      BINGO! Show him what he's won Johnny. "Why Bill, it's a BRAND NEW SLATE!" Yes, with his soul freshly cleaned, our penitent can boldly claim his mantle of priest, prophet and king. He'll be able to receive the blessings of grace from all the sacraments instiituted by Christ as outward signs of inward reality. That being the kingdom of God!. Congratulations and enjoy your eternity!

      July 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.