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. Colin

    I don't care what anybody says. It's a disgusting lifestyle and I cannot understand how anybody could live it. But enough about Catholics, let's discuss gays......

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

      i really did laugh out loud at that one.

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

      Colin, I just spit my beer on my laptop,
      Thanks for the laugh.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  2. usresham

    Pope is right. Who are we to judge morality of others ? Most problems of southern Christians will go away if they leave it to GOD to judge. They will be at peace and so the rest of the Nation.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  3. Dykstra

    At least this pope acknowledged this question. If it is right or wrong it is not our place to judge another. God created all of us and some day he will be the one to judge us. He has given each of us a free will and what we do with it is up to us. we can only do the best we know how to do.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  4. OwMySkull

    Jesus, save me from your followers.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  5. Mike

    Judge not, lest the be judged...

    and face the Spanish Inquistion!

    July 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  6. pa_man1961


    July 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Brent


      Religion-based bigotry use religious teachings to justify discrimination against Native Americans, African Americans, minority religious groups, woman and interracial couples.

      Connecting the dots between historical bigotry against other groups and the attitudes of some people today toward
      homosexuality is one of the most effective ways to educate people about the denial of equal rights to the LGBT community.

      Most people know that, historically, religion has been used to justify discrimination against women, religious minorities and people of color. Putting anti-gay religious beliefs in this historical context can be a powerful tool in connecting discrimination that most
      Americans today accept as morally wrong and the discrimination faced by LGBT people. By citing historical instances of religion-based bigotry and prejudice, you allow people to be more comfortable with attitudinal change – they realize they are not stepping out alone against a commonly accepted viewpoint but rather following historical progress toward justice and equality.

      When talking about the misuse of religion to justify discrimination in the past, it is important not to say that the LGBT community’s struggle with discrimination is exactly the same as the Civil Rights Movement. Rather, the point is that religion-based bigotry has been a common denominator of injustice toward many groups in American society’s past. When given a chance, many people will see the underlying historical pattern of using religious teachings and beliefs to justify harmful discrimination.

      There is another benefit to citing other times in the past when religious teachings have been used to justify discrimination. Many times, when people of faith are challenged about their anti-gay views, they cite biblical verses or other religious texts as a safe haven when they are unable to articulate why they hold prejudiced attitudes toward LGBT people. Instead of telling people that their interpretation is wrong, you can remind them that other religious texts have been used in the past to justify attitudes and laws that are recognized today as morally wrong and unjust – such as discrimination against women, people of color and religious minorities.

      History provides the moral judgment, and we do not have to be theologians engaged in scriptural debates to point people to the judgment rendered by history.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
      • snowboarder

        very true

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

      The Bible supports slavery. Do you agree with slavery or just PICK AND CHOOSE?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • snowboarder

      but gay is not wrong. the entire idea is irrational.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "GAY IS WRONG "

      The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      Like their heterosexual counterparts, many gay and lesbian people want to form stable, long-lasting, committed relationships. Indeed, many of them do and that large proportions are currently involved in such a relationship and that a substantial number of those couples have been together 10 or more years.

      Research demonstrates that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners closely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Heterosexual and same-sex couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, equity, loyalty, and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues. Research examining the quality of intimate relationships also shows that gay and lesbian couples have levels of relationship satisfaction similar to or higher than those of heterosexual couples.

      A large number of gay and lesbian couples raise children. Children and teenagers whose parents provide loving guidance in the context of secure home environments are more likely to flourish – and this is just as true for children of same-sex parents as it is for children of opposite-sex parents. Based on research findings, mental health professionals have also reached a consensus that the quality of relationships among significant adults in a child’s or adolescent’s life is associated with adjustment. When relationships between parents are characterized by love, warmth, cooperation, security, and mutual support, children and adolescents are more likely to show positive adjustment. In contrast, when relationships between parents are conflict-ridden and acrimonious, the adjustment of children and adolescents is likely to be less favorable. These correlations are just as true for children of same-sex parents as for
      children of opposite-sex parents.

      Assertions that heterosexual couples are inherently better parents than same sex couples, or that the children of lesbian or gay parents fare worse than children of heterosexual parents, have no support in the scientific research literature. On the contrary, the scientific research that has directly compared outcomes for children with gay and lesbian parents with outcomes for children with heterosexual parents has consistently shown that the former are as fit and capable as the latter and that their children are as psychologically healthy and well adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • usresham

      You have just committed sin by calling names. What kind of religious training you have ? Be respectful even if you dis agree.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Suemac in WA

      That's like saying that having brown hair and blue eyes is wrong. Being gay isn't a choice, it's the luck of the DNA draw. Some got it, some don't. Wake up to reality. If you strictly adhere to the teachings of the Bible, then I'm sure you are giving a full 10% of your earnings to charity, right? Oh, and don't forget to stone those adulterers to death.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  7. leah

    I kinda like this pope....and I'm not even Catholic.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  8. mrazjim

    Pope: "Who am I to judge gay people."

    X Factor panel: "You're not, but we are."

    July 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  9. mrazjim

    "Who am I to judge gay people?"

    Said the unmarried man in a white silk dress.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  10. Omar

    MyToesSmell, nice try. FYI, jokes are funnier when they include originality.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • MyToesSmell

      OK Omar, how about this one: When the pope was asked about how he felt about OJ Simpson and his past transgressions, the pope simply replied 'Who am I....Judge Ito?'

      July 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  11. publicdole

    All the church threats over the centuries of going to Hell if you don't abide by its rules are BS. Pray to God and forget their crap.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • QS

      Which "god" do you demand we all pray to?

      Repudiating a religion only to still buy into said religion's fantasies of "god" or afterlife is highly illogical and only proves how successful religious indoctrination truly is....even when people finally see the religion for what it is, they still can't bring themselves to go all the way and recognize the same thing about what said religion ever "taught" them.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  12. G

    Know a tree by the fruit it bears... This tree bears rotten fruit. I'm not surprised to see the psotings here by people that practice moral relativism. Don't be judgemental, do whatever you want! It's OK! You are weak in thought and deed. Judge a person by their actions and their deeds. Know the fruit they bear.

    I believe in Christ and his Word. This man, the Pope, is also weak in thought and deed.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • QS

      Religious arrogance at its finest.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
      • G

        How so? As a believer in Christ, I am required to abide by His Law to the best of my ability. Of course, God's standard is impossible for any of us to achieve. Christians that believe in Christ and repent are pardoned, while the unbeliever is condemend by the Law, no pardon.

        Know a tree by its fruit. By Christ's own words, I'm allowed to judge a measure a persons words and deeds against His Law. I am not allowed to judge their soul, only actions and deeds.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
        • QS

          You believe you're better than others because of what you believe – arrogance.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • nadinesh

      My friend you better HOPE Christians have a good dose of what you call "moral relativism!" Otherwise you'd still own slaves, or be one! and sell your daughters. Please.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • snowboarder

      of course judge them by their deeds, but don't judge them based on the irrational fear of hom ose xuality.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
      • G

        No fear of Sodomites, pity and sorrow only.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
        • snowboarder

          irrational and unwarranted.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Suemac in WA

      Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. The Pope reflects the teachings of Jesus. You don't.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • G

        I don't plan on stoning the Pope, only calling him out the fruit he bears.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      oh dear G, thats hating you are doing there. Thats a one way ticket to a warm place.
      sorry, not my rules your understand.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  13. Gerald

    Divorcees are not barred from receiving communion.. They are barred from it if they are remarried.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Lewis Keseberg

      No one should be barred from eating a little Jesus flesh! I like mine grilled with a little BBQ sauce on the side.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  14. Craig

    Wow, a Pope that actually understands at least one concept taught by Jesus. Judge not! I'm guessing that may be a first, at least in modern times. Now...if we can only encourage the Church to move into the 17th century we'd be making real progress.

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

      Who then are those judging the judgmental ones..? Are not judgments made against those found faulted in judgmental summoning ways..? All have become judgmental... There is no other way then becoming judgmentally prudent within all socialized configurations...

      July 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Wolfen00

      Well this does kind of show that the Catholic Church has actually moved past Christianity in their religious tolerance. Most Christians don't even pay attention to what Christ even spoke about, they pay more attention to biased writings by Jesus's followers rather than their messiah's word.
      Though Catholics have had red-marks on their history, the Inquisition and the Crusades, but they seem to follow more of God's judgement than their own judging.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  15. 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 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 12:40 pm |
    • QS

      I've never understood nor will I ever understand the ability and willingness of people to actually believe that the bible is anything resembling an accurate record of history.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • jc

        Its simple to brainwash children, through plays and youth group's, send them to private school and you have a full pledged brainwashed Christian.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
      • Suemac in WA

        But you wouldn't even think of denying anyone his/her beliefs, as long as they don't bring harm to others, would you?

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

        I've never understood nor will never understand how people who have no credentials in sacred nor secular history feel qualified to comment on it.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          that covers about 99.99% of christians doesnt it?

          July 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
        • Ken

          I'm thinking 100% of the posters here, and most especially the ones who cherry pick information in an attempt to disprove something they don't understand, and never intend to understand.

          July 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  16. QS

    I love how when religion finally catches up to the rest of the modern world and realizes that, hey, ya know discriminating against people may not be the best way to go about things, it arrogantly refers to this belated move toward civility as "mercy" or "compassion"!

    When you're the last to arrive to the party, you don't get to take credit for being a good host.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  17. MyToesSmell

    Why bring Jesus into this argument? I mean, my gosh, my landscaper has nothing to do with this.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Omar

      FYI, jokes are funnier when they include originality. Nice try though.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  18. AutoDeFe

    CNN is heavily censoring views that run contrary the deegenerate agenda, even to the point of monitoring and banning any new words they find offensive. This is how they have been manufacturing forum consensus. I have already had dozens of my posts, non-vulgar and non-threatening deleted.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Stevie49

      Take off the tin foil hat. CNN uses an automated algorithm to weed out words like homosexual. No one is out to get you. But you have to be smarter than the algorithm.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Pete

      It's wordpress, it has filters on to try and keep people from posting prejudice and hateful remarks toward others. There are hidden banned words inside of words. For example: prostitute has the word tit in it which is banned.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • sam

      LOL Wow, the paranoia is strong with this one.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      so thats bearing false witness and hate in one post.
      Hope you arent claiming to be a believer ADF.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  19. Doctorstrangeluv

    "Who am I to judge" ... the exact same policy the Vatican practiced when they did nothing and turned a blind eye to the Nazi's murder of 6 million Jews during WWII

    July 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Capt Nemo

      And then ran the "Rat Line" that moved an amazing number of SS and other Nazis out of harms way.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  20. Tutuvabene

    This Pope may be more outspoken and, possibly more liberal, than his predecessors but he still will be going with the consensus of other senior church leaders, as indicated by his references to the commissions stood up for various issues. Most telling is the statement about the possibility of women priests: "The church says no. That door is closed." He could easily issue an edict allowing a female priesthood but he will not do so.

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

      Exactly. And until the church comes up with something for women to do in the church besides raise kids and bake pies, you won't see me darkening the doorway of ANY church. I can tell you from experience that if you're a single woman over the age of 35, the church does not know what to do with you. According to the Bible, you're not supposed to exist.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:43 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.