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. @OD

    Lets imagine that Pope suddenly became an atheist ( hypothetically it could happen), would he resign? I doubt it, what if he continued to do his job because he would feel obligated and responsible for all those millions of people who look up to him ( that's a big responsibility) . That paints an interesting picture, doesn't it? You would get a person who in his mind would preach a false religion for the greater good ( in his ) mind, and no one would ever know. I wonder if it ever happened, I would never judge someone for something like this. Human society is very complex, and responsibility is what holds it together.

    July 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Finngodo

      This has been posted before, and I smile everytime I read it. The faithflies can't handle the math.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  2. ug

    I will do it for him then...they are all perverts...

    July 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • God

      @ ug...are you talking to yourself about yourself? Meds perhaps?

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

    For anyone rejecting evolution..even the Catholic Church is going through it...adaptation happens physiologically as it happens to our society. The Church must adjust or perish in fate of a replacement or oblivion.

    July 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

      Oh please WE MUST not do one thing which alters the teaching of Jesus Christ. Nothing has changed and nothing WILL change from what Jesus taught!

      Jesus forgave the woman taken in adultery who was about to be stoned to death. He said to the "judgers" in the crowd "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"... BUT He THEN said to the woman "Go now and SIN NO MORE"

      See? NO judgement......NO hatred........just a requirement to obey the Commandments.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
      • HelloMouse

        Then why do we have jails?

        July 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
      • ME II

        But did Jesus really say that?

        "It was almost certainly not part of John's original Gospel. The NIV separates this passage off from the rest of the Gospel with the note, 'The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53–8:11.' "

        July 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • ME II

      Please don't confuse biological evolution with changes in society.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  4. Colin

    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) A mafia boss

    (c) A drug pusher; or

    (d) The Catholic Church

    July 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • God

      The catholic church, the mormon church, the baptist church....

      July 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jim

      All of the above.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • QS

      Religion in general.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • J G

      C & D. Ironic, isn't it, since they both "sell" delusion and ecstasy.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • AE

      Who am I? I post on a Faith and Belief Blog... a lot. I talk about God... a lot.

      (a) A person who loves God

      (b) A person who hates God

      (c) A fundamental religious zealot or

      (d) An internet atheist

      July 29, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Peter

      Wait... so you're a secular citizen of the Vatican City or something? Why do you care so much about the Pope's tax status? He is the leader of the world's smallest country, and any taxes he did pay would go to them... I guess someone is jealous that they're just some Id*ot posting on CNN while the Pope is the leader of the world's largest Church, eh?

      July 29, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
      • Colin

        I never mentioned the Pope's tax status. Read what I wrote. The RCC is tax exempt in the USA.

        July 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah Colin, you're a teacher. Can you tell us why other nations don't pay taxes to our country?

      July 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • Colin

        Bell, see above. Next time read what I write before commenting.

        July 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  5. lionlylamb

    Crewel are the laminations of the psychotically bewildered in their dementias of loathing torments for and towards and even against the sometimes awkward sensitivities of civilly moral congestions...

    July 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Stop being so cruel to the english language LL.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
      • lionlylamb

        Sometimes my phonetic compilations bewilder the spell checker... 🙂 :mrgreen: 🙂

        July 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • Merrillee

          Crewel is yarn. Stop being disingenuous. You know exactly what you wrote, and that it would get a response.

          We are on to your silly game. Grow up.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
        • ME II

          That tends to happen when you make up words.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Hammerdown

      I fart in your general direction.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  6. Xty

    The Almighty God is the Creator of all. Judgement is for Him, and should be left for Him alone. This is because, God alone knows and reads all hearts, for every heart is lay bare before the Almighty God and no secret can be hidden from Him.

    July 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Gerald

      blah blaah blaaa blah blah...another comment from a brain washed by a book of nonsense. God doesn't exist, and if he does he's a cruel B@stard for letting wars, pests and famine happen and kill billions.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • dan

      Good post. Gays should not be judged by others. If they love each other and want to marry fine. It's not my business.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  7. AutoDeFe

    I'm gay and I hate myself. That's why I hate gay people. Also, I'm angry that the Pope turned me down when I tried to kiss him.

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

      ...and autodefe left the board as fast as he joined it. ROCL! (Rolling on clouds laughing)

      July 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  8. AE

    Jesus constantly concerned himself with what the religious people of his time called "the wrong people."

    The religious people said these "wrong people", like h@mos@xuals, were outside God's provisions. '

    But Jesus didn't listen to those religious people... did he?

    July 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  9. Colin

    Please choose your favorite Catholic superst.ition from those listed below. For the one you choose, please say why it is any more ridiculous than the rest of the garbage Catholics swallow and give an example of a non-Catholic belief which is just as stupid.

    a. Grocery store bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because a priest does some hocus pocus over it in church of a Sunday morning.

    b. When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.

    c. You can pray to a dead person for something. This dead person will then ask God to fulfill your wish. If this happens twice, this dead person becomes a saint.

    d. A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.

    July 29, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Lewis Keseberg

      a. Definitely a. Nothing test better than human flesh.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Pedophile Hater

      That's just scratching the surface. There all also many beliefs that are interpreted and made law by Dioceses and parishes. For example, there are billions of people rotting in hell for eating meat on Friday, unless you believe that a Pope can send dead people from one realm to another by revoking the earthbound rule that put them there. Another example is the billions of unbaptized babies hovering in Limbo who were not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • AE

      b. When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.

      It is not wrong to bring all of your problems to God. He cares.

      I'm not Catholic – but I'm sure most Catholics would encourage a person to study and prepare wisely for their exam. Not just pray like God is some kind of personal genie that is going to make your life easy.

      When you pray to God – don't pray like an atheist imagines. We are not asking God to do our will. We are asking to know God's will.

      Ask for the power to humbly carry out God's will.

      Instead of a selfish prayer like this author suggests – try a selfless prayer. Pray that God helps you help someone else.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
      • snowboarder

        why in the world would you need a gods help to help someone. as the saying says. "just do it"

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


          July 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • CJ

      your ignorance of theology amazes me. the inaccuracies of your observations of the catholic faith don't merit an explanation, let alone a debate. like you can't ask a geometry student to explain why a circle has four corners, because the statement itself is completely wrong.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
      • Stevie49

        Please explain how a is inconsistent with Catholic theology. The only think I can think is that you can't buy communion wafers at your local grocery store.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • eprobono


      I like answer d. I think Eric Cartman did something similar in one of the South Park episodes.

      Since I'm atheist, I don't think the rest of the assignment applies to me, though.

      July 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  10. AutoDeFe

    This guy is very close to being an apostate. We are seriously considering removing him and purging the priesthood of his filthy ilk.

    July 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Wow, you're a megalomanic and a freak. LOL!

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

      CNN! Please delete my comment! I just defamed my own religion!

      July 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Johann

      LOL...nice troll.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Merrillee

      Lol. Sure thing.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  11. Rissa

    After getting divorced, anulled, and remarried (not in the church), I have been personally chastised by Catholic priests. Thus, my dear husband and I became Methodists. Adios, Catholicism!

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

      Doubt they will miss you. You seem to treat your religion like it's a social club.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Johann

      Maybe...things will change. Maybe.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Out of the frying pan, into the fire...

      July 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  12. Charles Crowe

    JC, Ahh true ignorance... Yes because the Bible is totally a childrens book. TO even suggest such a statement shows a level of ignorance beyond reasoning with. Enjoying being the happiest man alive though cause as they say ignorance is bliss

    July 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  13. AutoDeFe

    CNN: Please delete comments that defame religion.
    Or is it OK to heap garbage on my church?

    July 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Colin

      New here, hey?

      July 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • QS

      LMAO! Oh man, that was good!

      July 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Pedophile Hater

      A more appropriate request would be to ask CNN to stop reporting on this and other cults.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • AutoDeFe

      In other words, I can dish it out, but I can't take it.

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

      So do what autodefe says and don't think for yourself! LOL! What an idiot!

      July 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  14. Colin

    As an atheist, I prefered old Benedict XVI. He made my job of helping Catholics out of their Dark Ages superst.itions so much easier.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  15. 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 "final" decision making ability, otherwise each church in each country will do whatever they think is right, and end up with a bunch of churches that teach different things. Hey! In this catholic Church, gays can get married and even have their wedding their....but down the street at the other catholic church, they cant....etc..
    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 12:57 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      You believe in an imaginary being for which there is no reasonable evidence.

      You are ignorant and delusional. I'll make fun of you all I want.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
      • Billy Shears

        What do I care what someone outside the clubhouse looking in says? bash away, 2000 yrs ago catholics were being fed to Lions, but we're still here. So go ahead and laugh, doesnt bother me at all.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
      • Kishmein Touchus

        I agree with the first sentence.

        If people wish to have faith and it does not intrude on my life, I could care less. To call them delusional is harsh.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
      • T

        Well, it is your journey!.....Best of luck with your perception.

        July 29, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Billy Shears

      (SP) have their wedding There....

      July 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Pedophile Hater

      Or every 5 years based on the personal whims of whomever is in charge? That's not dogma, it's heresy.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
      • Billy Shears

        I guess Jesus was wrong when he left someone in charge. Maybe I should trust the baptist pastor who tells me 'his" interpretation of the bible, which happens to contradict the other baptist minister across the streets interpretation. No thanks, ill stick with the Church Jesus built upon a Rock (literally, did you know the vatican is built on top of Peters grave?) .

        July 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
        • Pedophile Hater

          Or, you could decide that you are capable of discerning right from wrong and good from bad, and devote your life to the greater good without a religion telling you how to live. Religion didn't make humans moral, evolution did.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'literally, did you know the vatican is built on top of Peters grave'

          well its a nice claim if nothing else.

          July 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "Infallible means, its the final decision until its changed, if its changed."

      infallible: 1.Incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.

      Final: 1 a: not to be altered or undone b: of or relating to a concluding court action or proceeding

      I hope this has given you the tools you need to see how moronic the statement you made is.

      To point out that only a complete moron would fail to comprehend this should not offend anyone but the moron and it's unlikely they even know they are being made fun of.

      Infallibility is a joke, just like the religion that claims it of their leader.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • Billy Shears

        Read what Catholics teach my friend. All you state is what I said, the Popes decision is the final decision, but it can be changed and has been by future generations. Your words prove the issue. If a Pope's decision is final then he can undue what previous popes have done. Even by the definition you posted, if a Pope "cant be wrong" then when he says its time to change what a previous pope did, then he's right. Either way you wish to define the word, the facts remain the same.
        Sorry you have so much hate in you my friend. Life is actually beautiful if you just let it be so.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          It's nice to know that Catholicism is flexible. I hope that means subject to additions, revisions and deletions. That would mean it can, and will, evolve. Then it might have a path to survival.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          I have read the bible many times cover to cover and the only character that fits the Catholic Church is the w h o r e of Babylon straight out of Revelation. If there is any truth to Revelation then it is that the Catholic Church, drunk on the blood of the innocent, riding upon the wild beast that is secular government, will be thrown down, exposed and devoured leaving nothing but the palms of her hands.

          Sadly, I do not believe all the things in the bible will come to pass which means the Catholic Church might just get away with murder the likes and scale of which we cannot begin iimagine.

          July 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • phillyguy60

      Actually, that's not the correct interpretation of "infallible". I don't agree with the infallability of the pope, but what it's supposed to mean is that on guidance of faith and morals, the Pope is inspired by the Holy Spirit and his statement is infallable – that's supposed to mean forever, not just til the next best guideline comes along. There have been very few true infallible decrees over the ages from the popes for that very reason – it kind of locks them in.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  16. labman57

    Do gays deserve to be treated with the same dignity and equality as anyone else?

    Is the Pope Catholic?

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

      Yes, they do, and yes they deserve equality. Catholics are not supposed to judge anyone. And, yes, the Pope is Catholic. I am very grateful that we now have a Pope that actually follows the teachings of the Bible. This gay Catholic is overjoyed.

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

    I live in a very conservative red state in the south. Mostly protestant churches here, and most don't give a flip about most people, especially women, blacks, Hispanics, and gays. Odd that the leader of one of the oldest christian churches in existence is more caring and inclusive than the hillbilly hate churches. But that's the point, I guess, churches in the south are backwards and aren't churches of a loving god anyway.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Kishmein Touchus

      Honest and to the point. Funny how many talk the talk but refuse to walk the walk. I think this is called hypocrisy and why so many have felt the church in general is a vestigial organ. Keep the "faith" Leah, and perhaps some day you will change your red state to at least purple in spite of all the attempts to suppress Democratic voters.

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

      White Jesus only cares about straight white men that ti.the.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • usresham

      You gave a solid example of American Talibans.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  18. Bill

    I still don't like the Church, but I can respect this Pope. He seems the closest to actually personifying the image of Jesus I have in my head: If you love God, then we are on the same road and should *WANT* to do everything we can to make sure we all get to our destinations.

    I'm an atheist and have often been very vocal of my dislike of the Catholic Church specifically, and religion in general. I don't love God because I don't believe he exists. But this guy seems like somebody I could work with on the things we do agree on: making the world a better place.

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

      I get the sentiment, but I cannot trust any religion or its leader(s) to do what's actually right as opposed to doing what is compatible with their beliefs.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  19. AutoDeFe

    CNN is deleting anything that isn't pro gay

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

      You are clueless. There is an automatic filter of certain words that has nothing to do with which side of an issue someone is on.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Go to Faux news where you can be a hate monger among haters.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  20. reality check

    This is the type of pope i have been hoping for in my lifetime. God has answered my prayers.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:54 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.