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. dwight

    Soon the pope will not judge anyone who sins because they make up so much of those in the Catholic church. How can you disfranchise your own members?

    July 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  2. Sam

    I guess he is less of a jerk than the last one.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      not really. he's still letting child molester priests bugger little boys with no repercussion.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • SPW

        [Citation Needed]

        July 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  3. Benjamin Button

    Wow that guy is pretty useless. If the Catholic church actually encouraged their members to read the Bible for themselves instead of just sitting there maybe they would know and care what God has to say about it. In the end, it's his judgment that counts not the pope. However you can't find a Bible anywhere in the pews and a Catholic service is nothing but a blind leading the blind event.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • QS

      Please explain how the bible itself is not equally 'the blind leading the blind'.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the bible tells christians to kill all g.ays, non-believers, disobedient children and non-virgin brides. anyone following the bible closely would be amongst the world's worst serial killer/mass murderers. the bible is a terrible guide for good living.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Felix Sinclair


      July 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Susan

      So is the Bible–the blind leading the blind...2000 years of it. Ever wonder what it would be like today for instance if Tolkien had written _Lord of the Rings_ 2000 years ago? Civilization needs to grow up but apparently can't.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Catherine T. Leonard

      There are books crammed with Bible readings in every pew, usually one for every person in the pew. They are organized by liturgical season to make it easier to find the right verses. I read an Old Testament, a Psalm, an Epistle, and a Gospel every Sunday. During the week, I have a Bible at home that I can read if I have a question, etc.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      "In the end, it's his judgment that counts not the pope. "

      I think that's what he was saying.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  4. Mark

    "Pope Francis is a miracle of humility in an era of vanity" – Elton John (Vanity Fair, July 2013)

    July 29, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      and then the pope quotes the bible to elton john and tells him he must be put to death for being g.ay. cool story, bro.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
      • Adrian

        No one will be put to death for being gay.

        July 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          untrue. it's happened and is still happening. christian communities in africa, jamaica, etc. they bash and kill g.ays. so you're wrong, it does happen.

          and the point is that the bible commands it. or did you skip that part?

          July 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
        • niknak

          If they had their way most certainly gays would be put to death.
          They are doing that as we speak in most if not all of the muslim run countries, and in many African nations as well.
          Will happen here to is the fundies get their way and take over and make this a religious theocracy.

          July 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  5. QS

    Just as with conservatives in general, religion as a whole for so long has made it a priority to do anything in its power to make gay people the enemy of all that, just as with conservatives, I no longer trust or believe anything a religious person says....even the nice ones!

    July 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • niknak

      I will go you one more;
      Religious people scare me, and I would not let one be around me or my family if I can prevent it.
      They are like pitt bulls, one never knows when they will snap and start to kill......

      July 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
      • QS

        Funny, between the two it's hard to tell which I find more dangerous since religion is bad enough but conservatives tend to take that same religious conviction and put it on steroids called 'false patriotism'.

        July 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
        • niknak

          And they both advocate being heavily armed.
          The fundies I work with all have that stupid WWJD sticker on their cars and all wear little crosses, yet each one has multiple hand guns.
          I asked on one day if jeebus came back would he own a gun too.
          The guy got mad and still has not come up with a good answer.
          Can't wait to retire so I don't have to be around them anymore.

          July 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  6. Woody

    The pope is little more than a man the church is like any business that needs money . The church sells hope can actually provide nothing . The Romans are still alive and stay wealthy by selling something that does not exist . I was an altar boy and I know holy water is little more than tap water with a little good smell added at times . The pope rides around in a 550,000.00 car and as long as you give the church all of your money you will never drive one . But if you like sending other people around the world and you like purchasing other people 550,000.00 cars . Then what can I say ! Its your money ! And the church will be more than happy to take it for basically doing nothing .

    July 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • QS

      Yep, the religion corporation hard at work selling a non-existent product to suckers who buy it up like an addict looking for a fix.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
      • niknak

        The longest running, most lucrative and most successful Ponzi scheme ever invented.

        July 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  7. ph

    they'll be blowing each other in the box freely in no time.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • rh

      And you'll be watching avidly, waiting your turn.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  8. John White

    This Pope is a great spiritual joy for the whole the world.

    He has to be seen not only as a spiritual leader to all Catholics, but someone who can effectively colaborate bringing peace and union to a world in which individualism and money shapes human character.

    I really hope that people will listen to what this man has to say (being able to agree or not).

    Good luck with your journey Pope Francis!

    July 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • mia

      Couldn't agree more with you there.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      too bad he doesn't do anything to protect the children that are being molested under his watch.

      pope = fail

      July 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  9. ph

    Just opened the door for the fa gs to stroll in.
    Good grief!

    July 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Becuase there are no gay people in the Catholic church?
      What would you rather – stone them to death?
      Or just shame them enough that they fear to go out in public.
      There's room enough for all the world's que/ers in God's closet....

      July 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Jay

      So, what do you care? You're obviously NOT a christian.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  10. Justyn Kase

    Well then he better not judge the priests who abuse children then also and the murders, thieves, adulterers or anyone else who does wrong or sin if he is going down that path of hypocrisy.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • niknak

      There is no such law called sin.
      That word only exists in your book of magic spells.
      That concept seems only to matter to those who still cling to their stone age fairy tale.
      Another reason I am glad I don't live in a religious theocracy.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
      • steelerguin

        The bible never said sin is "law". You oughtta try reading the bible before incorrectly interpreting it.

        July 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • snowboarder

      yeah, because hom ose xuality is equivalent to any of those things. NOT!

      July 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • gladr

      Being gay is not a crime unlike the other things you mentioned. It's so sad that you are so bigoted and closed minded.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bill

      You've just named categories of people who intentionally inflict harm on others. The Pope is referencing a category of people whose only "sin" is loving others. Your analogy is invalid.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Yourmother

      Child monsters: hurt children and their families.
      Murderers: hurt the victim and the family.
      Thiefs: hurt who they steal from.
      Adulterers: hurt the husbands/wives cheated on.
      Gays: hurt no one except bigots that choose(see what I did there?) to be hurt about somebody else's life.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  11. Mark

    Pretty sad the amount of effort some folks place on bashing Catholics here. It's quite laughable. It's definitely an organized effort. I'm curious which group is actually behind it. Seems to be the same tired dogma, over and over again. The spewing of hate is actually even more hypocritical of everything you accuse the church of.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Evangelical protestants are behind it. Their hatred of the catholic church is legendary, they've backed themselves into a corner with their own prodigious intolerance, and they're feeling very threatened right now because the Pope's populism is threatening their mojo.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      sounds like you're paranoid. people are bashing the church because the church does so many stupid and bigoted things - they ask for it. look how the church has protected child molesters over their victims time and time again. look at the church standing up and preaching that g.ays are evil, that women are second class citizens. the church tells 3rd world countries not to use condoms, the ONLY effective way to have s.ex without spreading the disease.

      boohoo, you're on a blog where people discuss religion and the catholic church is getting called out by the bloggers. perhaps you should go to a religious website where you'll never hear a differing opinion. can't stand to see you so upset...

      July 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Mark ...Pretty sad the amount of effort some folks place on bashing Catholics here. It's quite laughable. It's definitely an organized effort. I'm curious which group is actually behind it'

      Hate to break it to you but there is no need for a group to be behind anything in order for people to 'bash' the church.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Duncan Donuts

      You ask what or who is behind it? I think what's behind it is plain old logic from every strata of human existence.
      I'm talking about the attempt to humanize God. God is not one who needs a son, daughter, mother and father. These are ancient fallacies perpetrated on the masses...and actually believed! I say this as a formed Christian sna former Catholic. Christianity is the biggest and most successful business in the world! When are we all going to wake up and see it for what it is. It's been 2013 years of oppression and their tools are only two things. Fear and guilt. Those two things used very effectively have made the "Church" very successful. In my mind God is simply God and not some mysterious thing called the "trinity" that has mystified man for 2013 years simply because man chose to follow and be mystified. Wake up, all of you.
      This is in no way meant to bash anything....it's meant to enlighten those of you who have yet begun to THINK for yourself!

      July 29, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  12. mklsgl

    Ha! Bill Maher was right–spot on correct–about this pope.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  13. Thomas

    I am not wild about the official positions of the Catholic Church, but you got to like this guy on a human level.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      not really. what did he say that he should get credit for? g.ays aren't equal, can't be priests. women aren't equal, can't be priests. his ambiguous answers don't garner him any points. they just show he's too cowardly to take a stand.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        well said, Q S

        July 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
      • Doug Lynn

        You can agree or disagree with what he said, but calling him a coward reflects more negatively on you than him. It proves you are ignorant about the Christian standard of requiring truth with love and love with truth. Truth is easily warped into legalism and man-made rules when Godly love is not present, and love is easily warped into demands for human acceptance of sinful behavior when God's truth is replaced by our feelings.

        July 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          "You can agree or disagree with what he said, but calling him a coward reflects more negatively on you than him. It proves you are ignorant about the Christian standard of requiring truth with love and love with truth. Truth is easily warped into legalism and man-made rules when Godly love is not present, and love is easily warped into demands for human acceptance of sinful behavior when God's truth is replaced by our feelings."

          christians have never had a standard of requiring truth or they'd throw the bible away as a book of fairy tales and pick up a science book. you speak of truth with love and love with truth? what a joke. the bible says to kill g.ays. kill. is that love? i'm sure to your warped brain-washed mind it is. the church says g.ay love is false - i say the church is false. your god drowned babies in his great flood, but you think him all-loving? cults like christianity always use warped messages of love mixed with bigotry and ignorance. you're a perfect example of that. there is no truth to be found in a church - just fairy tales.

          July 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • QS

      Gotta agree with Booty on this one.

      Religion is late to the party as usual, yet still expects people to simply praise them for being so forward-thinking when they make even the tiniest step in the direction we all are already moving!

      You don't get to follow behind the times for so long and then suddenly wisen up and then claim you were leading this the whole time.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  14. Bootyfunk

    ""When I meet a g.ay person, I have to distinguish between their being ga.y 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 h.omos.exuality) is not the problem ... they're our brothers.""

    notice he doesn't say being g.ay is okay or that the church should have no problem with it. he doesn't say g.ay priests should be allowed to serve. he doesn't say g.ay weddings should be allowed in catholic churches. he doesn't say the bible is wrong when it says g.ays should be put to death.

    pope gets zero credit here.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • sam

      Yet plenty of folks are acting as if he did say those things, and are kind of spluttering with feigned outrage, when really he hasn't said anything much at all. Mostly he's just putting a happier face on things at the moment and being a friendly old guy.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        yep, all bluster and no substance. he especially gets a fail for not dealing with the child molestation that has been rampant since the church started. he's done nothing to address it - and thus more children will be molested. great job, pope!

        July 29, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
        • lionlylamb

          People of your naïve stances should get the law to clamp down and put an end to rich countries most wealthy guys seeking out enslaved children for sensual purposes... Turning against the richly endowed would be as good a starting point for any secular committed nation to get their feet wet by reducing their own kinds who seek out enslaved children's bodies for sensual pleasures and jailing them all for such dastardly deeds...

          July 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  15. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    The Pope is right. He is not in a position to judge anyone. Only God can do that so everyone else should just mind their own Business.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • niknak

      Since god does not exist, then I guess your way won't work either.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      no one needs the judgement of an invisible sky fairy.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • Paul

        "Eternal Life" is allowed for in quantum physics BTW. The first law of thermodynamics says that energy is conserved. Stephen Hawking described the conservation of information across the event horizon of a black hole. Many believe that "Intellect" is conserved across the event horizon of death. Look up the origins of the Noosphere and look into the Soma of the Neuron. Where does creative thought generate from? – even the Neurological Engineering department at MIT doesn't have the answer to that one. Spirituality and religion are not congruent. Spirituality opens minds while Religion closes them.

        July 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Frank Del Bagno

      Rosa, thank you for your post. What I don't grasp is on one hand the Pope does not want to judge gays, and on the other hand the Church will not allow a gay couple to marry. Isn't he judging them as not capable of marriage? Just asking?

      July 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  16. Hellbentforhell

    If this christ figure ever comes back, I'd bet there is a long line of mortals who would kick him between the legs...twice.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Why would this time be any different?

      July 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Duncan Donuts

      The people will wait for another 2000 years and every so often there will be another date that the apocalypse will come!
      The one thing that people don't realize is that all the markers for Christianity were used previous to Christianity becoming
      "accepted" in this world. I'm talking about things like the "virgin birth".....which is very possible! The crucifixion which was not
      only known to Christianity. The resurrection, another thing that has been shared by many earlier religions. It goes on and on and yet the average Christian doesn't have a clue about it. Finally, we have the holy Christian shrines in various parts of the world where miraculous cures have occurred. Yet, I would like to see an arm less person go into the caves of miracles and come out with two arms! How can any religion fail when asked a straightforward question and be told
      "You must have faith."!!! God gave us a brain to think with, to reason with and to solve problems with and someone tells us that 2 + 2 = 5....we ask, how can this be? And were told "You must have faith."!!!
      Sorry! this is where I get off the merry-go-round!

      July 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  17. lionlylamb

    Individualized supremacy connotations are as bewildering augmentations to the herded masses who serve and are served up ever gingerly and sometimes are distasteful but nevertheless someone's mealtime treats...


    July 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Brad

      And I suppose you graze freely? The juicy morsel you've provided was fodder akin to the The Archies' Sugar Sugar.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  18. mark


    July 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • mia

      Me too & I'm not Catholic.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  19. Rainer Braendlein

    Glamour outside but what is inside?

    It is well known that the Roman Catholic Church is a house of hypocrisy. There is much glamour outside but death and decay inside. Many Catholics daily commit the most heavy sins. For example look at the Mafiosi of Italy. During the work week they kill people regarding this as their legal profession, and at Sunday the go the mass. Catholicism doesn't lead people to true love and righteousness. It is just a delusional dream.

    The basic problem of the RCC is that the Holy Spirit has forsaken her for many centuries. The Spirit of God cannot dwell in a "Church" which has a human leader even a leader who is greedy for honor, power and riches. The history of the lifes of the popes is the most shameful at all.

    The pope claims too high a rank, a rank which is reserved for the Son of God only. Only the Son of God, Jesus Christ, can be head and leader of the Christian Church. When the pope stole Jesus office as head of the chruch, the church began to degenerate. She was once Christ's bride but has become a wh-ore meanwhile. She is wh-ores with the devil.

    As the popes have misled the RCC for many centuries, she is no a pis-spot of heresies. The most dangerous heresy of the RCC is the doctrine that Jesus is sacrificed every sunday again in form of the host. This can lead to the assumption that one could commit sins again and again because Jesus is sacrificed for him or her again and again.

    The RCC has desecrated the most holy ritual of the Christian Church: The Lord's Supper. Actually the Lord's Supper shall lead the believers to righteousness, even holiness. Through bread and wine they should ingest Jesus whereby bread and wine are not changed into Jesus through magic but bread and wine of the Lord's Supper are sacramental or sacral food. The sacrament bases on Jesus words: This is my body, and this is my blood, given FOR you. We remember that we have died and resurrected together with Jesus. On the basis of his death and resurrection we can overcome our sinfulness, and He is also the atonement for our sins. The Lord's Supper will reform us. We get strengthened through the Lord himself in a sacramental way. The Lord's Supper becomes effective only through faith: I believe that Jesus gave his body for me, and shed his blood for me. I have died together with him, and I have resurrected together with him. Jesus could not resist God's will even in the worst situation of infinite suffering, rejecting and death. Through the sacrament I become partaker of this infinite power of Jesus, the new man, the new Adam who always remains in God, the opposite of the old Adam (our natural ancestor) who always forsook God.


    July 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • niknak

      Yet more drivel

      July 29, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • mia

      Wall of text there.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  20. Mack

    OK, Catholics. There you have it. Your almighty human leader has spoken. Who are you to go against him? Start respecting and treating equal the gays. You have no more excuse.

    July 29, 2013 at 3:06 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.