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. Sailor101

    I thought it was a Pope's job to judge..hmmmm...I mean what else do they have to do with their time?

    July 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Nick

      Watch Netflix. Play Grand Theft Auto. Update Facebook status.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  2. reeperman

    same comment he made about all the pedophile priest " who am I to judge " ..

    July 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Lou

      You are a liar. He has never said anything like that about pedophiles.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  3. Dominick

    I love this Pope. He teaches Church doctrine as they all have, adds nothing and subtracts nothing either, but in such a way that nothing is left ambiguous or muddy. Any Catholic who reads their catechism will understand exactly what he means and what he says, it is all in there. What was finally declared as settled, is the teaching on the priesthood that was left ambiguous as to what exactly the late John Paul II spoke concerning women in the priesthood. This Pontiff has declared that John Paul II did in fact give an infallible definition to the male priesthood. It is an article of Faith that can not be abridged. It is a teaching which the Church has always held as coming from Christ Himself. And without a doubt it will be a divisive issue in democratic societies who do not understand the nature and vocation of the priesthood.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Although

      It was Paul who was against women in church teaching, and Jesus never really said anything about it....it should be called Paulianity for aLl of the changes he made to Jesus's words...

      July 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Spot on Dominick.

      July 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  4. ironman59

    The pope and vatican are the crowning jewels in the biggest evil perpetuated on mankind – religion.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  5. Ralph

    He's right, who are we to judge when the Lord makes his feelings perfectly clear in scripture: love your neighbor unconditionally, serve others selflessly, conduct your life honestly, and be true to your spouse faithfully. And since God set the pattern for how he wants us to marry in the very beginning of the Good Book (husband and wife), I think that debate, at least for those who believe that scripture is inspired, is closed.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • GetReal

      And stop your sinning,,,,

      Why do folks leave that one off his list of things to do...Jesus followed the Jewish laws to the letter.....So men with men wasn't part of the deal!

      July 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
      • skarphace

        As a human, we can't stop sinning. That is the reason that God needed Jesus to come to this planet in the first place. If not for Jesus, none of us would be forgiven for our sins and we would all be sent to Hell. All we can do is to attempt to be good people and to pray for forgiveness when we fail to be, which will happen to each and every one of us, including the Pope himself. We will all be judged for our sins. By God. That should be enough for anybody.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  6. Saraswati

    This is just the same old "God judges, not us" stuff they say anout all "sins" and the same "its the act not the orientation stuff." How is this news?

    July 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  7. lagergeld

    Garbage article. This is an article written by a couple liberals gathering tidbits together on liberal pushbutton topics for liberal interest readers and nothing more.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Mopery

      If you try a little harder I think you could fit a few more "liberals" into your sentence.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        he was pretty liberal with his throwing around of liberals.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Get your hate on...

      ....hypocrite. The world revolves without you.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • georgex9

      So you don't think that he said that.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Political troll. Typical low-life.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Everyone who thinks divorce should be allowed is a liberal, eh?

      July 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Mark1969

      God wants all to repent, and to come to knowledge of the Truth. The absolute truth is in the bible. If any one repents his, or her sins, they will be forgiven by God. If we don't repent we will all perish, and there is no partiality with God. Peace to all..

      July 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  8. Frank Rizzo

    Pope is a joke, and anyone supporting this Ass Wipe will never smell the fragrance of heaven but will burn in hell enough said.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Mama Mia

      Ooooo, which religion do you follow. From your post It sounds awesome!! I'm sure you're on the fast track to your heaven.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • chevyguy123

      What makes you think you're not going to hell?

      July 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  9. Craig

    I hate soundoff. Worst comments format ever.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  10. GetReal

    Doesn't the revealing of the Anti-Christ start out like this....Making the unacceptable......OK with everyone! Even within the church.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  11. georgex9

    Slowly, but slowly the church may be moving into the 21st century. Now if they would quit interfering in people's personal reproduction rights.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  12. getalife

    He's not judging anyone, he's just repeating what God had to say on it, read Exodus

    July 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  13. God


    July 29, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  14. Des Perado

    Ummmmm…Kemosabe…should we tell YeaOk now or should we tell him tomorrow?
    Neither, Tonto—he doesn’t know why the flood—and he won’t know why Sodom & Gomorrah !!!

    July 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Ummmmm, Des Perado?

      Yeah? Any evidence of either of those events, Bible Clown? I would believe Francis over some doltus erectus any day.

      Stop judging, hypocrite.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • BootyFunk

      There were no Christians when the world was flooded genius. Christianity didn't begin until Christ was crucified.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  15. Pablo

    And out come the Baptists, to tell us how the Pope is the anitichrist.....

    July 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  16. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    With declining numbers of "believers" it's no wonder a Pope is talking like this .. it was inevitable.
    It appears teaching our kids that bullying is wrong is starting to pay off.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Saraswati

      The only potential change here is on communion for the divorced. Everything else is exactly what they've been teaching for years.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  17. John

    How about the pope on pedophiles in the Catholic church. What say ye, Pope?

    July 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • dude

      How bout the president talk about all the Native Americans the government killed or all the land they took?

      July 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • narutogrey

        Umm...he already did that last year. Legislature was even passed (with both Dem and Republican support) to acknowledge it.

        July 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        dude ... you're really stretching it there in a lame effort to deflect from current events you don't like.

        July 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Creepy Ascrcker

      Actually doing something (other than talk) like turning over records and location of pedophile priests would be waaay to much to ask, don't talk crazy.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  18. Sammy Young

    .... did he just re-write the bible and say being gay is OK? Wow... I'm not a Catholic, but I strongly support his position! Now if he can repeal the "adultery" thing and we'll be in business!

    July 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • sam

      Reading comprehension takes practice.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  19. TexInd

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful positive story to start the week! That Pope Francis Rocks!

    July 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  20. YeaOk

    For god so loved the world

    That he drowned everyone on it!

    July 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • BootyFunk

      Everyone? You seem to still be here as are billions of others....

      July 29, 2013 at 4:46 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.