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. Michael

    It's amazing to see so many right-wing Christians go to great lengths in order to "explain" how "Do not judge" actually means you can judge people.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • jashua

      You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

      Pretty simple, but hey, if you get more like for liking it in the butt the hey, it must be ok..........silly munkies

      July 29, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
      • GrowUp

        Why would you be surprised? Clearly you like your head up your b.utt.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • Michael

        The term translated to as with means bed every other time it's used in Leveticus. Plus you're also quoting the Holiness Code which has NOTHING to do with morality.

        July 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  2. Maria Carvalho

    I just want to know what St. Rick Satorum has to say about this. How about contradicting the Holy Father, senator?

    July 29, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  3. sasss31

    Wow, I am impressed.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  4. Edson de Jesus Melo Cunha

    Well, I'm Brazilian, born and raised here. As a Protestant, all I can see is that the choice of this Argentinian elderly as a Pope is a clearly attempt of the Roman Catholic Church to recover its flock which has turned to the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal evangelical churches in Latin America. The fact is that Latin American is turning Protestant, a movement which began in the 80's and which has been felt tremenduosly by the Catholic clergy lately. In early 80's, 92% of the Brazilians were Roman Catholics, nowadays, they are a majority of 64%, and some statistics say 57%. If the trend goes go, Brazil will have more Protestants than Catholics in 2028. Signs of the times! Greetings!

    July 29, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • GrowUp

      So what is your point? Protestants are gaining numbers? We should be happy about that other cult because why again?

      July 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
      • Edson de Jesus Melo Cunha

        I'm not stressing out on anything by saying that Brazil will be a Protestant country in 15 years, but it's interesting to know that, as a former Portuguese colony, and Portugal is a highly Catholic country, we should expect Brazil to be strongly Catholic too, which is not the case.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  5. Well, who the F are you to stand in the way of Gay Marriage?


    July 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  6. Well, who the F are you to stand in the way of Gay Marriage?


    Hope you burn in your imaginary hell.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  7. karl from az

    Re ‘judging’: there is nothing in the teaching either of Christ or of the apostles after him that relieves us of the obligation to form opinions about people and to act upon the basis of these opinions which also implies that at times it will be our duty to express our judgments. To be discriminating & critical is necessary; to be hypercritical is wrong. In commanding his disciples not to judge, Christ was not forbidding them to distinguish between good & evil. He was not forbidding them to discern between truth & error in doctrine!
    Read the full content & within the full CONTEXT of Christ’s words!

    July 29, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Michael

      In other words, "do not judge" doesn't mean to "do not judge".

      How friggin dumb are you????

      July 29, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Actually, Jesus reiterated to not be judgemental several ways

      1. Those without sin, cast the first stone.
      2. Judge not – lest ye be judged.
      3. Worry less about the splinter in your brother's eye – worry more about the plank of wood in your own.

      That's three different ways he said it – and NONE of those ways comport to YOUR twisting of his words.

      TYPICAL hypocritical Christian. You pick and choose what you want and ignore the rest! HYPOCRITE!

      July 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
      • Michael

        Spot on, spot on.

        It's unreal how the Bible thumpers try to explain away the obvious.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Karl–I take it you were there and personally witnessed this? Cool! You should be on the History Channel!

      July 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • QS

      Religious conveniences being used as justification for how irrational and illogical religion is....typical.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • M

      There was no 'doctrine' during Jesus' time. There was no official church whatsoever. He was a simple Jewish carpenter spreading a message of unconditional love and acceptance of your fellow man, in an era of history that desperately needed it. It's not until a couple hundred years later that any official type of church was formed, and long after that any 'doctrine' was established.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • Cherry

      Well explained!

      July 29, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  8. ryan050973

    And upon her forehead was written a name, a mystery: “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” Revelation 17:5

    And I heard another voice out of heaven say: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind. Revelation 18:4, 5

    July 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • sam

      How exciting! A BIBLE QUOTE!

      July 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • GrowUp

      I saw that on Dancing With The Stars too!

      July 29, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Uh, wouldn't it have been easier to write...

      Instead of the "name, a mystery: “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth” written on the forehead – couldn't it have just come out and said: "The Roman Catholic Church"?

      I mean, God is all knowing, right? SO he'd have KNOWN it was the Catholic Church, so why didn't he just say that?

      "There's this THING that's gonna be BAD"



      Which is more helpful? Which is LESS FRUCKING IDIOTIC?

      July 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • QS

      I need no shepherd for I think and reason...and I am not a sheep,
      I shall want only what serves humanity best;
      I lie down in green pastures because I choose to, not because anything makes me.
      I swim in still waters, I need not be led beside them;
      If a soul exists it is mine and is for me to restore how I see fit.
      Paths of righteousness will never fail to lead a person astray…
      especially for His name’s sake.

      I will walk through many valleys, it’s called life;
      the shadow of death follows one and all, no matter where we walk.
      I fear evil;
      evil is created by man, which is to be feared far more than any of the countless versions of god;
      your rod and your staff do not comfort me as they are herding tools...and I am not a sheep.
      I would be arrogant to think goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, for I am human and we make mistakes.
      I shall not dwell in any house that believes me to be nothing more than an animal which must be told where to go and when.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  9. Michael

    I don't buy this one bit at all. On the same day, we have the Pope saying he doesn't condemn nor judge gay people even though the RCC has been demonizing them forever and Pat Robertson said today he doesn't think being trans is a sin.

    Something is totally up because it is impossible for two men, who have been at the forefront of making sure gays are persecuted, to make a 180.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • Observer

      Based on Pat Robertson's previous statements about a lot of things, you are apt to hear anything from him.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  10. Ron

    Look at all these christians upset at the fact that they shouldnt judge and shame others who are different. I always said the best pope would be an athiest and so far he is proving me right.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  11. Will

    The Knights of Columbus and the henchmen of the church are not going to like this one bit...Look at Dolan and the hate the man spreads in the name of GOD, the drunk bishop from San Francisco who actively participates in persecution of gays across the country. They and the National Conference of Bishops have been put on notice by this pope...Change your hate or find another rock to crawl under.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • niknak

      No Will, they have all learned what you do is double down on your hate, and that works better.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
      • GrowUp

        Circle the dresses Cardinals–it's going to be a tough fight.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  12. Scott

    The headlines are a little bit deceiving. Just because the Pope says he isn't judging gay people, doesn't mean that he approves of it. He isn't judging alcoholics, killers, or thieves either. Sin is sin, period. Can a person be gay but never act on their desires? I say yes.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • niknak

      There is not such thing or law called sin, so whats your point?

      July 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Speaking from experience? Which are you? Thief, alcoholic, killer???

      July 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • Michael

      THe original text of the BIble doesn't condemn gay people.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • QS

      Can a person be straight and not act on those desires? If yes, why do you not demand the same of straight people? If no, why do you demand it of gay people?

      You believe we are that much better at controlling ourselves than straight people, or you believe straight people are that much worse at controlling themselves than gay people?

      Logic and reason are so much more useful than religious dogma.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  13. drakon33

    exactly, a h0m0 is not supposed to judge other h0m0s

    July 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • GrowUp

      So don't judge.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
  14. Truly Excellent

    For parents facing this concern with their Gay children, this is an EXCELLENT video! ("What do I do if my child is gay?" http://www.leadwithlovefilm.com)

    July 29, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Bible says

      Bible says kill them!

      July 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • niknak

      If you are in the middle east or some African nations you are required to kill them.
      And if you are here in some parts of the US, your kid needs to be put out of the house immediately.
      Gotta love all those "loving" religions.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  15. Emoje

    Pope's infallibility is only true in matters of church doctrine. he simply stated his opinion which I'd say probably most Christians agree with. He seems to be a kind, nonjudgmental person.

    July 29, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
  16. Jimmy Morris

    This guy is a politician top to bottom.He is playing for membership with the gay and pro choice groups.Money talks and everything walks.

    July 29, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Emoje

      The Pope will not win over those offended. Seems some folks just enjoy wallowing in self pity and anger.

      July 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  17. john

    lets not judge here in this conversation and understand that we are all sinners and not perfect. even the pope is not perfect. at the end of the day we need forgiveness from our lord! the bible can be difficult at times to understand and that's why we need to pray when reading the bible so that god will open up our hearts to understand. may the lord bless us all and forgive us for our sins!

    July 29, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • niknak

      No bro, you bought into that lie that was are all sinners.
      I have no guilt at all about some stone age moral idea of original sin.

      A mind is a terrible thing to lose, to religion.....

      July 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
      • john

        god bless

        July 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Jude

      My understanding about how the way that the pope worded his statement, is that "he" is not the one that will be the judge in the end. It will be God's judgment. Not that he (the pope) agrees with gay people, but that it is not 'his' place to pass judgment.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • QS

      OooOooOoo.....siiiiiiin.....quick, everybody kneel!

      July 29, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  18. Paul

    I went to Catholic school but I rejected Catholicism at a very early age. As an amateur student of history, I know well the Catholic church's two headed reputation both as a bastion of mercy and hope to the desperate and poor and a terrible focus of power and corruption that plays on peoples worst fears and greatest hopes.
    That said I have been greatly impressed by Pope Francis. He truly understands what Jesus' message was, it is not for us to judge each other or castigate one another, but to love and respect one another. Jesus taught us that it is our first duty to be merciful and forgiving, this appears to be what the new Pope is trying to impress upon his followers. I only hope that is for real and not another duplicitous game by the Vatican.

    July 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • QS

      Except, the real problem with religion overall is that from the start they classify gay people as a group that needs to be forgiven....to deem any specific group as such while also claiming to now be just a little less hateful towards that group is not merciful or showing respect or love regardless of how much religious people want everybody to believe that it is.

      July 29, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  19. J. Greene

    What the Pope says doesn't mean a thing. The Pope is NOT God Almighty...Just another man, albeit a very religious man, but just a man. He too, even on his best day falls short of the God's glory.

    July 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • niknak

      No, dude, he IS god almighty.
      Didn't you get the memo?

      July 29, 2013 at 6:39 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.