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. sybaris

    When did YOU choose to be straight?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  2. Michael

    So the Bible condemns gay people yet the most heated romance in the Bible is between two men.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Akira

      David and Jonathan. Yep.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • albert

      Oh please, talk about misquoting scripture!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
      • Donna

        oh, please, explain how the word of an all-powerful -creature can be oh so readily misquoted.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
      • Michael

        Which part am I misquoting?

        "Your love is greater than that of any woman" as they held each other, wept and kissed.

        Was it there???

        Or was it the part where David disrobes in front of Jonathan, and thus is totally nude, and gives Jonathan his clothes as a sign of devotion? That act would be just as highly s3xually charged back then as it would be today.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  3. Mr Everyman

    Testing !

    July 29, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Sorry to assume, but if you're having trouble with posting, you may be running into the autofilter that won't let certain letter combinations through. Like const.itution or v.a.gue.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  4. KaceyF

    I don't think he is saying that the church approves. He is not in a position to cast judgement for trivial reasons. Being gay doesn't hurt anyone. Why should he waste his time addressing that issue? What I got from this is by not approaching the gay issue at all as being nor against nor for is that he is trusting in God that the righteous will prevail and that his time as Pope will be better spent on more important issues.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Yeah–the Pope is very busy. He's really smart too!

      July 30, 2013 at 12:49 am |
  5. G-Dawg78

    All from the worlds best selling fictional book ever....

    July 29, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • moe green

      have fun in hell G Dawg:) Good news is you won't be lonely.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
      • Peggy

        you'll be there too Moe, burning for trillions of years, wow, what a great belief system yo'all follow

        July 30, 2013 at 1:44 am |
  6. Alex

    This is exactly what I've never understood. Gays are persecuted the world over for what is typically considered a serious sin by most major religions. As such, the faithful should assume that their God is going to punish said sinner for eternity. So why the rush to persecute in the mortal world? To me, it seems like a tacit and maybe even subconscious admission that their faith in the afterlife, and its concomitant rewards and punishments, is not without doubt.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Philip

      Hmmm. Good point.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Georgie

      Brilliant point.

      July 30, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  7. Philip Edwards

    Yeah, you can kiss my ... ring.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  8. Jaweed Barkatali

    What would Martin Luther said about Pope Francis statement. In my opinion; Martin would need to add one more thesis and nail it.

    July 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Sandinista

      Luther was as anti-semitic as they come. He shouldn't say a damned word about anything.

      Times were VERY different when Luther was conducting his vendetta against the RCC. You should probably keep that in mind.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
      • KaceyF

        He was right about the so-called "jews". So was Hitler, but Mr. King wasn't psycho. Hitler believed in Aliens. (You people think black people are mean?... Oppression and ignorance don't hold a stick to plain old evil.) The only jews that remain today are imposter converts they are not jew by race and if you really look at history. Jesus was white. I don't care what you say, the bible holds more weight than someone's degree they paid for in my eyes. The jews of years before are now caucasian christians (only applying race) Mr King was a part of a race who was ministered to and decided in their own hearts the Christian way is the right way. A truly noble conversion of faith indeed. Yes, because the 12 tribes went away up into different parts of Europe (Caucus Mountains... Caucasians) and the only that remained in the middle east were true middle easterners. The rowdy bunch that converted to judaism in Europe way back when came from Asia after getting the boot, and only did so because of new laws and the ones who are jews today are their descendants. As you can plainly see they are the ones running the media and trying to control everything with their new liberal pawn Obama. They would happily turn the world against each other. Should I only include liberals? Plenty of republicans followed the same agenda (Bush), mostly of ignorance. God put his people in charge and said we would suffer if that power shifted. Do you see what's happening?

        July 29, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
        • GrowUp

          That's so cool that you were there and got to see all of this neat stuff. You should have a TV show,

          July 30, 2013 at 12:07 am |
  9. noillusion

    "If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?"

    When one addresses fellow human beings as "they" and "them", he is creating separateness. Perhaps the Pope would do well to see a true spiritual master.

    July 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • NorthVanCan

      Christopher Hitchens is who he needs.

      July 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Athy

      What pronoun should he use?

      July 29, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
      • Akira

        "The gays", apparently.

        July 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
        • Athy

          I just on the news that he did use the term gay. First pope ever to do so.

          July 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
        • Athy

          "I just heard..." Sorry.

          July 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Believer

      It's called a pronoun. The Pope was asked a question about gays. The reporter didn't want the Pope's opinion on everyone, he wanted an opinion about "THEM." I don't think your comment is fair, in fact the Pope was being inclusive.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
      • GrowUp

        Wow–you are really smart!

        July 30, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  10. JJ

    The pedophile infested RCC is the most hypocritical institution there is since most priests are either gay or pedophiles. I believe they hate gays more than they do their child rapists though.

    July 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  11. Eric

    It is amazing that those quoting scripture, have no idea what they are even quoting. When Jesus says "judge not and ye shall not be judged", the most accurate translation from the literal Greek is "condemn not and ye shall not be condemned". Any idiot should know that only the wise judge everything around them. We judge what is profitable and what is not profitable. We judge whether we like certain fashions. We judge whether something is healthy for our children or not. We judge whether something is worth watching or not, or whether something is worth doing or not. If you judge nothing you're equivalent to an empty headed buffoon that can be led by the nose anywhere.

    Condemning now, this is where we stray. It is perfectly fine to "judge" that something is productive or counter-productive, right or wrong. It is NOT Godly to take his seat and condemn what is not ours to condemn. At the judgment, NO ONE will be laying prostrate before anyone of us. We will all be prostrate before the one who rightly deserves to sit in judgment.

    July 29, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • GrowUp

      And I have judged you. You don't want to know the verdict.

      July 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
      • Eric

        And your judgment is based on ignorance, as you know nothing about me or my stance, except that I draw the biblical difference between judgment and condemnation 🙂
        So your judgment means nothing to me

        July 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
        • GrowUp

          Don't need to know anymore about you and don't want to know anymore.

          July 29, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • Michael

      And another Bible thumper who tries to explain how "do not judge" actually means "judge others".

      Care to explain how "those who are without sin can cast the first stone" actually means we're free to hurl as many rocks as we'd like?

      Or maybe you'd like to ponder YOU are the problem with religion.

      July 29, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • PDXSerric

      "Any idiot should know that only the wise judge everything around them" What a fanciful perversion. Any idiot SHOULD know that the truly wise do not judge at all, but question and attempt to understand. It is a fool who judges everything around him, usually attempting to compare the world to his own ideals rather than the other way around.

      Secondly, there is SOME truth to your statement of people misinterpreting the scriptures – this is clearly evident in the fact we have so many versions of the same Bible. In fact, a true Christian – that is one who strives to be Christ-like – should only consider the scripture as stories and concentrate rather on the parables, or direct teachings, of Jesus. One can not emulate the Christ and follow the Bible. The two are like oil and water, often contradicting one another at every pass.

      But try to tell a Christian they are so in name only and not in practice and they remain blissfully and willfully oblivious. The funniest thing to me is unless one is Catholic or worships within a religion identifying the Holy Trinity the very worship of Jesus is a violation of both the second and third commandments. Get your head around that....

      July 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  12. petroskies

    Who am I to judge when from Mr. Obama to the rest of the world include the chosen people love them, we ask them just look into the book of Leviticus chapter 18:22 what the word of our Lord said: thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind it is abomination, not more. not less. the rest are just wise foolish .

    July 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • GrowUp


      July 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • Michael

      You're quoting the Holiness Code. Do you even know what that is???

      btw, the term translated to as with means bed every other time it's used in Leveticus. What does that tell you?

      July 29, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • chronickelly

      God did not write the bible. Do your homework.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  13. sybaris

    Why do Christians care so much about what consenting adults do with their genitalia in the privacy of their own homes?

    July 29, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Because it gets them more $$$$$$$$

      July 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
      • Just a guy

        Obviouly you haven't grown up

        July 29, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
        • GrowUp

          Just a sad, lonely guy huh?

          July 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • David Nelson

      I don't think it is what they do at home that is the real issue.

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

        Apparently you know the real issue. Enlighten the masses please.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Just a guy

      I really do not – that is between them and God – but don't force me to accept their lifestyle which in God's eyes is an abomination – and that also does not mean I hate anyone as folks like you like to harp – but if believeing in God's word makes me judgemental – the I'll gladly be judged by Him

      July 29, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
      • GrowUp

        Fair enough dude. Now go keep it to yourself.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
      • Michael

        Would you mind explaining to me the difference between the Holiness Code and the Moral Code? Also, could you explain how you blow off EVERY Holiness Code except the one you think condemns gay people? Any issues with pork? Shrimp? Shaving? Polyester? Tattoos? Women wearing slacks?

        No one is buying your B S closet case.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
      • sybaris

        "but don't force me to accept their lifestyle"

        Do you even read what you post? If I heard it once I've heard it a thousand times out of the mouths of the sheep.

        Think man. Is that the best you can do? Don't just regurgitate what your minister spews on Sunday. Think!

        Is ANY gay person forcing you to accept their lifestyle? Really?

        Gay marriage affects you how?

        Jesus fvking Christ you sound like an 8 year old sibling, "Mom! Johnny is looking at me!!", "Mom! Gay marriage is affecting me!!"

        Grow up!

        July 29, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
        • Just a guy

          Have you been in a long deep sleep? Really – and by the way – my minister has NEVER said that nor have I ever heard any minster say that either – for starters – my kids are now exposed to Steve and his new partner school books – the LGBT wants more of it so that lifestyle can be more acceptable – what do I do – take them out of school! Boy Scouts are now out for my boys – and BTW – I do not hate anyone – grow up – we are tired of hearing this because you do not believe in God – I do not want my kids told in the schools that this lifestyle is acceptable

          July 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
        • Michael

          So you have issues with your kids being around LGBT friendly people but you have no problem with your children being raised by a total lunatic.

          Go figure.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
        • Just a guy

          Michael – is that your best – really? BTW – I have gay friends and they know what I believe – and I care for them a lot – and they care for me – and God will judge all – even you but I know you don't believe in Him – you will one day 😉

          July 29, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  14. sly

    Slowly, we emerge from the Dark Ages. Progressive thought will always hold it's own with neanderthal power tactics. In America, in the past 40 years alone, minorities have finally kind of been given the right to vote, couples of different race and religion can marry (wow!), 40 million Americans are given an opportunity to pay for health care, the government stops some discrimination against gays, we end 200+ years of governance by the Rich White Male, and now this – the Church stops to listen.

    These are good times, Americans, at least until we start another war.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • Dippy

      Its, not it's.

      July 29, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  15. Michael

    By the way, there's ONLY one reason why the RCC would stop condemning gay people:

    People aren't opening their wallets anymore to fund it.

    It's always been about money. Christ would turn in His grave if He were buried at the sight of the palaces they call churches.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • sybaris

      I thought your Jesus guy wasn't in a grave.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
      • GrowUp

        Last I heard he left that tomb–too boring in there.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
      • Michael

        Maybe you sharpen your reading comprehension skills next time. Just sayin.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
        • Tweety Bird

          Maybe you should go to Israel and see the temples from Jesus' time. They were huge and magnificant. Gold everywhere etc. The Jewish people like nice places of worship too. Also, are you nuts, Jesus is not in a grave to turn over. He was laid in a tomb, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven WHOLE.

          July 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • rh

      I don't believe it. Between tax-free status, legacies, and current real estate holdings, the RCC has absolutely no problems with money.

      It really irks you that a Pope would show some humanity and common sense?

      July 29, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
      • Michael

        Wow, you're really that ignorant, aren't you?

        The one thing people with money concentrate on is getting more. If you honestly don't think their condemnation of gay people was due to being able to bilk their followers for money then you need to freshen up on a bit of history. Go research the recent history of the clobber passage from Corinthians used against gay people. It's only been condemning gay people for less than 100 years. There's a good reason the Church switched their "attack" back then since what they were condemning before became an accepted practice and thus they couldn't make money off of it.

        July 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
        • GrowUp

          Silly Michael. The Church has been amassing all that wealth for centuries because some day, just in time for the big "Judgment", the Church will really help the poor. It's all about timing.

          July 29, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
      • GrowUp

        Did he review the Church's portfolio and consult with its tax lawyers before or after his comments?

        July 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • Ken78

      Christ is not in his grave. He left on the third day.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
  16. Robert

    "Is the Pope Catholic?" I'm not sure.

    July 29, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  17. Don

    Why are Mormons, Catholics, etc changing their stance on gays?...As always, the answer is MONEY! As the world becomes more accepting of gays, they won't support an organization that says being gay is a sin...

    July 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  18. Robert Gemerek

    I think its amazing what pope francis is doing, he seems like the perfect pope for this day and age. I'm not very religious but I find him to very admirable in a world full of leaders and heads of state that are anything but admirable.

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

      I agree. This dude's reality show is better than The Kardashian's.

      July 29, 2013 at 7:32 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.