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. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    So are all the conservatives calling him this first gay pope because of his support for gays?

    July 30, 2013 at 2:50 am |
    • Tracy

      Um, the pope is not "supporting" gay's. He is just quoting the bible, which says that only god can judge. People are making WAY too much of this.

      July 30, 2013 at 4:27 am |
  2. Richard the Lionheart

    It doesn't matter what the pope says. He is just one man. It matters what the Bible says. And the Bible calls it a sin and for people to not behave that way

    July 30, 2013 at 2:48 am |
    • Ajai

      You are born of sin and there is a way out of it as you will know, therefore sin as mentioned in the bible is not the issue

      July 30, 2013 at 3:00 am |
    • Observer

      Richard the Lionheart,

      The Bible also supports slavery. So do you believe the Bible or do you just pick and choose from it?

      July 30, 2013 at 3:24 am |
      • frank

        You misinterpret the bible and obvouly have no understanding. The bible apart from being a moral guide, is also a historical text that traces the history of the Jewish people. There was slavery in Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Syria etc. The Jewish people also ha slaves. The bible however tells us how they should be treated. They should be released after 7 years, they should be treated justly as they were themselves slaves in Egypt. Do you really think God is interested in all that? He cares for the soul of man and about us living right. The sins we are told to desist from are for our own good. lets be wise and not just utter rubbish in trying to justify our sinful nature.

        July 30, 2013 at 6:56 am |
        • Myk

          Actually Mr. Frank,
          You are incorrect only those that are Isrealites shall be released after 7 years, the rest can be passed down as inheritance.

          " However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)"

          July 30, 2013 at 7:19 am |
        • religion; a way to control the weak minded

          LOL....someone needs to reread their bible.

          July 30, 2013 at 8:10 am |
        • trejon

          The author of the bible is "god", so apparently he did want everything in there that is there. Otherwise, you are admitting to is fallibility.

          July 30, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • leah

      The Bible calls eating shrimp & shellfish a sin too. The Bible even calls overeating a sin. Yet, it's a fair bet that most Christians are overweight these days in this country – the entire populace is.

      July 30, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  3. GO_GOP

    He is right on this one. NO one can judge anyone. It is for our Lord to judge. Gays are going against our Lord's wish and will pay the price one day.

    July 30, 2013 at 2:42 am |
    • Stevie49

      As will fornicators, adulterers, and people who wear polycotton blends.

      I'm guessing heaven is a pretty roomy place.

      July 30, 2013 at 2:46 am |
      • Mike V

        Amen brother! Not to mention the crab eaters!

        July 30, 2013 at 3:21 am |
      • Elspeth

        Don't forget those who touch the flesh of swine...those would be the men of the gridiron or American Football players. Leviticus 11:7-8

        Darn, no more Monday Night Football

        July 30, 2013 at 4:22 am |
    • Observer


      Just like in politics, skip the HYPOCRISY. You don't believe everything in the Bible.

      July 30, 2013 at 3:26 am |
    • One one

      Jesus hates shrimp eating atheists.

      July 30, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  4. Lewis Keseberg

    Maybe the pope was just imbibing in a little too much of the Jesus blood in flight. That blood will make you say the darnest things.

    July 30, 2013 at 2:28 am |
  5. Al (nick name kippo)

    Why are you an escape goat for these kind of people, is something going on that you can't talk about.
    Are you one of those kind of people? Something needs to be said.

    July 30, 2013 at 2:26 am |
    • Observer

      "Escape goat"? That's a good one.

      July 30, 2013 at 2:30 am |

      Escape goat – I spit my coffee all over the keyboard!

      July 30, 2013 at 3:11 am |
    • leah

      Don't know what you were trying to say there, but 'escape goat'...that is classic.

      July 30, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  6. Frank

    Once you have the praise of men particularly the media, you be can be quite sure you are on the wrong path. the true gospel is an offence to many because people do not like the truth. they cannot stand the message hence Jesus was crucified. any true follower of Christ would also be persecuted and ridiculed. So as for this Pope, by their fruits they shall be known

    July 30, 2013 at 2:16 am |
    • lkjkj

      Let me do each other until their intestines explode and dudu drops from their loose bowels.

      July 30, 2013 at 2:23 am |
    • Stevie49

      You're right. This pope really should be preaching hate and condemnation. The bible, especially the gospels, definitely doesn't talk about acceptance or love or tolerance or compassion.

      Are you really suggesting that the only way to be a good Christian is to be persecuted? The problem is that in a land where about two thirds of the people are Christian, you have to support something that upsets just about everyone. Then you're not following the message of your religion, you're only seeking those things which feed your (VERY obvious) persecution complex.

      July 30, 2013 at 2:23 am |
  7. ISI - It's not about judging - Never was - It is about being accountable for our sinful actions Pope Francis - LOL thats all he had to say -

    If a person is a true believer in Christ then it's our duty (the church's) to Deal With Sin in the Church...Matthew 18:15-16 says
    15 “If your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." So It is by God's grace and most importantly Christ's death and resurrection that (sinners) we are made whole. (myself included) also...
    Romans 3:23-30 says
    23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (myself included)
    God loves the sinner hates the sin...John 3:16
    Sola Scriptura – Sola Gratia – Sola Fide – Solus Christus – Soli Deo Gloria!!

    July 30, 2013 at 2:15 am |
    • Stevie49

      Or, screw it, find every town with a non-believer and burn the town to ashes along with every person and pet inside (Deuteronomy 13:13-19)

      July 30, 2013 at 2:25 am |
  8. Lewis Keseberg

    Glad to hear that the Pope might be relaxing Communion rules for the remarried. No one should be denied a little Jesus-flesh. I prefer mine slightly rare.

    July 30, 2013 at 2:03 am |
  9. Mary

    What is really God's Will on the whole gay issue?
    If we are not judging according to the bible. we are OK. If we are discerning according to the bible, we are OK too.
    It is God, not the pope, who has the final say on this "judging" thing in the church, isn't it? So read the bible rather than just listening to the pope for an answer for this issue.

    July 30, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • Athy

      So what is the answer, Mary? I don't want to waste time reading the bible.

      July 30, 2013 at 1:21 am |
      • Ramellose

        If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives. (Leviticus 20:13)

        July 30, 2013 at 1:51 am |

          Talk about it. I have never been so disappointed like this, did the Pope lack words. what does the bible mean when it talks about conforming to the standards of the world. this is total betray of all time.

          July 30, 2013 at 2:17 am |
        • Observer

          JOSEPH AMANYA,

          Read a Bible. If we followed it we'd still have slavery and women likely wouldn't vote.

          July 30, 2013 at 2:29 am |
        • Michael

          Why can't any of you quoting Leviticus explain the difference between the Holiness Code and the Moral Code seeing you keep quoting the Holiness Code and inferring it's discussing morality.

          July 30, 2013 at 7:59 am |
      • Stevie49

        Things also that will get you killed JUST in Leviticus:
        Talking back to your parents

        If you expand your reach to just the first five books of the old testament, then you need to put down your stones and pick up your torch and pitchfork, 'cause it time to go raze some cities!

        July 30, 2013 at 2:02 am |
  10. Thomas Woo

    I not religious but so far he has impressed me. I hope he has a long tenure and able do some good things. I totally dislike the last Pope who ex-communicate our local sister, who allowed an abortion performed to save the life of mother at St. Joseph Hospital in Arizona. That was so wrong, I hope the Pope allows the sister back to the church, she was so dedicated to the church.

    July 30, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  11. Salvi

    Typical media hooplah. Much ado about nothing. What did he really say ? Nothing new actually. He expressly reaffirmed what is already clearly stated in the Catechism of the Roman Church (par.: 2357 through 2359)–you can find it on line at the USCCB site (http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/). But twisting what he said to create faux news and stimulate arguments generates web traffic.

    July 30, 2013 at 12:31 am |
  12. Peggy

    finally! a spiritual leader speaking the truth. no one, not even the pope, should judge. he is just a man like the rest of us. thank goodness!

    July 30, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • Terry

      Better read the rest of that...it does not say that you are not to judge but that you will be held to the same standard as you judge. So if you judge harshly then you will be judged just as harshly. CNN is also only giving half of what was said as the Pope still said it was also a sin yet. CNN is getting almost as bad as FauxNews in telling a story to fit their views.

      July 30, 2013 at 12:45 am |
      • Stevie49

        So, make sure to only judge cherry-picked passages that only end up applying to others. Then you can judge all you want! Yay! Looking down on others is fun!

        July 30, 2013 at 1:09 am |
  13. StuporDave

    Judging is for a being not human. Remember "there, but for the grace of God, go I."

    July 30, 2013 at 12:11 am |
  14. pretention

    "Who am I to judge?"

    You are the Pope. That is what Popes do. It is their job.

    July 30, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • Peggy

      you are clearly clueless

      July 30, 2013 at 12:08 am |
      • pretention

        Some Popes are more Catholic than others. Most are judgmental like you.

        July 30, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • ellie

      No, you're wrong and he is right It is NOT his job to judge; nor is it the job of any of us. True judgment is up to God.

      July 30, 2013 at 12:11 am |
      • Peggy

        ah, but there is no god so this whole discussion is moot 🙂

        July 30, 2013 at 1:41 am |
        • komape

          Everything on this earth, including you and I have a source. You know where the car you are riding in came from. What about you and the long line of genrations that brought you into this world? Where did they come from? This is simple enough to know that there is a God who said in Genesis, "incerease and multiply" a task gays cannot implement.

          July 30, 2013 at 2:03 am |
        • Stevie49

          So then gays are in the same class as people who are infertile. I've yet to hear any make the case that people who are infertile are immoral. And really, modern science has pretty much removed the need to have sex to procreate anyway, so your entire argument is based on a false premise.

          July 30, 2013 at 2:06 am |
        • Observer


          Gays and lesbians can reproduce. Read something a little deeper than a Bible.

          Please take a beginner's class in biology or read "Biology for Dummies".

          July 30, 2013 at 2:11 am |
    • GrowUp

      Neato. You wrote the job description for the Pope! That is so cool dude.

      July 30, 2013 at 12:12 am |
    • leah

      Don't tell me, you got that from the 'How to do the job of a Pope, for Dummies' guide book, right?

      July 30, 2013 at 7:15 am |
  15. Homer10

    Hmmmm..... Maybe a more reasonable thinker? All we can do is pray.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
  16. golanego

    Oooooo....I like him. The first non-hypocritical Christian I have ever heard of. Finally someone is actually following the bible.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • RG

      The first? Most of my Christian friends are not about judging. The church is late but better late than never.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
      • As if I give a damn

        Ever gazed upon the phrase "glacial" or "snail's pace"...there you go !!!

        July 29, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  17. ricke1949

    The pope never had the power to judge only pronounce. Jesus is the judge and he not this pope nor any pope will have the final say.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  18. Mr Everyman

    My comments are being censored. WHY ???

    July 29, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Ken78

      You are probably using one of the many forbidden combinations of letters here. For example, do not combine the letters "s" and "e" with "x" if you get my drift.

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

      There's a word filter attached to this blog. You most likely are using a word that is not allowed.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Did you read my comment on your "testing" post?

      I've had to post my comments sentence by sentence until I found the sentence "tripping" the filter. Then you can go word by word. Most likely it is t.it or c.u.m in an innocuous word. Good luck.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Michael

      It's not you. Large portions of the conversation keep disappearing and for no reason at all. In the past 5 minutes a very, very large portion, 3 or more responses, disappeared even though none it violated any TOS.

      It appears we have one over-eager moderator.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
      • Hank

        Yes, that one that started with alxnimrod? That was an interesting thread, too.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
        • Michael

          Yeah, was the one about the Centurion? It's weird because there was not one single aspect to it that violated any TOS.

          I understand when a forum will automatically block words but for a moderator to delete an entire section for no reason is bull.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
        • Hank

          One would think they would expect people to point out gays in the Bible if they're going to post a story about the Pope referencing them...SMH. Makes zero sense.

          July 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • Athy

      A frequently used troublesome sequence is tit. Several common words contain this sequence and must be avoided. Or break the offending sequence with an additional character. Thus ti tle, or consti,tuition. There are many others as well.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • are122

      I hope it;s not true but it is possible no one likes you.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
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