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. Bob

    If the Pope believes he shouldn't judge, why does every other so-called Christian think they can?

    July 30, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Good question.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      Probably because they are poorly educated Protestants, or Catholics that haven't thought about what they were taught in grade school.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:55 am |
  2. John Doehn

    Just trying to make religion look good. Nothing to see here. A bunch of bull.

    July 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  3. Sam

    I must be missing something here....Media is making a big deal about the greatness of the Pope; the Catholic churches are up in arms about the "controversial" statement he made. In reality, if the Catholic priests are supposed to be observing celebacy, wouldn't the whole "gay" issue be moot? How would anyone even know someone is gay in that scenario.

    July 30, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  4. dprice5811

    God Bless America!

    July 30, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  5. Agnostickids

    Just out of curiosity, for those of you that call yourselves Atheists, what do you believe will happen to you after death?

    July 30, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Mark Steven


      nothing at all. you're dead. why would anything happen ?

      July 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
      • SouthernCelt

        Same thing I hear every Ash Wednesday, " Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return". The difference between us and Atheists is we believe in Resurrection, they don't.

        July 30, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • jb

      "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
      ...Stephen F Roberts

      July 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The processing machine that is my brain will be out of service and therefore my consciousness will be no more.
      As my meat rots away, my consti/tuent atoms will return to the Universe, which I suppose is some kind of immortality...

      July 30, 2013 at 8:36 am |
      • SouthernCelt

        Not quite, after all is said and done unless you are cremated and scattered you will just be a pile of dust in a sealed,modern casket. Undisturbed until something destroys the casket and you get scattered into the earth or sea as with cremation. No atoms escaping to the universe, just stuck here on Earth for people and animals to walk and relieve themselves on. What a future. I prefer Resurrection.

        July 30, 2013 at 9:09 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          All matter is composed of atoms – including dust.
          The modern, sealed casket will not last forever and neither will the planet earth.
          In a more immediate and practical sense, my will stipulates that doctors can take what they can use of my corpse and burn the rest. What do I care of what happens to my meat machine?

          But resurrection? Are you having yourself cryogenically frozen? Perhaps you're a Hindu?

          July 30, 2013 at 9:17 am |
        • snowboarder

          @celt, you may prefer it, but you are incredibly unlikely to get it.

          July 30, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Though I am sure there are Atheists out there that may wish to be some sort of after life, the reality is that we just basically die. There is nothing beyond death. No reincarnation, no heaven, no hell. We just die and that is it.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • JR

      Do you have any memory of the billions of years before your birth? That's death.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • snowboarder

      the same thing that happened before our birth. nothing.

      July 30, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • thinkinghuman

      Why does it matter?

      I am not an atheist but honestly why does it matter. What mattesr is how you lived your life? did you hurt or help others... I think people today forget that.

      I am not going to get into any religious facts or reasons. But I have seeb many religious people that has done more harm to others. and I have seen many atheist that has done sooooo much good for others. and vice verse.

      We religious people "might" do good to please the high power. But why does atheist help others when they do not even see a reward in the end? I am just sayin... look at the good in people.

      July 30, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  6. DOC


    July 30, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • dprice5811

      typical of the 2013 average citizen.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  7. Satman

    How happy I am not to be a part from false religion.

    July 30, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Colin

      Is there any other kind?

      July 30, 2013 at 8:07 am |
      • Alex

        Yes... they are the ones who knock on your doors with the message

        July 30, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  8. Buckn

    Hate the sin, love the sinner.

    July 30, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • midwest rail

      The Big Lie as practiced by contemporary Christianity – "love the sinner, hate the sin". A concept they stole from Gandhi, and have corrupted ever since.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:02 am |
      • Dan

        Actually Gandhi borrowed it from the Bible....

        July 30, 2013 at 8:11 am |
        • religion; a way to control the weak minded

          and the bible borrowed many ideologies from previous cultures....

          July 30, 2013 at 8:11 am |
        • Pete

          Really Dan quote the scripture number.

          July 30, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Primewonk

      Can you post the book, chapter, and verse where I can find your god sayig this?

      It's OT in your bible. It's a quote from Gandhi. A Hindu.

      In reality, your god commands you nutters to murder gay folks. Kinda hard to see the love there.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • thinline

      Love the bigot, hate the bigotry

      July 30, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Hate the belief, love the believer.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  9. Truth

    test msg

    July 30, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  10. pensimmon

    But the bible was written by men too. Why should we follow what a bunch of old men thought thousands of years ago. We were given brains. Lets use them to figure out how to live a good, honest, moral, loving life.

    July 30, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Paul

      No, actually the Bible was written by God through men. "All scripture is God-breathed" 2Tim3:16

      July 30, 2013 at 7:38 am |
      • religion; a way to control the weak minded

        LOL yeah........according to the MEN who wrote it. Are you that gullible?

        July 30, 2013 at 7:51 am |
      • Andrew

        People that claim to know for certain that God wrote the bible, LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

        July 30, 2013 at 7:54 am |

        Thank you Paul for stating the truth, yes the Bible was written by men, but it was God inspired, the words were divinely given to the writers. That it why the themes are repeated, and the stories of Jesus Christ ministry are so similar regardless of the writer.

        July 30, 2013 at 7:58 am |
        • religion; a way to control the weak minded


          July 30, 2013 at 8:06 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The Book of Mormon is another book in the Gospel of Christ.
        It says so right on the first page, therefore it must be true.
        If the other gospels are divinely inspired because it says so in the gospel, one cannot case doubt on Joe Smith's encounters with the Archangel Moroni.

        July 30, 2013 at 8:02 am |
      • JR

        Lol...what a classic. "All scripture is God-breathed" 2Tim3:16 – So, you claim some bronze age text was written by a god and for proof you quote this same text that says that it is written by god. I believe the Koran says the same thing and has the same "proof".

        July 30, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  11. One one

    I wonder if his reply was cleared by HQ.

    July 30, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  12. Tim

    He is simply saying what is in the Catechism!

    July 30, 2013 at 6:35 am |
  13. SixDegrees

    I'm loving watching all the self-proclaimed christians tying themselves into knots trying to justify their continued hatred and intolerance.

    July 30, 2013 at 5:27 am |
    • One one

      Even Jesus hates atheists.

      July 30, 2013 at 7:12 am |
      • One one

        Sorry, comment was meant for "indirect"

        July 30, 2013 at 7:13 am |
  14. Indirect

    I love this new pope. Mostly because he isn't outright accepting nor hateful of a group of people. (Besides atheists, most likely)

    July 30, 2013 at 5:26 am |
    • wmwelch

      Indeed, the Pope is right about one thing at least: "Who is HE to judge?"

      Fortunately for the world, it is not left up to a Catholic to judge; rather the judgemental criteria is already set out enormously clearly (and redundantly) in The Word of God!

      See Leviticus 18:22, 26 and 20:13.

      How much more unequivocating must it be than THAT??

      July 30, 2013 at 5:53 am |
      • Dave Green

        You like the book of Leviticus do you? Consider that to be the divine word of a God? so then you must also accept lev 25:44-46...the exception to Jubilee which states that as long as you take slaves from other nations, you can own them as property for life and will them your children as an inheritance afterwards. Go ahead, try to claim I'm taking it out of context. I dare you. I double dare you. You are a hypocrite, who forms the bible to your own personal world view. You believe whatever you want and simply make the bible fit it.

        July 30, 2013 at 6:44 am |
      • Myk

        So slavery is okay, correct?

        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 7:06 am |
      • religion; a way to control the weak minded

        not the word of a god....the word of men over many years, then edited by more men.....learn the history of your religion.

        July 30, 2013 at 7:53 am |
      • Michael

        Leviticus 18 & 20 is part of the Holiness Code.

        Lean the difference and/or stop quoting scripture of which you do no know nor care about it's intent.

        July 30, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  15. SixDegrees

    I'm loving watching all the self-professed christians tying themselves into knots trying to justify their continued hatred and intolerance.

    July 30, 2013 at 5:24 am |
    • leah

      Bigotry is just another form of self hate. If the church doesn't condone continued hating on a certain demographic, you are right, most likely they'll find somebody else to act out on. All that hate has to be eating them up from the inside.

      July 30, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  16. chuck

    The Pope enjoys a choir boy as much as the next "priest".

    July 30, 2013 at 4:35 am |
  17. 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 4:28 am |
    • Paul

      Agreed. The biased reporting doesn't help. But then again, CNN and the Associated Press never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

      July 30, 2013 at 7:36 am |
  18. Georgina42

    @GO_GOP, who wrote:
    "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."

    I suppose it should be expected with a name like yours, but really, how are you capable of stating no one can judge anyone, and then stating it is for your lord to judge, and then doing the judging yourself in the very next sentence? I suppose though this goes to the question of how you can believe what you believe, in which case it makes more sense in a nonsensical sort of way.

    July 30, 2013 at 2:59 am |
    • reggie from la

      Easy there G-42. The reference is not about being "judgmental", per se. It's about being a judge presiding over punishment or damnation in the biblical sense. Evangelicals (in many instances) HAVE TOO taken on that role. It doesn't fit. It just looks ridiculous and self serving.

      July 30, 2013 at 6:38 am |
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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.