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. flexy145

    The first REAL representative of Christ/God on Earth! I usually don't like religion (in the slightest), but I like this pope.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • sonny chapman

      He comes the closest that I've seen to emulating the Jesus found in the Four Gospels. Francis, like Jesus, wasn't afraid to throw himself into the "Rabble" for they are the Father's Creation too. Embracing Gay people, in the 'Religious World" is akin to Jesus rubbing shoulders w/lepers. The Father is Smiling !!

      July 29, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Darko

      I may be cynical, but I'm sure he's only saying these things because of dwindling numbers. Just like the GOP, their system is failing and they're trying to fix it.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Todd

      That within it's self is why anyone with a spiritual compass should be the polar opposite of you. Catholic isn't Christian and never will be. Catholic churches don't place Bibles in the pews of the church for a good reason... you can't read and follow along... you are forced to go off of what someone else said. Catholic's have a lot of false teachings and to see their leader, be 'flexible' with issues he should have an iron fist about - doesn't surprise me. Anyone who cares to argue my points about Catholicism... please also answer were in the Bible does it say you must pray to Mary, the saints, and pay the church money for God's forgiveness. The Pope is an important man (in over a billion people's lives) but he's just another man in mine.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  2. kolsen2

    Religion is supposed to bring people together who have common beliefs and practices, not tell people how to live their lives and disregard anyone who is different. I commend the pope for his view on gays. He, as well as everyone else, should not judge these people. God is supposed to love everyone, so why do people use religion as a reason to hate?

    July 29, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • flexy145

      It's not so much about "common beliefs". In fact, at its roots, the Christian faith is a religion of tolerance. Of course, this has changed in the centuries and turned into the exact opposite. Good the pope actually remembers what the Christian faith once really was about.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • sonny chapman

        Yep, organized religion, be it Christian, Islam or Hebrew, being man made, doesn't take very long to screw up the MESSAGE.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am |
      • Thinker...

        Christianity stopped being about tolerance once it got involved in politics (about 1700 years ago). Whenever tolerance showed its head it was labled heresy and crushed. Even after the Reformation tolerance was in short supply; to be a Lutheran you had to reject Rome and the other protestants. To be a Calvinist you had to reject.. just about everything but working. The Puritains left England because England wouldn't allow them to make Puritain only settlements where noone else was allowed (they don't teach that in grade school of course). The moment a belief system gains any political power, it strives to keep and grow that power, often to the detriment of its original purpose (Communism is a great non-religious example).

        July 29, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Habadabilis

      hold on to your hate. see how far that gets you.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • Habadabilis

        Sorry, this was not the post I meant to respond to!

        July 29, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  3. jennygirl

    if the church stands for nothing, the church is irrelevant. he's yes-manning his way out of existence.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Observer

      The Pope is standing for the Golden Rule which is a new concept for many Christians.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Agnostickids

        Evidently from ms jenny's post, so is the English language...

        July 29, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Agnostickids

      yes manning? ROFL!!!!

      July 29, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Owl96

      Do not read too much into the Pope's remarks. Pope Francsis was addressing how to minister to those on the "fringe" of the Church. He was not addressing the core teachings. The Catholic Church still stands for everything it has stood for.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Jeff E.

      Seems to me he's taking a very strong stand for compassion and forgiveness. What part of those two qualities do you think go against the teachings of Christ?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • SteveInMN


      If a renewed, more tolerant Catholicism does not appeal to you, please look elsewhere.

      ENJOY the Taliban!

      July 29, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  4. Lagos

    I was baptized Catholic and still attend a Catholic church but have identified myself as an independent Christian due to various issues with stances the Church holds. I am very happy to see Pope Francis embrace Jesus' messages of love and compassion for EVERYONE, and his recognition that everyone is a sinner and that we have no place judging the soul of another human being. Even if you're the pope.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • sonny chapman


      July 29, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  5. thiagan

    "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life"
    Is there any confusion in these simple words?

    July 29, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Agnostickids

      Just that anyone could have said them and yet they are attributed to a dead man.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Zeke2112

      Yes, there is. How do you know which of one thousand schizophrenic individuals who say them is telling the truth?

      July 29, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Capt Nemo

        Probably it was Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, not schizophrenia.

        July 29, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • playinj30

      you mean, other than the fact that they are completely meaningless hollow words because they have no context attached to them.

      "I am the truth"... truth is a concept, it can not be a physical embodiment. It makes no sense for someone to say "I am the truth." Perhaps, I "tell the truth" or I "know the truth"... but not am the truth.

      So yes, heaps of confusion.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • jen

      For the one looking with Holy Spirit opened eyes, there is no confusion on those words spoken by Jesus. It is by faith we see and understand, this faith is a gift from God through Jesus Christ. You are correct thiagan <3

      July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Everyman

      Jesus also said nothing about gays. If you're going to quote him then also mention what he omitted.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  6. Massman

    Epigenetic markers inherited during pregnancy cause those "tendencies". No amount of moralizing will stop straight parents from having gay babies.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • PrayAwayTheGay

      Nice try .. it's a lifestyle choice. If you want to be gay, be proud and stand by it; don't hide behind "but I was born that way".

      July 29, 2013 at 9:56 am |
      • Darko

        You were born a human, but your church made you a monster

        July 29, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • Jesus the Christ

        Umm...knowing that you were born g*y isn't hiding behind anything...is there something that you're hiding yourself?

        July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        Bigotry is a choice. Being LGBT is not. Getting an education on this matter and not from the bible might do you some good.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  7. Agnostickids

    Whenever you're feeling stupid...

    Just remember there's still people out there

    That believe the earth is only 6000 years old.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Aaron

      If you ever feel stupid, remember that there are people who think that Christians think the world is 6,000 years old when the Bible never says that and clearly says the Earth existed before He created man. We've never been able to prove the Bible wrong so we're just going to put words in the Bible that we can prove wrong.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:56 am |
      • Observer


        Of course the Bible is wrong. It's full of errors and contradictions. Read it sometime.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:58 am |
      • SteveInMN

        He did not say Bishop Usher's silliness was in the Bible....

        July 29, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  8. Bender Bending Rodriguez

    This guy’s great, isn’t he?

    July 29, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  9. Saleh srour

    This is a grate pope

    July 29, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • SteveInMN

      So far, I have not found him grating at all....

      July 29, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  10. Spencer

    I am not a Catholic, nor do I consider myself Christian in the conventional sense, but nonetheless I think Pope Francis is fantastic.
    Here is a Pope who is actually doing things and speaking in the ways of Christ. Isn't that what Christians were supposed to do all along? An enormous number of Christians and also the Catholic Church became so incredibly removed from the teachings of Christ. Pope Francis is now bringing Catholicism/Christianity to what it always should have been – following the teachings of Christ and behaving like Christ. I support him and he gets my respect.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Super Catholic

      Of course you think he's fantastic. You are a degenerate.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • Bender Bending Rodriguez

        How you could not like the Pope if you’re a super Catholic?

        July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am |
      • David Strapko

        I don't understand how the catholic church can just change rules. I doubt God just keeps changing his mind. Are you following God or the Pope?

        July 29, 2013 at 10:38 am |
        • Damia Savon

          Amusingly, neither the Pope nor God has changed anything at all. People just keep acting like something has changed.

          July 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
      • joylovejournal

        Wow, well praise the Lord! This is how you conduct yourself as a Christian and you expect us to think that you are of goodwill and following holy teachings? You think your Pope is awful because he is merciful and loving and then if someone thinks he is great then they are clearly a degenerate. How ironic "Super Catholic". Disgusting.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Frank

      You don't consider yourself a Christian then you think you know the way of Christ? You are a hypocrite. What is the message of Christ? Why did He come? Why did he shed His blood for us? Why did He say he will come again? Go and find out first, before you make silly remarks like you just did.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  11. Cheryl Comes At Night

    The pope is just doin his job as pope.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Scott

      He is Poping the heck outta his job.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  12. Akela

    Though I am not religious, I do admire this pope. Despite the slight hypocrisy of the position, he really does preach compassion and acceptance about everything others do differently. Which I've always agreed was the good side to religion and hope to see more of it. Nowadays we need less crusading and more love and kindness.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  13. Agnostickids

    If scientists are "playing god,"

    Wouldn't they be doing NOTHING?

    July 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  14. Yon

    And I am Mickey mouse

    July 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  15. Carmen

    The Church has maintain that we hate the sin not the sinners, but if they do not act upon their inclinations. Most priests involved in abuse were gay priests that like young , just as the NAMBLA a gay organization that wants to have the age of consent lowered for boys.
    It is not accepted by all cultures, no matter what stories gays/lesbians tell.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Observer

      NAMBLA is the gay equivalent of Westboro Baptist Church for Christians.

      Get back to reality.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • paul

      If you don't know the difference between a gay person and a pedophile, then you shouldn't be commenting. The ignorance on display in your comment is baffling.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:47 am |
      • Yon

        Both are called abominations in the bible and that is the basis for all western faith. Go make that argument with your gay buddies, not here where the subject is a catholic pope

        July 29, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as hom.ose.xuals, heterose.xuals, or bise.xuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their se.xual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women.
      Perpetrators with a more or less exclusive interest in children are labeled fixated. Fixation means "a temporary or permanent arrestment of psychological maturation resulting from unresolved formative issues which persist and underlie the organization of subsequent phases of development".
      By contrast, other molesters are described as regressed. Regression is "a temporary or permanent appearance of primitive behavior after more mature forms of expression had been attained, regardless of whether the immature behavior was actually manifested earlier in the individual's development".

      Doctors Groth and Birnbaum studied 175 adult males who were convicted in Massachusetts of se.xual assault against a child. None of the men had an exclusively ho.mos.exual adult se.xual orientation. 83 (47%) were classified as "fixated;" 70 others (40%) were classified as regressed adult heterose.xuals; the remaining 22 (13%) were classified as regressed adult bise.xuals. Of the last group, Groth and Birnbaum observed that "in their adult relationships they engaged in s.ex on occasion with men as well as with women. However, in no case did this attraction to men exceed their preference for women....There were no men who were primarily se.xually attracted to other adult males..."

      July 29, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  16. Agnostickids

    If Adam and Eve didn't know good from evil before eating the fruit....

    How could they have known it was wrong to disobey god?

    July 29, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Yon

      It also says Adam knew his wife. Know means to experience

      July 29, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • GetReal

      They were given instructions as to what would happen. Just because you ignore the manual, doesn't make it ok!

      July 29, 2013 at 9:44 am |
      • Yon

        That was not an answer.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • paul

      The entire book of genesis is a parable and not to be taken literally. If the jews don't take it literally (and they would know since it is their book), neither should catholics. The world wasn't created in 7 24 hour days either.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Catholics do not take Genesis literally.
        There are few denominations left that cling to literalism and most of them are in America (ie: Baptists)

        July 29, 2013 at 9:55 am |
        • Victor

          We catholics believe in Faith AND Reason. Or, we should anyways...

          July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Lilyq

      Because God had a talk with them beforehand and told them not to. When you were a child your parents did the same for you. They, having knowledge you did not, warned you ahead of time of things that were dangerous. And so it is with God and His children.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • TheKid85

      Because God told them NOT to eat from that tree. They knew that it was therefore wrong to eat from that tree, because their Father (or master, however you want to put it) told them not to. They disobeyed and ate anyway.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
      • Damia Savon

        Of course, but God also didn't bother to explain to either Adam or Eve why he was making such a bizarre edict. Parents tell their kids "don't do that" and yet kids do it anyway. Why? Kids are curious. If you simply forbid something then it become attractive and interesting. If you explain it in detail then it becomes uninteresting and boring.

        July 29, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • constantine

      that is stupid. where do you and other agnostics/atheists come up with these ridiculous and senseless metaphors for the teachings of the Bible? It's from a lack of education, rooted morals and values.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Hammerdown

      If you believe the Adam & Eve story, all of mankind comes from incest.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  17. Shamma Lammadingdong

    He's right. Who is he to judge? I love all the "christians" on here who claim to follow Jesus' teachings but are nothing but hypocrites when they judge and denounce others because it goes against their individual interpretations of stories in a book. Instead of lessons of tolerance and acceptance, they pervert the stories into a basis for hate and ridicule.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Yon

      I can judge fine and I am no xtian. The bible says it is an abomination. That is the truth. Don't like it? Tough luck. Find another book to read then. Lying about what is in a book is not tolerance, it is just lying.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:45 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        In the Biblical sense of the word, "abomination" means "ritually unclean".
        Hence the consumption of shellfish and pork, sowing two crops in one field, women who wear pants, and men who trim the sides of their beards are all "abominations".
        The word itself appears 67 times in the Bible – but only twice in the New Testament.
        Luke 16:15 calls the love of money an abomination and Revelation (arguably the most absurd chapter of the book) simply says that those who practice abomination won't get into Heaven.

        As a Christian, do you really adhere to all the procriptions in Leviticus?

        July 29, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • paul

      The problem with catholics and the catholic church in general is that they don't focus on the teachings of jesus. They invented their own religion with a lot of pagan influence.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • Richard Cranium

        All religions are invented by men. There are no exceptions.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  18. Travis

    I'm not Catholic and certainly have many problems with the way Catholic Church has acted in the past. However I have to say I love the new Popes message of acceptance and helping your fellow man regardless of religious or personal beliefs . He seems like a truly humble man willing to admit past injustices.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      When I see 100% disclosure on the ped0phile scandal, with prosecution of those who violated laws, and compensation for all victims, then I will believe it.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  19. Grim Reaper

    Pope= politician

    July 29, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Shamma Lammadingdong

      You = Troll

      July 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  20. The fact of the matter

    Who are you to judge? You're the POPE for cryin' out loud. Quit waffling and do your job!!!

    July 29, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Jim Brody

      Don't know much about Christianity, do you?

      July 29, 2013 at 9:46 am |
      • Yon

        It appears you don't

        The pope represents god here on earth according to that church, the bible is the word of god according to that church. Pope = Fail! He truly does not know what he was appointed to do.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:53 am |
        • Damia Savon

          Apparently you do not know much about anything because what you wrote is utterly absurd given the Pope's actual remark.

          July 29, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Marcel Moreno

      I think that the Bible is very clear on this point, only the Lord can pass judgement.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Anthony

      did you skip over the part in the bible that says only god can judge? it is sad to see a person wishing his faith was more hateful

      July 29, 2013 at 10:38 am |
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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.