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. Ol' Yeller

    Okay Quickdraw...
    Do you support that the earth is the center of the universe and the sun revolves around it?
    Do you support that while women are on their menstrual cycle they should be banished to the wilderness?
    Do you support laws to ostracize and condemn eaters of shrimp, crab, crayfish, etc...?
    Do you support laws to ostracize and condemn men who shave?

    BTW- Go Pope Francis- you rock. Judge not, though ye be judged. It is NOT his job to judge gays according to your Bible (which you support wholeheartedly) that is only for your God to decide.

    October 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Reality

      Scripture taken out of context becomes the pretext for whatever you want to say.

      October 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  2. Ken Swanson

    Pope Francis –
    Do you read the Bible? Are you supposed to teach from the Bible?

    October 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Doris

      What makes you think he doesn't? Could it be, somewhere among the over 40,000 sects of Christianity, that you are surprised his interpretation of something is different than yours?

      October 19, 2013 at 1:20 am |
  3. saintmaxwell

    This pope is being economical with the truth on the gay issue. The bible's view on being gay is clear and unambiguous and we actually dont need his holiness to tell us what he already know. He is probably thinking and talking as expected, a political leadership requires political/diplomatic statements that are usually half truths.

    October 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Jen

      The Pope must judge when someone is breaking Gods laws, he is the head of the Catholic church

      October 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
      • Observer


        Skip the hypocrisy. There's virtually ZERO CHANCE that you believe and support everything in the Bible.

        October 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
        • Jen

          God does not makes excuses for debauchery remember that, you will pay for it in one way or another, remember that

          December 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
        • Jen

          Why shouldn't i believe everything in the bible?Especially since Sodom and Gomorrah has been found in 1992, Noahs Ark, and the list goes on, of course i believe i am a Christian

          December 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
        • Observer


          Obviously, the ark hasn't been found.

          By the way, the SIN of Sodom wasn't being gay, but being GREEDY.

          You shouldn't believe EVERYTHING in the Bible unless you support slavery and discrimination against women.

          February 7, 2014 at 7:38 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          you know nothing of God despite the fact that you can read. don't pretend that you do.

          May 12, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
        • observer


          "you know nothing of God despite the fact that you can read. don't pretend that you do.'

          God said that the sin of Sodom was greed.

          So does that mean:

          (a) God was lying
          (b) God didn't know what he was talking about
          (c) God was an unreliable source
          or (d) YOU don't know what you are talking about?

          Which one?

          May 12, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
      • saintmaxwell

        ...and that judgement needs to reflect what God's words are. The Pope is a spiritual leader not political and does not need to make categorical, Bible-supported statements no matter whose ox is gored.

        October 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
        • midwest rail

          " The Pope is a spiritual leader not political...."
          Yeah, right. That's why they have embassies.

          October 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
        • Observer


          "...and that judgement needs to reflect what God's words are."

          So should the Pope endorse slavery and beating children with rods to discipline them?

          October 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • saintmaxwell

          I personally believe that a child can be corrected whilst using the rod as a form of discipline, and trust me it does work. As to whether the Pope should sanction slavery, I would refer you to http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2012/what-god-says-about-slavery. There is no doubt that the Bible has answer to every human question and with the help of the Holy Spirit, understanding God isn't as confusing as it appears.

          October 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
        • Observer


          There's no question but that the Bible sanctions slavery. Beating children may be fine for you, but many decent people consider it to be immoral and illegal.

          Why not skip the hypocrisy? There's ZILCH chance you support everything in the Bible.

          October 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
        • QuickDraw

          Observer, I support EVERYTHING in the Bible, EVERYTHING. The rod, turning the other cheek, go on ask of anything else that in your limited human 'wisdom' you consider repugnant and I will show you the wisdom of God from His word ..

          October 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” – John 10:3-5, NKJV ("he calls his own sheep by name", these others are not His sheep. "they will by no means follow a stranger", we will never follow a hireling such as this pope. Jesus Christ is our high priest, not the pope.

        May 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      @saintmaxwell- Maybe you can help me then since you seem to be so smart and know exactly what the Bible says... I have a neighbor who is gay. He is a great guy, a wonderful neighbor, very trustworthy, and would give anyone the shirt off his back. He also attends Church every Sunday and Wednesday, is in the choir, helps with the youth groups, and visits the elderly. The problem being, since he is my neighbor, should I love him like the Bible says, or since, as you state, "The bible's view on being gay is clear and unambiguous and we actually dont need his holiness to tell us what he already know."; should I kill him now and if so, how?
      Also, since you didn't capitalize His Holiness, and the Bible, how can I go about meeting and killing you, since you are obviously a heretic and a blasphemer and the Bible's view on being a heretic and blasphemer is clear and unambiguous and we actually dont need His Holiness to tell us what we already know.
      (This is satire and I don't really want to meet up with saintmaxwell and kill him- just wanting to point out what a charlatan and judgeMENTAL a$$ hole he really is).

      October 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
      • Jen

        All i can say is this, if it were Armagedon, i have not sinned, and if i have i have repeneted, out of true remorse, and if God were to say to me Has mankind twisted my laws around to suit himself?I would have to be truthful, and say Yes Father in Heaven, he has

        October 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • saintmaxwell

        The fact that your neighbor attends church or is "in the choir, helps with the youth groups, and visits the elderly" does not means he can as well be gay, neither does he needs to be killed. Being gay is not natural and is a sin in the eyes of God (Romans 1:26-27 KJV). Your friend needs help from God not judgement from any man (including me) and he can get that help from God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit but he must accept that being gay is not natural and not try to justify it. It begins from there. If God wanted men to sleep with men, don't you think He would have created two men in the garden of Eden instead of a man and woman? Mankind is always looking for ways to justify their lustful inclinations and liberty.

        October 17, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
        • Mike

          Absolute garbage. God doesn't judge gays and guess what...the bible is wrong! Do I burn in hell now or later? God loves that gay person just as much as anyone.

          October 18, 2013 at 11:51 am |
        • Jen

          God does judge, that's why He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and also sent the great floods

          October 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        you foolishly defy God since these are God's laws that are being pointed out, take it to a higher authority you self-righteous Pharisee.

        May 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
        • observer


          Judging others and name-calling.

          Well done. Just like Jesus told you to do, right?

          May 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm |
    • Seán

      The bible was written by men who had feet of clay. It is only to be expected that its contents reflect the mistaken beliefs of his followers while, at the same time, telling the story of the last three years of his life on earth. Infallibility of popes is an invention of the higher up officers of the RC Church and has absolutely not been granted in any of the teachings of Christ.

      October 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  4. Sanity

    The Pope still hates Sin/s but is reinvigorating and or reigniting the Love of the Whole Person despite the sins, we must have compassion for conversion, it isn't an either/or. “Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.” – Orthodoxy, 1908

    October 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  5. Kate

    The Roman Catholic Church and I was raised in it – schools and all – does not look anything like what Jesus' ministry did when He walked the earth. I hope this pope does not think he IS Jesus. But I think they are counting on his speech to gloss things over. You can't argue with a peaceful person who loves everyone. And what he said was in his black bag is such crock. A book of St Teresa. my eye. Probably some money in check form being taken to Brazil.

    October 12, 2013 at 4:45 am |
    • Sanity

      I'm praying for you Kate, you are probably very hurt and are harboring guilt. Either way, remember if the Pope has no option of any infallibility then do you? “Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.” – Orthodoxy, 1908

      October 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  6. Chris

    Who am I to judge "GAYS", this Pope is a joke and a fake to Christ who will pay for his crimes one day.

    October 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      Judge not, lest ye be judged.

      October 11, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
      • Sanity

        why don't you establish who the Magisterium is before using a text to teach people. Blessings

        October 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Sanity

      Hey Chris, is that infallible from you or partially or what? Let us know how you escape the duty and responsibility of having a Magisterium and how you defend your truth telling with out implicitly taking it's place. There's no way around it bud, we should never throw out the baby with the bathwater, and that is what happened with the "Reformation". Come home to the RCC, (remember, words don't have to be explicitly stated in the Bible (if we agree on the right bible) to be true, for this would be self refuting, in that the Bible doesn't tell us that the Bible will be here as it is) Blessings to/thru you

      October 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        Hello Sanity. I just want you to know Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, just one of His blessed attributes, that of immutability. We can be assured that what He has said will come to pass and His will will be done.
        “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
        And do not return there,
        But water the earth,
        And make it bring forth and bud,
        That it may give seed to the sower
        And bread to the eater,
        So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
        It shall not return to Me void,
        But it shall accomplish what I please,
        And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10-11, NKJV

        We do not add to scripture as did the Pharisees of old. Christ warned us to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and He was speaking as much to us as to His disciples then knowing full well what would happen in 70AD. He also restated what He had told the prophet Isaiah, These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
        And honor Me with their lips,
        But their heart is far from Me.
        And in vain they worship Me,
        Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

        Unfortunately the RCC has added much in the way of worship and ceremony that can be found nowhere in scripture. This is the yeast of the Pharisees. There is no priest on earth who can plead to the Father for us, only the Lord Jesus Christ can do this. – peace to you.

        May 12, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          "These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
          and honor Me with their lips,
          But their heart is far from Me.
          and in vain they worship Me,
          teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Matthew 15:8-9, NKJV

          Christ quoting Isaiah and the prophesy He gave then concerning those who would supplant His word with the commandments of men. This is the leaven seen in the church today, and not just the RCC.

          May 12, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Rev Dr Felix Nwosu

    Thank you sir. But what is bad is bad and what is good is good with respect sir i am not comfortable with this statement. it looks as if the church is shying away from it's responsibility and is unlikable by righteousness around the world.shalom.

    October 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      Maybe someday you will grow up and realize that gay people are really not all that much different from, say, left-handed people.

      We used to discriminate against left-handed people, too, you know.

      October 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting – Romans 1:26-28, NKJV

        May 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
        • observer


          Romans (12:20) also says “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.”

          Do you do that and believe and practice EVERYTHING that Romans says or are you just another pick-and-choose Christian HYPOCRITE?

          May 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
  8. Youtube - The Origin of Religion


    October 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • John

      I wonder if any of the ignorant people on here actually watched that.

      October 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  9. Jon

    How can a celibate preist be gay??

    October 1, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • sam stone

      i think orientation has to do with attraction, not action

      October 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
      • saintmaxwell

        A celibate gay priest is not celibate afterall. He's merely deceiving himself.

        October 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Heath

      wink-wink (unfortunately)

      October 13, 2013 at 10:51 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.