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. peacetoworld


    February 24, 2014 at 6:45 am |
  2. peacetoworld

    KEY TO Paradise

    February 24, 2014 at 6:34 am |
  3. Truth


    (2 Timothy 3:16) 16 All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness. . .

    February 7, 2014 at 10:09 pm |
    • Observer

      Timothy (I Tim. 2:12) also includes nonsense like “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.”

      So what is your point?

      February 7, 2014 at 10:17 pm |
      • Truth

        In true Christianity sisters understand the principle of headship and that they are not suppose to teach in a congregation setting unless there are no men to take the lead. But most other avenues of preaching and teaching in non-congregation settings is acceptable (Psalms 68:11) Without the support of millions of sisters in the door to door ministry, and home bible teaching program it would be difficult to preach the Good News of the Kingdom threw out the entire inhabited earth. Matthew 24:14 Women are also free to comment at Christian meeting but just not in a role of a leader which is consistent with scripture.

        February 7, 2014 at 10:43 pm |
        • Observer


          So apparently you support this example of discrimination against women, who supposedly need smarter men to tell them what they are ignorant about.

          It is, of course, a real JOKE since the person with the highest IQ in the world is a woman.

          February 7, 2014 at 10:49 pm |
        • Truth

          God's word tells us that it has to do with emotional makeup rather than IQ as to why headship is the way it is.
          (1 Timothy 2:14) . . .Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived and came to be in transgression. . .
          (1 Corinthians 11:3) . . .But I want YOU to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God. . .

          February 7, 2014 at 11:12 pm |
        • Observer


          "God's word tells us that it has to do with emotional makeup rather than IQ as to why headship is the way it is."

          How incredibly CHAUVINISTIC of you. The woman with the highest IQ could run circles around both of us and you are actually ignorant enough to think that she would let emotion run her rather than her vastly superior INTELLIGENCE.

          Get serious.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:20 pm |
        • Truth

          Friend I have been married to a very intelligent woman for a very long time but at certain time she thinks with her heart and not with her head just as all women do.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
        • Observer


          Some women are content to be inferior. That's fine for you, but not good for a lot of very intelligent women who enjoy thinking for themselves. Why should they be subservient to a lesser intelligent male?

          February 7, 2014 at 11:31 pm |
        • Truth

          If Adam and Eve would have followed the rules governing headship the world would be a different place.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:34 pm |
        • Observer


          Of course. Eve did listen to a TALKING SERPENT that knew the language she spoke. It's no wonder she was punished for trying to get information from the tree of KNOWLEDGE.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:39 pm |
        • Truth


          February 7, 2014 at 11:40 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” – John 2:4, NKJV (was Christ being disrespectful in calling His mother "woman" ? Absolutely not. As her creator, (as he is everyone's creator) He was making it known to her His deity. She understood implicitly that it was the Lord was speaking to her and thus she took no offense. She might have had she not been spiritual. Only those who are spiritual can discern these things and it is no wonder people like observ3r cannot understand God's ways or His will. Sadly they are spiritually dead.

          May 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
        • observer


          Is "spiritually dead" like when you tell lies about me and ignore the Ten Commandment about "false witness"?

          Is "spiritually dead" like when you pick negative verses about gays when Jesus preached the Golden Rule?

          May 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          “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

          His watchmen are blind, They are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, They cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. – Isaiah 56:10, NKJV

          May 24, 2014 at 9:28 am |
        • awanderingscot

          “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

          His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. – Isaiah 56:10

          May 24, 2014 at 9:29 am |
        • observer


          The pope seems to by trying to follow the Golden Rule. In your case, you are just a HYPOCRITE.

          May 28, 2014 at 7:22 am |
  4. Truth

    How unfortunate that the Pope doesn't realize that the conduct of man has already been judged by God. Our conduct is either accepted or rejected by the bible so we don't have to judge conduct because it has been done by the One who defines righteousness. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10; Romans 1:27; Hebrews 13:4

    'True Christianity' does not conform to the desires of the people but holds God's righteous standards on high and abides by them. 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6; 1 Corinthians 5:13

    February 1, 2014 at 4:53 am |
    • Real Truth

      Problem is, Christian god obviously doesn't exist.

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

        There are many bible prophecies that are being fulfilled in our day that say otherwise and how can any reasonable person deny the magnificent blueprint of everything we see (it didn't all happen by chance).

        (Romans 1:20) . . .For his invisible [qualities] are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable. . .

        February 7, 2014 at 8:48 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          What prophesy – specifics please, what will happen and when exactly?

          February 7, 2014 at 10:26 pm |
        • Truth

          Specifically Matthew 24:14 (Matthew 24:36) and Micah 4:2
          The Good New about the Kingdom of God is being preach in over 235 lands and hundreds of languages

          Many people are learning the truth about God and dedicating their lives to the God of all comfort.

          February 7, 2014 at 10:54 pm |
    • Observer


      God's "righteous" standards are often IMMORAL by good people today. Read the rest of the Bible.

      February 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm |
      • Truth

        Those who follow God faithfully don't use the fact that we are imperfect to repeatedly commit sin.

        (Jude 4) . . .certain men have slipped in who have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to this judgment, ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct . . .

        February 7, 2014 at 8:43 pm |
        • Observer


          Do you CHOOSE the negative verses about gays to repeat or do you CHOOSE the MORE IMPORTANT Golden Rule in dealing with gays?

          February 7, 2014 at 10:08 pm |
        • Truth

          Out of love God warns us about our conduct and what will happen if we do and don't follow his loving direction. We all have to deny ourselves the things that we may be most passionate about if they are in conflict with his will.

          (John 3:16) . . .“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. . .

          (Jude 7) . . .are placed before [us] as a [warning] example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire. . .

          February 7, 2014 at 10:24 pm |
        • Observer


          Sorry, but you appear to have missed my question.

          When talking about gays, do you CHOOSE to quote the negative passages from the Bible or do you CHOOSE to quote the MORE IMPORTANT Golden Rule?

          February 7, 2014 at 10:32 pm |
        • Truth

          We present God's message. We don't bash or hate any person and are willing to help anyone but at the same time we have the commission to tell people what God is going to do. We don't have the ability to judge hearts but He has defined conduct that will be blessed or judged.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
        • Observer


          "We present God's message"

          So is "God's message" the negative verses in the Bible or the Golden Rule?

          You still haven't answered my question after 2 or 3 times.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:07 pm |
        • Truth

          I think the scriptures actually answered your question.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:14 pm |
        • Truth

          I think the scriptures answered that for you.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
        • Truth

          Would it be a loving thing for your doctor to only tell you the good things about your health or would it be just as important to tell you if you had a life threatening condition as well?

          February 7, 2014 at 11:21 pm |
        • Observer


          Amazing. After asking so many times, you are still STUMPED.

          I asked what YOU do. You are actually telling me you can't even answer a question about what YOU DO.

          And you might wonder why so many non-believers have so little use for the credibility of many Christians!

          February 7, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
        • Truth

          Friend I follow the example of Jesus Christ who told of his Father's blessing and his judgments. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

          February 7, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
        • Observer


          "Friend I follow the example of Jesus Christ who told of his Father's blessing and his judgments."

          Jesus repeatedly said how important the Golden Rule is.

          What did he say about gays?

          So do you ACTUALLY "follow the example of Jesus Christ" when it comes to gays? APPARENTLY NOT.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:35 pm |
        • Truth

          What did he say about gays?

          February 7, 2014 at 11:36 pm |
        • Observer


          "What did he say about gays?"

          Nada. Nothing. Nil. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

          Why can't Christians follow the EXAMPLE of Jesus?

          February 7, 2014 at 11:44 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it". – John 8:44, NKJV – our Lord Jesus Christ speaking to the unbelieving Jews who mistakenly thought because the were physical descendants of Abraham, that they were children of God. Jesus Christ is perfect in His love.

          May 9, 2014 at 10:07 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 9, 2014 at 10:16 pm |
        • observer


          Romans also says to feed your enemies.

          How many pounds of food have you sent to enemies like al Qaeda or do you just HYPOCRITICALLY PICK and CHOOSE from the Bible.

          May 9, 2014 at 10:24 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        Observer stated "Why should they be subservient to a lesser intelligent male?" speaking of women. BECAUSE GOD SAID SO, that's why. Have you confronted Him about this Observer? It's His arrangement and the role He has assigned to her, who are you to question Him? Why are you here attacking Christians and God's word the Bible? His arrangement in no way shape or form diminishes the woman or makes her inferior to the man, it's the role God has assigned to her just as the man has his role. You have no spiritual discernment and you don't know scripture so why do you even bring these subjects up? It is because you hate Christians?

        May 11, 2014 at 10:30 pm |
        • observer


          "Why are you here attacking Christians and God's word the Bible?"

          I'm not "attacking" all Christians, just the ones who are HYPOCRITES. I tell them what the Bible actually says and they don't like it and get upset. They'd rather use it as an excuse to HYPOCRITICALLY attack gays, non-believers, pro-choice supporters, etc.

          The person with the highest IQ in the world is a woman. She could run circles around you and me intellectually. Now tell me she should not teach YOU and other men and I will try hard NOT to laugh. Get real.

          May 11, 2014 at 10:40 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          You have to first believe the bible in it's entirety yourself and you obviously don't, so you don't have God's spirit and are utterly unqualified to quote it.

          May 11, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
        • observer


          Pathetic response. Anyone who can read English can quote it. Is English a problem for you?

          May 11, 2014 at 11:23 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          so basically what you are saying is that you have been appointed by God, whom you also don't believe in, to judge Christians here, am i correct? Oh wait, but only the morals you think are right and discarding the ones our Creator gave right?

          May 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
        • observer


          "so basically what you are saying is that you have been appointed by God, whom you also don't believe in, to judge Christians here, am i correct?"

          Once again, you are WRONG, but at least you are CONSISTENTLY WRONG.

          I report what the Bible ACTUALLY SAYS and you don't like it so you HYPOCRITICALLY attack the messenger in total opposition to what Jesus would do. It's not my fault that you know so little about the Bible.

          New commandment that you apparently aren't familiar with: Do not bear false witness. Please START following it.

          May 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          LOL .. how have i borne false witness? Your own words here on this blog convict you, calling God a murderer and a liar. shameful.

          May 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
        • observer


          If the killing of a fetus who has committed NO SIN is murder, then God is a murderer.

          I NEVER said God was a LIAR, but you are.


          May 16, 2014 at 1:30 am |
        • observer


          I never called God a liar.
          You said I did.

          Let's see who the LIAR is. Check what I said.
          OOOOOOOPS!. I NEVER said that.
          You continue to LIE and continue NOT to follow the Ten Commandments.

          God must be SO PROUD of someone like you that IGNORES what he said. What a HYPOCRITE you are..

          May 17, 2014 at 9:29 am |
    • awanderingscot

      His watchmen are blind, They are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, They cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yes, they are greedy dogs Which never have enough. And they are shepherds Who cannot understand; They all look to their own way, Every one for his own gain, From his own territory. "Come," one says, "I will bring wine, And we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; Tomorrow will be as today, And much more abundant." – Isaiah 56:10-12

      May 9, 2014 at 9:23 pm |
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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.