September 19th, 2013
11:01 AM ET

Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

By Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors
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(CNN) - Pope Francis said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians, expanding on explosive comments he made in July about not judging homosexuals.

In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, the pope also said that women must play a key role in church decisions and brushed off critics who say he should be more vocal about fighting abortion and gay marriage.

Moreover, if the church fails to find a "new balance" between its spiritual and political missions, the pope warned, its moral foundation will "fall like a house of cards."

The interview, released by Jesuit magazines in several different languages and 16 countries on Thursday, offers perhaps the most expansive and in-depth view of Francis' vision for the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope's comments don't break with Catholic doctrine or policy, but instead show a shift in approach, moving from censure to engagement.

Elected in March with the expectation that he would try to reform the Vatican, an institution that many observers say is riven by corruption and turf wars, Francis said his first mission is to change the church's "attitude."

"The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things," the pope said, "in small-minded rules."

"The people of God want pastors," Francis continued, "not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."

MORE ON CNN: New interview shows why the pope is so beloved 

The interview was conducted by the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal based in Rome, over three meetings this August at Francis' apartment in Rome.

The pope approved the transcript in Italian, according to America magazine, a Jesuit journal based in New York that initiated the interview and supervised its translation into English.

Advance copies of the interview were provided to several news organizations, including CNN.

Jesuits from around the world submitted questions to Spadaro. Francis answered them with the frankness that has become a hallmark of his young papacy.

To begin the interview, Spadoro bluntly asks, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergolio?" - Francis's name before he was elected pope.

"I am a sinner," the pope answers. "This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

The pope didn't mention any particular sins, and Catholic theology holds that all humans are sinners, a consequence of Adam and Eve's original transgression. Still, a pope describing himself foremost as "sinner" is striking.

MORE ON CNN: The pope said what? Six stunners from Francis

Offering new glimpses of his personal life, Francis said he prays at the dentist's office and felt trapped in the Vatican's traditional papal apartments. (He moved to a smaller one in a nearby building.) He has a taste for tragic artists and Italian films and keeps the will of his beloved grandmother in his prayerbook.

But it was the pope's vision for the church's future  - painted in broad strokes - that's sure to rile or inspire Catholics, depending on which side of the church they sit.

Here are some highlights:

On Women

In July, Francis said, emphatically, that the "door is closed," on women's ordination, a statement that disappointed many Catholic liberals.

But that doesn't mean the church should consider women secondary or inferior, Francis said. "The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions," he told Spadora.

Francis also called on Catholics to think hard about the function of women in the church.

"Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed," the pope said. "The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role."

On Homosexuality 

When Francis was a bishop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he received letters from gays and lesbians who said they were "socially wounded" by the church, he said.

"But the church does not want to do this," Francis said in the interview.

The pope then recalled his comments in July, when he told the media aboard a flight to Rome, "Who am I to judge" gay people?

MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis on gays: 'Who am I to judge?'

"By saying this, I said what the catechism says," the pope told Spadaro. The catechism, the Catholic Church's book of official doctrine, condemns homosexual acts, but says gays and lesbians "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity."

"Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."

Francis said that someone once asked him if he "approved" of homosexuality.

"I replied with another question," he said. "`Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being."

Abortion, gay marriage and contraception 

Some American Catholics grumble that Francis has been largely silent on signature Catholic political issues.

"I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that," Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said earlier this month.

Francis said that he's aware of the criticism, but he is not going to change.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods," he told his Jesuit interviewer. "I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that."

But the pope said the church's teachings on those issue are clear, and he clearly believes in those teachings, so what else is there to say?

"It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," Francis said.

False prophets and quick decisions

Only false prophets claim to have all the answers, Francis said.

"The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt," he said. "You must leave room for the Lord."

But church leaders, including himself, haven't always practiced humility, the pope admitted.

Many of the bad decisions he made while leading Catholics in Argentina came about because of  his "authoritarianism and quick manner of making decisions," the pope said.

That won't happen again, Francis said, as he begins to steer the church in a new direction.

He didn't offer an exact course, but he said change will come. Sooner or later.

"Many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time," he said. "I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Gay rights • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (3,625 Responses)
  1. tonyl9973

    something totally new and amazing is coming due for catholics.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  2. turntheheart

    Abortion, contraception, and redefining marriage are only the symptoms our modern age. The Holy Father knows we need to treat the causes, as we've done for 2,000 years. This is all in the Catechism. It's motivating.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  3. John

    What an absolute farce. People created religion merely to excuse their immorality and absence of virtue.

    If the pope wants to be so noble and outspoken, then he should be focusing on preventing the Diocese from entering the pants of little boys as a means to create fodder for redemption.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  4. Darrell

    Pope Francis will go down in history as the savoir of the Catholic church. Catholicism was on a downward spiral until Francis came on board, and Without his practical and literal leadership, who knows where the church would end up. Hes a good man for the job

    September 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  5. Susan

    Every pope is just a man.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  6. Ivy's Grama

    I too am grateful for Pope Francis...and I agree that as a Catholic we finally have a light we can be proud to follow. He makes it all sound so simple, and I for one appreciate that. I think more than anything is wonderful fact that someone has found something more important than money...

    September 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • GreenClogs

      Agreed! I am no longer a very religious person but Papa Francesca gives me hope that the Catholic Church one day may realize it's enormous potential.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  7. dan o

    Ah... the bitterness is truly festered... So many who have been harmed by the church or perceive harm from the church, cling to their hypocritical judgment of it. "All we ever wanted was acceptance and love" and now that you have it you reject it saying: " I dont believe you .OR.. its too late."

    I'm not Catholic... but experienced the same thing in the Christian church. If you cant embrace those who are now willing to embrace you then just admit you are only interested in excuses for doing your own thing.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Bobby

      I can't stand when people contrast Catholic churches with Christian churches. Do you think they aren't Christian?

      September 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  8. Idiots

    F the Bible and anyone who believes it has ANYTHING to do with truth. You are all idiots. It's why the world is the way it is...

    September 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Paul

      The Bible does have truth in it – the 10 commandments as an example are great guidelines for a moral civil society and I can believe them even if I don't believe they were written by the finger of God. The golden rule is a great rule to live by even if I don't care whether or not Jesus said to follow it. Like anything, you don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water. There are also great teaching from Buddha even if I don't really know who the dude was supposed to be. You anger isn't with the Bible – it's just literature, your anger is with Religion and rightfully so. Christians have engineered their own demise with their hateful and spiteful ways. They'll get their apocalypse and the persecution they look forward to so anxiously – it just won't be with the ending they believe is coming.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  9. Hisgoodteenr

    Popes are master snake oil salesmen. This one is no exception.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  10. JOHN

    As a Catholic I neither need,want, nor value you approval of OUR Pope.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |

      Godless Vagabond
      But you might value improved writing skills.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |

    • I approve of OUR pope. You?

      September 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • JAMES

      That's right, accept ONLY information fed to you from the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Cunning Stunts

      You own the pope ?

      September 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • doobzz

      Until YOUR pope stops hiding child molesters, get used to the push back.

      September 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  11. francis lawrence

    Leviticus 18:22 (KJV)
    22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

    Leviticus 20:13 (KJV)
    13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

    Deuteronomy 22:5 (KJV)
    5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

    1 Corinthians 6:9 (KJV)
    9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

    Romans 1:24 (KJV)
    24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

    Romans 1:26 (KJV)
    26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

    Romans 1:27 (KJV)
    27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |

      Godless Vagabond
      Great copy and paste job.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • GreenClogs

      God made gays. Deal with that.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Doris

      Yeah and you're not supposed to eat shellfish either. Blah blah blah.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • GreenClogs

      So you feel that you're above the Pope in Biblical interpretation?

      September 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • magicpanties

      Unicorns 4:20
      13. Thou shalt not believe in imaginary beings

      September 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
      • GreenClogs


        September 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      You really want to go down the path of claiming the OT is a good source of condemnation? because theres a lot of other stuff in there that can be used as well.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
      • Anastasia Beaverhausen

        Just a book of fiction written by men.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • MV

      Yes, that fictional book of myths and legends also includes those quotes, thanks for sharing them.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Scotty

      Leviticus says its an abomination to eat seafood and mixed garments. Those were the old days and I guess we all have fell short.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Chris

      THank you Francis Lawrence. Because Jesus, whenever he encountered a "sinner," he smashed them in the head with OT passages about their damnation. Umm, no. He loved them, just like this Pope is trying to do.

      In fact, the only people Jesus condemned were the religious leaders who did exactly what you just did and what the church has been doing – throwing rules on people.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Firstly, Christians shouldn't go spouting off Old Testament scripture as justification for bigotry.
      I sincerely doubt that you follow all the rules in Leviticus.
      But anyways, the term "abomination" means "ritually unclean" in the OT context. Shellfish, mixed fibre clothing and trimming the side of your beard are also abominations.

      In the original Greek, the words in Corinthians that are sometimes translated as "ho/mo/se/xual" are "malakoi" and "ars/enkotai".
      'Ar.senokoitai' referred to male prosti.tutes for Paul the Apostle and Christians until the 4th century.
      Until the Reformation in the 16th century and in Roman Catholicism until the 20th century, malakoi was thought to mean "mas.turb.ators." Only in the 20th century has it been understood as a reference to hom.ose.xuality.

      As for the passage in Romans – God is angry with those people not so much for the gay part, but becuase they turned apostate. They were self-professed Christians who engaged in a pagan or/gy.
      Do you think God would've been all right with it had it been a hetero or/gy?
      Note also the term "natural use". Unless you believe that people choose their se/xual orientation, that means that folk who God made naturally gay are not going against their nature when in a same gender relationship.

      Get off your scriptural high-horse.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Mary

      Yes, well, the Bible also condones slavery, plural marriage, animal sacrifice, and a number of other things. You can't just cherrypick the bits you agree with. Or rather, you CAN, but it makes you look silly.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  12. Dan

    We are individually accountable to God for our sins, whether we be gay or straight and the pope is correct in saying "who am I to judge?". If a person is a Christian and they are not comfortable with what they are doing, prayer is essential in getting the answer they need to be at peace with the Lord.

    It's not rocket science.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • edward

      Christians have no "answers" they simply have claims and dogma.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • magicpanties

      It's not science at all.
      It's a fairy tale.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • GMR

      I agree that no one should "judge". That is only God's concern. However, that doesn't mean we have to "condone" or like the lifestyle. It is true that God made all people but he did not "make gay....". He gave all of us a mind to choose to do whatever we choose. I have a godfather who is gay-I don't hate him and I care for his well-being but I do not condone his lifestyle. Bu do I berate and/or belittle him? No, I do not for it is not my place. However, this pope is a sly politician because he has found a graceful way to directly avoid responding to a very touchy situation. I do love all people believe it or not-I just don't agree with most. And for those of you that don't believe in God-that is your right and no one should "judge" you for that because we (and I) believe there is only One judge. And for those of you that like to provide unintelligent and ignorant remarks in other comments concerning this issue-why do you have to use inappropriate language and show yourself in such a bad light? You that have to do this must lead a sad life and I will pray for you. And if you want to "come back" at me with your ignorant language skills–that is your right as well. I served 21 years in the military and my father served 30 years and gave his life for your rights so "bring it on" if you feel you must. I'm always interested in other views.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  13. popseal

    A good plumb line does not swing with the wind. A church that caters to popular opinion rather than the truth, is not a church but a cluster of self serving bureaucrats. As Jesus put it, "..if the salt loses its flavor, it will be cast out and trampled under the feet of men!"

    September 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Doris

      "than the truth"

      which truth? which of the 40,000 sects of insanity do you hail from with whatever interpretation you have?

      September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  14. Rosslaw

    Still got a way to go on women as priests, abortion and gay marriage but Pope Francis is heads and shoulders better than his predescessors in conveying a simple sense of humanity.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • doobzz

      He'd do better to stop hiding child molesters.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
      • kippyafd

        Proof that he is hiding molesters? Didn't think so.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • doobzz

          Well, for starters, there's this:

          http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_crimen-sollicitationis-1962_en.html, (written by future pope Ratzinger)

          September 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm |

        Godless Vagabond
        The catholic church allows only one major change per century.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
        • CK

          Yeah, they would have admitted that the Earth revolves around the sun sooner than 1994, but they really gotta stick to those rules.

          September 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  15. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Believers who have a good grasp of theology, there are some, may be able to answer these questions. What defines God's gender? Does God have sexuality? A sexual orientation?

    September 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • magicpanties

      Let's see. He impregnates a woman to give birth to himself so he can be brutally killed.
      I'd say he's a psychopathic monster.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  16. cooluser

    Pope is old and senile. Why do they allow old demented people in the church?

    September 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm |

      Godless Vagabond
      It's a prerequisite for the job.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  17. Apple Bush

    My daughter is gay. This came as no concern to me. She was born gay. What is the issue exactly?

    September 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • magicpanties

      The issue is mass delusion, created by parents allowing their kids to be indoctrinated with fairy tales.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
      • Apple Bush


        September 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
      • cooluser

        Both religion and "gay is normal" are mass delusions.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
        • Jen B.

          the fact that you think you are a "cooluser" is a mass delusion.

          September 19, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Did you just call my daughter abnormal?:

        September 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        cooluser, it is a good thing you can hide behind the computer. I am a little crazy.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
        • cooluser

          Go shoot up some people then. I guess abnormality runs in the family. LOL!

          September 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          and by crazy I mean I will NOT bring a house warming gift.

          September 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          "Go shoot up some people then"

          You must be from Texas.

          September 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • MattD

      What, did she give you a lick on the way out?

      September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Mark

      If you really want to understand the catholic church, and the spirit behind it, visit be4thefire.com. Check out the Vatican exposed link, and all other videos as your heart desires. Remember, the same spirit that built the Vatican is working through this Pope. Watch the videos, and decide for yourself if the Pope is spreading false doctrine that will lead people into Hell.

      For what it's worth, I doubt your daughter was born gay. I hope you don't believe that because of Lady Gaga. We all have our Demons to contend with and I personally view being gay as just one of many manifestations of Demonic interference of our true selves. Certainly nothing to be hateful or judgmental over. Nevertheless, it is a Sin that need to be dealt with if she is to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

      BTW, in mythology, Gaga is Satan's messenger. That's the demon the she allowed inside of her and why she took the name, Lady Gaga. Hardly somebody who's message I would trust.

      September 20, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  18. magicpanties

    In other news, Zeus released the "c" version of lightning bolts, which come in multiple pastel colors.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

      Godless Vagabond
      Can you buy them on line?

      September 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  19. ben

    It's no wonder why people are disgusted with religion after reading articles like this, farther and farther are churches going from upholding God's standards for our benefit. Only one group is holding fast to what the bible teaches, and does not water down it's truth. These disgusting counterfeit Christians are in for the biggest awakening.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Doris

      Standards? Where did you hear about such standards? How did you verify that they came from where you thought they came from?

      September 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
      • ben

        Standards that have been proven to have a good effect and benefit a person when applied and have stood the test of time, standards that although written centuries ago so make for the best life even in today's modern world

        September 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          such as?

          September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
        • sam

          Ben, your eyes have got to be brown if you're this full of shit.

          September 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  20. cooluser

    Gays can't be cured, but that doesn't mean we should approve of the behavior.

    September 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Doris

      Trolt (dolt + troll). And not so cool at all.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • jessicaapplebum

      It's not your place to approve or disapprove.

      September 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
      • cooluser

        Yes it is. It's called common sense.

        September 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |

          Unfortunately, you don't seem to have any.

          September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • aldewacs2

      Religious people , on the other hand, **CAN** be cured. It may not be trivial, depending on the degree of indoctrination thy have been subject to.

      But education and exposure to the truth can do the trick for many. (the REAL truth of facts and reason, not that FAKE 'truth' of blind and unsubstantiated faith)

      If children can be shielded from religious influences until they can think for themselves, the conversion to religious sheep is near zero. Education free of religious indoctrination is akin to inoculation. That's why the religions want to pollute children's minds well before they can think.

      September 19, 2013 at 2:02 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.