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. Kevin

    This is where the Catholic Church was heading in my opinion. Important to realize that the RCC has a rich history of embracing progressive thought (e.g., evolution, etc.).

    If you make fun of priest / child abuse, please remember that most priests that abused were gay, so don't halt the disgusting stereotypes at Catholic priests, please continue with such prejudicial comments about gays too. Or, you could just avoid stereotyping altogether (probably the smartest route).

    September 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The abusive priests weren't gay, they were pedophiles.
      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.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • Sara

        Some of these priests were pe.dophiles, others statutory rapists. While some confused legal definitions get this wrong, pe.dophiles are attracted only to those before puberty. If you look at the cases in the church, some are post puberty where it is easier to distinguish se.xuality. Most males, regardless of se.xuality, are attracted to young, but post puberty males or females. In the modern world we have important practical reasons for disallowing this.

        Yes, with those under age it is often opportunistic with little regard to the gender of the victim...just whoever is available. But this is not always the case. There's a pretty mixed bag.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
      • Kevin

        Ok, and then the abusive people were not priests . Priests, by the definition of their work and scope, are not to do harm to people but to help them.

        I don't know if your definition of the abusers is entirely accurate. We don't know if their disgusting predilection was their only predilection.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Colin

      Kevine, you said, "Important to realize that the RCC has a rich history of embracing progressive thought (e.g., evolution, etc.)."

      YEah, about 500 years after the rest of us.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  2. Erasmus

    God is a stickler for small rules

    September 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • fozzyspeak

      Says who?

      September 20, 2013 at 3:33 am |
  3. Honey Badger Don't Care

    Good thing this pope doesn't follow the tenets of the bible.

    "If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

    September 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Sara

      If the Catholic bible were following the old testament, they'd also be avoiding shellfish and mixed fibers. For the most part, the old testament is not part of their moral belief system.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • rick

        They don't have any morals any more. They preach the Bible but they conveniently leave out those verses that they don't agree with. Rev chap. 22, verse 18 and 19. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophesy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the Holy City and from the things that are written in this book".

        September 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • pottershop2

      Please, stop taking each verse of the bible out of context to make your position look reasonable. this is the fault of many in the church and many against the church. The Bible is to be taken in it's totality, the old testement and it's laws for a young people of God and the new testement and it's fulfillment of the promise of Christ and forgiveness. They must be taken together in context.

      I am not a Catholic, but I find this Pope refreshing in his humility and forthright nature. ALL the people of God could learn from his approach that we don't know everything and never can know everything. Only a fool believes he has all the answers.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Greg

      You confuse old testament with new testament, law vs grace. Under law you where judged by the law, under grace you are saved by faith in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  4. AZ

    The smartest thing for some of the remarks here would be to say them with the mouth closed to avoid the fools label that they require.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Cbyron

      excellent! open thy mouth reveal thy foolishness.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  5. Chaz

    notice he said he IS a sinner....I am a sinner too...but my sins are COVERED BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS, which is what he failed to mention....becuase if he mentions this, people NO LONGER need to go to a priest (notice I did not call him father) for forgiveness..

    They are already forgiven, if they receive it

    silly Backwards Catholics. According to them, Jesus is still on the cross. The real miracle is what happens AFTER that. He arose!

    September 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • stillwaiting aka Basho1644

      Yeah? He arose?? Please show me the evidence of that. I think I'm not going out on too much of a limb to assert that, in the real, physical world governed by natural law, that is IMPOSSIBLE. Please present actual, verifiable evidence of anything supernatural. Then I might be a bit more willing to take you seriously. After 59 years, I'm still waiting.

      September 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Michele

    There just may be hope for the survival of the Catholic church after all.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jack 2

      because this guy says they accept gays? Wow, you are twisted. It's gays that have put them in this position. All the gay priests that have went after children have brought the church down.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
      • greennnnnn

        I pity the poor fool (which would be YOU) who doesn't have the education to know the difference between gay and pedophile. Get educated, you're sounding very foolish. DUH.

        September 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
        • Jack 2

          Are you really that brainless? Their are gay paedohiles and straight paedophiles. if your male and you have relations with another male you're gay, if you're straight but desire children the have relations with female children then you are a staright paedophile. You are the one that sounds foolish and uneducated. Read what you are saying, it makes no sense whatsoever.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • doobzz

          @ Jack 2

          Several posters have pointed out your lies and misrepresentations. Now you're just a troll.

          September 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  7. AE

    I attended a Christian church service 2 weeks ago led by a lesbian pastor with a congregation that was mostly openly g.ay.

    And guess what? Jesus showed up and was present in communion, just like he does in the "traditional values" churches I've attended.

    And the pastor preached the good news of Jesus.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      gay and just as dumb as straights

      September 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  8. Gerald

    Now this is a Pope for the 21st Century!

    September 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  9. JOe

    We shouldn't need a news article, this should just be the way it is. Let people live how they want.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  10. Wow....a man of good indeed

    I am not catholic but it seems to me the catholic of the world have a true man of god. He remembers the part about not judging others. I am not gay but I have friends that are and I have never judged them they are just people to me be it with different moral views than I have. But I can see the College of Cardinals having a cow right about now because if he is taking these steps he is sooner or latter going to address the scandals that have rocked the church. I bet he even will address the hole persist mirage idea as well . You see the numbers of young people entering the priesthood has been dropping like a rock and something needs to be done. As a person of history I also know that a long time ago priest could be married. So I would say that this pope is truly a man of god indeed.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Madtown

      they are just people to me be it with different moral views
      They are not gay because they have different moral views than you, they are gay because they are gay. If you are right-handed, left-handed people are not different than you because of their viewpoint.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  11. Just Call Me Lucifer

    So its ok to deny what your god supposedly says in the buybull as long as it brings in more sheep to be extorted. Your money for your soul. I just can't believe people still believe this crap. Liars manipulating weak-willed fools for profit. PT Barnum was right.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Jack 2

      well Lucifer, what makes you think you have it all figured out? Have you also figured out how space can go on forever without hitting a wall. have you figured out how worm holes can take you to a different demension or universe? There's many things we morals can't and don't understand that's way beyond our comprhension. You can't think past this little earth

      September 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Canuck

      Tu es tata.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  12. Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

    In my research I have found that Mary Magdalene was in fact both consort and wife. A consort was simply a companion. If you read the scriptures, you will find that in the late BE and early CE, it was actually possible to both be married and single simultaneously.

    How you ask?

    You must refer to the Gnostic versus attributed to Phillip who said, "Be it spouse or alone, we are only that which our threshold allows on the Sabbath."

    Loosely translated it means a woman can be beholden to a man one day, and quite free the next. This makes polygamy possible without breaking God's law against Adultery.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

      There is much that does not get told in popular biblical academia.

      For example, Jesus tells us that his father and mother "have not spaketh a single word in two years plus three. This sounds like a man scorned to me.

      How can we prove marital troubles in the home of Jesus? Reading from Mary (Magdalene), she says, "when Joseph's gaze met mine I felt a burning deep within...." She goes on to discuss Jesus' jealousy and rage.

      Is it possible Joseph never forgave Mother Mary for her affair, and Joseph and Jesus were competing for Mary Magdalene’s affection?

      September 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  13. DE

    WOW!! A christian who doesn't judge. Now that's a first!!!

    September 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • rker321

      Not really, for years, I have heard many priests that have actually stated, "who are we, to judge what Gof forgives, and what God does not forgive." I don't believe that any of us, has that answer. And this Pope apparently is recognizing that.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  14. Bk

    I find myself liking this pope.. He is touching on the bigotry filled hypocritical drivel some catholics cling on to ever so dearly, and straight up telling them "Hands off, its not up to you". Finally someone with authority telling them what a bunch of **** they had been acting like. Good for them!

    September 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  15. Bill

    Wait? How did the Catholic Church find a guy who actually accepts others?

    If more churches had a leader like Francis, the world would be a much better place.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Bk

      Lol.. indeed!

      September 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  16. Alaska

    Congratulations! With its new progressive pope the church has finally made the leap into the 18th century. Hurray!

    September 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • QS


      September 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      It only took them 300 years to admit that maybe Copernicus had a point...

      September 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

    I have spent a great deal of my professional life in the study of the Gnostic Gospels. As it turns out, the majority of “prophets” contributing to these scriptures was quite illiterate and most likely drew pictures to explain their wisdom.
    Needless to say, transcribing pictographs to verse was a tough task for the monks in those early centuries.

    Moreover, Jesus was the worst of the lot. This poor man could not even draw stick figures in the sand and apparently could not be trusted with anything so as to draw. As the story goes, Jesus would have to play a primitive form of "charades" while his scribes tried to guess his meaning.

    Most scholars agree that this is why these books were omitted from the Holy Bible.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

      The evidence would suggest that Judas, Mary, Jesus and others spent a great deal of their down time reflecting on the spiritual dichotomy of the soul vs. the physical and how that relates to the teachings of God.

      Jesus was attracted to Buddhism and often rested his decisions on the non-bias imaginings of one who would make sacrifice in this life only to be reborn in the next.

      In short, Jesus was a Jew by birth, but not by practice. He taught his own flavor of Buddhism and his closest disciples, Judas and Mary for example, were quite sure he was a snake in a previous life.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Mike in SA

      So much education, so little faith and wisdom. PHD – Piled Hip Deep...

      September 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
      • TARAN

        NICE USE OF PHD!

        September 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Dr. Donnel Johnson, PHD

      Jesus was quite real, and quite human. Even Timothy and Philip knew the true nature of Christ, as evidenced in this passage from the Gospel of Philip, "...and our Lord came unto me and witnessed as I behaved without intimidation."

      Scholars believe this is evidence of group sexual activity, common place at this time in history among men afield.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
      • Jack 2

        Your problem is that you're just sick in the head. You want everyone to be gay like you, even god

        September 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Dr. Lennod Nosnhoj, PHD

        Nothing real can be threatened.

        Nothing unreal exists.

        Herein lies the peace of God.

        Sic transit gloria mundi.

        September 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Jack 2

      Well Doc, that's pretty arrogant and condescending of you to think you have the answers and everyone else is wrong.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • simon

      You, sir, are an utter buffoon.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • wisdomVSknowledge

      Have you ever heard the name "Constantine", do your homework.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • ronny12223

      when you say he was influenced by Buddhism, are you suggesting that he actually derived some teachings from Buddhists, or that he was teaching a Buddhist-like philosopphy?

      September 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
      • kt

        Jesus grew up along a major trade route at the time, historically it is very likely he was exposed to and influenced by many religions of the day, including Buddhism.

        September 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Diogo

      Sorry to disagree. Jesus was rabhi, hence a literate man.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Bill C

      Nonsense. "Most" scholars believe nothing of the sort. Yes, there are those from the Jesus Movement, whose research and writing have been nearly completely discredited, but "most" biblical scholars believe Jesus is who he said he was, and recognize the Gnostic Gospels as the true word of God. Sorry Dr. Johnson, but you don't get to just make stuff up and claim most smart people agree with you. Read Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ." It is an excellent refutation of just the type of poor research you are putting forth.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  18. Not the Church

    The church evidently didn't want to lose money so centuries ago, they said that priests couldn't marry because they didn't want their families to get the inheritance. churches are about making money. sorry, despite the teaching...money is an issue there too.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • wisdomVSknowledge

      I agree. The ruling body of the church is just as greedy as a gambling addict.

      September 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  19. Reality

    Dear Francis,

    What sayest thou?

    Saving Christians from the Resurrection Con Game:

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
    o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    o p.168. by Ted Peters:
    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  20. wisdomVSknowledge

    The church has been influencing and interfering with governments for a very long time. If they wish for the governments to stay out of their business, then the church needs to back off and sit down. The church's business is spirituality, not laws and social standards.

    September 19, 2013 at 3:36 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.