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. Blake

    Pretty much everyone acknowledges that the Catholic Church has a heavy concentration of gays in its uppermost echelons.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • photografr7

      Why do you think they call is "cele-butt"?

      September 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
      • photografr7

        Oops... There's an obvious typo in there. Sorry.

        September 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Jack 2

      Yes, all the gay priests. Notice they are like Sandusky. Very few if any of the victime are young females. it's a gay thing

      September 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  2. Blake

    This is a major reason why I stay away from organized religion. The hierarchy is always subject to capture by special interests, especially aggressive ones like the gay lobby.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      The louder they are the shamelessly prouder they become...

      September 19, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  3. twalk

    He know that most the Catholic priest are gay and molest boys.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • D

      Ah, another very unoriginal troll twit. Welcome, you will feel at home here with the other ones.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • bakbic

      Stupid remark. Educate thy self.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • tim

      agree ,including the pope

      September 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  4. tim

    I can't believe he said that ,get real man truth told most see this church full of pedophiles

    September 19, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  5. no2obama

    hes not for real

    September 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  6. Devout Atheist

    Ten years ago, I'm not sure what I thought was less likely: A non-white president or a progressively liberal Pope who I actually kinda like.

    Now all we need is for the Pope to admits he believes in science and evolution and I'll be convinced he is really an atheist in sheep's clothing.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • 4_sanity

      This may come as a shock to you but the modern Catholic Church has no problem with evolution and science. There will always be Christian sects that represent themselves as biblical literalists but the mainstream church doesn't deny evolution or the scientific method.

      Here's the relevant quote from Pope John Paul (1996): Today, almost half a century after publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory."

      September 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
      • Devout Atheist

        And you don't see the lack of logic in believing in a religion while admitting the whole of your text is utter nonesense?

        The problem with rebuking your religion's longstanding dogma's is that you can only go so far progressively before even religion's most formerly ardent supporters must admit that logic would dictate your religion (and in turn all religion) to be complete and utter nonsense.

        September 19, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • I've changed

        If they don't believe in biblical creation,how do they explain original sin,which seems to be the way they lay the guilt trip on their flock?

        September 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
        • Devout Atheist

          The morality (altruism) argument in regard to religion has always reminded me of Glaucon's argument in regard to altruism and justice in book II of The Republic if he had factored religious beliefs into the mix.

          September 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  7. paco


    September 19, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  8. abdallah777

    ((( O mankind! Say No God But Allah, Achieve Eternal Salvation )))

    " Laa ilaaha illallah " (There is none worthy of worship except Allah.)

    ( I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger )

    ( Introduction to Islam )

    September 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • God

      I know this allah. I kicked him out of Heaven for opposing me. He is none other than the Devil. you muslims claim to follow me but you follow the dark one.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Robert James

      There is no God but God, and Jesus Christ is His Son.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Jesus Loves You


      God loves you, unfortunately Allah is not the one True God. Your book teaches that God has No Son. You believe in Asa, Jesus but if you believe with what Jesus says, His claims is He is the Son of the Living God. If you believe Him as prophet then you would believe His Words. Jesus said that I am the Way, the Truth and The Life, no one comes to the Father except Him.

      Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Are you not even hearing the new phenomenon going on? Thousands of thousands of Muslims are having dreams of Jesus telling Him He is the Son of the True Living God. Allah is not real , he is an illusion. Your Allah cannot transform lives for the better and cannot perform miracles. In the Name of Jesus, every knee will bow down and all from heaven , on earth and under the earth will proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Act now follow Jesus while there is time. Do not be deceived.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  9. paco


    September 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  10. Circus Circus

    Finally a Pope (or any world leader for that matter) with common sense.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  11. niiiice

    Nobody is saying we are going to round up the Christians...if they voluntarily report to the microchipping stations, we *will not* have to fire up the FEMA camps...I think there is a lot of scare-mongering on this issue.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • bakbic

      Too messy.. too complicated..

      On the other hand, if we say there will be free coffee and donuts...

      September 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  12. Enough

    Are you hearing a lot of confusing things about Pope Francis from the major news outlets today? Another reason to support Catholic radio, where you know you'll get information without a secular agenda! 888-887-7120 or IHRadio.com/give

    And after you make your pledge, check out the full interview with Pope Francis! It's truly amazing!


    September 19, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • doobzz

      Enough with the spam, Enough.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  13. Lionly Lamb

    Gayness among the masses is a sociological manifestation and should be treated as such... It was and is and will ever be a manifestation of human contingencies...

    There are far more important issues now facing the business "corperatocracies" and that is Hemp versus Crude oil... Hemp has no psychoactive ingredients unlike its cousins the Cannabis Plants and Hemp can be grown almost anywhere and needs no chemical fertilizers nor insecticides to grow...

    The oils that can be crushed from the Hemp Seeds has a myriad of uses similar to all the current products made from crude oils and the Hemp Oils contain no toxic carcinogens like crude oil products have...

    September 19, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Doris

      "Gayness among the masses is a sociological manifestation "

      Most likely not. Pick yourself up a copy of last December's Quarterly Review of Biology.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Sired Doris...

        Enlighten me with a few verses if you please Doris for I do not believe in consolidated magazines being the end all in knowledge that says one thing one day and within a year says something quite different... My thoughts regarding consolidations of alpha centered social hierarchies within the fabrics of living and loving should be of little interests toward the majority masses thusly I dare abate to relate...

        Let us Love
        Lettuce Love
        Love Lettuce
        Love let us

        Real eyes
        Real lies

        September 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  14. popeisantichrist

    who cares what the leader of the satanic organization says. . .

    September 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • God

      Considering that the catholic church made it all up, I will relish in crushing them to a pulp. I do not recognize this pope. He is the darkest of the dark.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • bilbfit

      Hey, give him a break. Next he may come out as the first openly gay Pope, and then you will love him for joining your lifestyle.

      September 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  15. Blake

    The Catholic Church has provide opportunity and cover for the pedo for centuries.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm |

    This wonderful new Pope Francis is such a blessing. Now we have to see if he could talk any sense into the Repubs who are cutting food stamps for the poorest. And they pray at the altar of the anti-Christ Roch Brothers-my mistake seriously meant KOCH Brothers they have no conscience, think of what they could do with the money they waste on hate if they knew what love was all about.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • no2obama

      god will provide for his belivers dont need food stamps all you need is christ

      September 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
      • Joom

        I honestly doubt God is going to deliver a whole steak dinner to my front door, or any food for that matter. My family and I would starve to death before that happens. Food stamps are incredibly beneficial to those that need them. When you're working day in and day out to barely make enough to keep a roof over your head, it's nice to know there's money there for food at least. Live a day in poverty. Try panhandling food from those that claim to be God fearing Christians. You'll learn quickly what it's like and how cold people really are.

        September 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  17. misterwire

    "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." (Pope Francia).

    This is nothing but a twisted quotation warning against the impending financial collapse of Rome if sinners are told the truth. Nothing spiritual about this organization.

    September 19, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  18. bspurloc

    if he next comes out and says dont chastise for ab -ortion it will completely devastate the christian taliban in the USA
    assuming they didnt hang themselves from his acceptance of g-ays

    September 19, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  19. bspurloc

    if he next comes out and says dont chastise for abortion it will completely devastate the christian taliban in the USA
    assuming they didnt hang themselves from his acceptance of gays

    September 19, 2013 at 5:30 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.