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. SokrMom

    You know this guy really loved the '60s!

    September 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • doobzz

      Yeah, the 1860's.

      September 21, 2013 at 1:32 am |
  2. One one

    He's trying to re-cast the Catholic brand to keep from loosing customers.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Jack P.

      It's losing, not loosing.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
      • WOW!!

        it;s doing both

        September 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        That's his way of making sure you know he means "a lot"

        September 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • WOW!!

      correct.. people are not catholic, they are customers of the vatican. They love dictatorships.

      Odd, they live in a free country too. Oh well, they'd be happy as muslim too

      September 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • John Calvin II

      Read the book of Galatians. The Apostle Paul rebuked the Apostle Peter for doing the same thing, albeit on a different point of the gospel. The gospel includes these essential points, none of which can be changed by anyone.

      1. We've all sinned. God defines sin, not man.
      2. God is Holy, Holy Holy in that His eyes are too pure to even look on sin.
      3. Christ died for sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
      4. Justification is by faith alone. So if we:

      a. We believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, that he died, was buried and was resurrected on the third day, and is now Lord of all,
      b. Repent (i.e., call sin what God calls sin and turn from it to Christ),
      c. Ask for forgiveness and mercy

      we will be saved.

      The Pope is minimizing point "a," which appears to be coming with a different gospel.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
      • SallyP

        Can you prove that God defines sin when the Bible was completely written by men?

        September 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
      • snowboarder

        that doctrine is pretty kooky.

        September 19, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
      • AE

        The Apostle Paul rebuked the Apostle Peter for doing the same thing, albeit on a different point of the gospel.

        September 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
      • AE

        – The Apostle Paul rebuked the Apostle Peter for doing the same thing, albeit on a different point of the gospel.

        Right. Paul preached God's grace was available to all who have faith in Jesus Christ, Peter said it was only available to practicing Jews.

        Can a hom.os.exual have faith in Jesus Christ? I say yes.

        September 19, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
        • Ken

          So, you're saying that people should trust the word of a former persecutor of Christians, someone who was probably directly responsible for killing some of the first martyrs, to the word of Peter, whom the gospels describe as Jesus's closest disciple and "the Rock" on which the church was to be built? I'd say that anyone would have a better argument in saying that Paul stole Christianity away from the Jewish Christians (and Jesus) and basically invented what we have today all by himself.

          September 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
        • Robert Brown


          Paul's inspired writings are a great treasure to Christianity, but I disagree with your thought. Go to your favorite bible sight, use the kjv & search the word gentile. The results may change your mind.

          September 19, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  3. John Calvin II

    The Pope certainly isn't saying what the Apostle Paul said (Romans chapter 1). And Paul wrote in Galatians, that even if an apostle or an angle from heaven comes to you with a different gospel, let him be acursed. Sorry to the Catholic church, but an apostle, especially the Apostle Paul who wrote inspired scripture, outranks a Pope.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • John Calvin II

      P.S. This Pope could himself be on very dangerous ground with God.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
      • D

        If there was a god and if the bible was anything other than a work of complete contradictory fiction, I might feel compelled to agree with you.

        September 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • Jesus Loves You

          Jesus loves you and He died for your sins.

          Unfortunately compared with the accuracy and authenticity of the Holy Scripture, your existence is more fictional.

          September 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
      • Pot

        And you, too.

        September 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      "On dangerous ground" What is god doing to do? Take away his hat?

      September 19, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
      • John Calvin II

        You don't know what the apostle Paul meant by "let him be accursed?" It means they are going to Hell.

        September 19, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          And how do you know this? Have you been dead before? How do you know h3ll exists? If the pope is on "dangerous grounds" will that make you stop believing? If the pope doesn't believe, why should we?

          September 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
      • Jesus Loves You

        As what Jesus said, unless you believe Him you will die in your sins. After physical death you will be judged and since you rejected the only Way to the Father you will be eternally separated from Him. Act now while there is time, time is running short, you may die today . Believe in the Lord Jesus, repent from your sins, follow Him as Lord and Savior.

        September 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Yeah. He's saying something a lot more like Jesus Christ, the son of god, said: "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

      September 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
      • John Calvin II

        You've taken that completely out of context. Most people who do that do it for convenience, not for biblical accuracy.

        September 19, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
        • John Calvin II

          or from a sincere heart.

          September 19, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • SallyP

      Technically, Peter was supposedly the very first pope and, as someone who actually knew Jesus and learned his teaching personally, he would have been in a better position than Paul to speak of his beliefs.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
      • John Calvin II

        The idea that Peter was the first Pope was just Catholic church dogma. It's not anywhere in the bible nore in church history. Moreover, Peter died before the Apostle John and that would mean that the second Pope would have had authority of a living apostle (John), which is not just error, but it's simply rediculous.

        September 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
      • SallyP

        Where does all that rapture hooey come from, or prosperity gospel? Those ain't in the bible either.

        September 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  4. IpseCogita

    THe balance between a church's spiritual and political missions should be that they don't have a political mission.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  5. Reality

    To all the misguided "believers" out there including Francis I, your salvation is at hand:

    Tis mind boggling that your religions can be brought down to earth in less than ten seconds. With this in mind should not the moderators of this blog and their buddy Stevie P be looking for new jobs?

    Again for the new members:

    To wit:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e. the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  6. M

    Please Pope leave us non-Christians alone too. We are not going to hell.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  7. Jo

    He knows he can't 'change' the crazyness in the Catholic Church! He can refocus the Church and tell the bigots to be quiet!!! A true Sagitarian !!! Go Francis!!

    September 19, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • WOW!!

      he's a con man.. what does he do for the children abused? NOTHING!

      September 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
      • Chris

        If anything, he is a progressively liberal atheist con man who has infiltrated the Catholic Church. That is one con man I can totally get on board with!

        September 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
        • WOW!!

          don't care if he's an atheist or liberal.. He's scuuuuum. What has he done for children abused? ZERO.. If that's the con man you like,, pedos love you to

          September 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  8. marisa dane

    People who look to Rome and the Pope are in grave danger period, and those I dont care if your side a or side b are so in danger, not all things that look good talk good, tickle the flesh is good. People really need to get their old printed bibles out, pref. the king james, it has the only true message of Grace and then on top of that has the power to change our lives, as we receive the spirit of TRUTH , not error, The whole religioius system horrid, a beast system that should not of happened, isnt it a mystery how the church took a horrid turn, and now they are looking for a savior, there is only one, if you cannot see Rome , the pope, or its seven deadly daughters seducing the world today you are in the most grave danger, PERIOD.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • GEORGE

      The King James Version of the Bible is a perversion, translated incorrectly from Hebrew and Aramaic The original text were written by sheperds and a primitive culture 2000 years ago. HELLO! It's only as good as Bullfinch's Mythology. Grow up! This is the 21st century. PERIOD.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
      • Jesus Loves You

        Unfortunately for you, the Bible is True and will always remain true. Compared with the Holy Scripture... your existence on earth is just a fairy tale. You are just like grass, today is green tomorrow you will whither and die. Without Jesus you will die in your sins. A generation later when no longer remembers you , the Bible is still true, saving and transforming lives.

        Act now while there is time for you do not wait until you are just fairy tale on earth and suffering in the eternal darkness and void. Humans without Jesus will be just consumed by the Almighty God. His Word is Eternal and will always Remain True as Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away but His Words will never pass away. Between what God has said and what you had said, your statement is just empty, without meaning. Your ancestors are not monkeys nor apes, you are a human specie created by God.

        September 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  9. Joe Blow from Kokomo

    I am not Catholic, but Pope Francis almost makes me have some optimism for the future! Every time he opens his mouth, he seems to say what Jesus would say. Imagine that! Go get 'em Francis! 😀

    September 19, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • WOW!!

      OK catholic.. the con is your passion

      September 19, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Sired Joe...

      What would the Pope have to say about allowing the world's farmers all to grow as much Hemp (Not Cannabis) possible and use the seeds as a stable food source within socially stricken countries..? Hemp Buds and Their Seeds do contain hardly any psychoactive ingredients that gets one buzzed... The added nutrients from Hemp seeds could feed so many of the under nourished with a nutritiously staple food source supplement... Even the world's beef, chicken and pigs industries could be fed from the crushed up Hemp Seeds and the oils from the crunched up Hemp seeds could be used as a replacement for all our industrial uses of crude oil plastics which are very toxic and carcinogenic to most all the world's living organisms including humans...

      Real eyes realize real lies...

      September 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  10. jhnjul

    Religions are growing past their usefulness. One does not have to be religious to be moral. Spirituality does not care by which name you call god, creator, mother earth or the universe. We are all the same family. Humanity needs a one-world people, not religion or government. The first amendment was always meant for all of humanity. The pope is ensuring Catholics survival into the new age. Hard line Islamic fundamentalists might learn something from him.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Doris

      So true.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Devout Atheist

      Religion out served its usefulness a long time ago. Many attribute the outbreak of malaria as the beginning of the downfall of Rome and in turn the rise of religion (specifically Christianity) around the known world.

      Indeed we as a civilization might have never gone back to the empty well that is religion in droves had it not been for that damn parasitic disease.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  11. Mindforms

    So he's wiped out 2,000 years of oppression, political manipulation and intrigue, and hypocrisy in a few months? Hmm.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • WOW!!

      it's called marketing.. a con organization.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Devout Atheist

      The only problem (if you can call it that) is that if he keeps this up, he won't have much of a religion left. The more he contradicts (rightly or wrongly) longstanding religious doctrines the less founded the Catholic religion (indeed all religion) is revealed to be.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  12. "God"

    Next he'll reveal he's on the fence in regard to my existence. Sheesh...

    September 19, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Devout Atheist


      September 19, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  13. Vic

    The Essence of Reformation

    John 3:16,17
    "16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."

    Ephesians 2:8,9
    "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

    Scripture Is From:

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation


    September 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Rudy

      Great post!

      September 19, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

        Godless Vagabond
        How can you consider that a great post? All it was was cut-and-paste bible quotes, with a lot of inappropriate HTML added.

        September 19, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Stanley

      John 3:16–Key message!

      September 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
      • Paul

        Josiah 4:20 – Key message – "and those whose consider themselves devout didst finally decide to shuteth up from their ridiculous ramblings and stopped at once trying to own God for their own self aggrandizement realizing once and for all that they were instructed to do so since their poop smelled much like that of everyone else."

        September 19, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Ten Commandments


      September 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Lisa

      So, God "so loved the world" after nearly destroying it in a flood, that he gave his only begotten Son, who is also weirdly him and could not really "die". So that people can spend eternity doing what, feeding him with worship?

      Yup, real unselfish, giving guy, all right?

      September 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Ken

      Remember Rollen Stewart, the rainbow wigged guy who use to hold up signs with "John 3:16" at sporting events back in the 80s? Turns out he was rapture crazy and tried to kidnap some maids at a hotel. That verse always reminds me of that.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • M

      The universe is 15 billion years old, the earth is 5 billion years old, humans have been around for 7 million years. How come this supposed salvation only happend 2000 years ago? I could appreciate the lessons in the bible, but the claim that this is the only truth or way to God clearly does not make any sense. Christianity and the bible are deeply flawed.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  14. Rob

    I like this Pope. I thought John Paul was "the bomb" but this guy is moving up there!

    September 19, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • WOW!!

      yeah,, he keeps the cover ups alive

      September 19, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  15. Birdyboyz

    Notice he left the child-molesters alone?

    September 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  16. redrockhistory

    I'm not Catholic....in fact I don't practise "formal religion" BUT this "dude" has got it right!!!!

    September 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  17. Gary

    Oh my gosh! A Christian pope! How refreshing!

    September 19, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  18. S.R

    Message is Love, Love ,Love!!! Love all is the only way!!!

    September 19, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Bill & Ted

      Be excellent to each other!!

      September 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  19. jmcdonaldblog

    I am loving this new pope more and more as the months go by. He is totally right in saying that the church should not interfere with the GLBTQ community.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Been to any toga parties lately..?


      September 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  20. OnTheRoad

    Seems that this pope wants to change a thousand years of preaching so that the church does not upset anyone! So, now we have the 'Church of Any Thing Goes!'

    September 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • One one

      Not really, he seems to be against bigotry, discrimination, judging and condemning people, hatred, etc.

      September 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm |

        Godless Vagabond
        In other words, not like a typical religious person.

        September 19, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
        • OnTheRoad

          As I said, 'The Church of Any Thing Goes!
          He wants to rewrite a couple of thousand years of religion, in order that he not upset anyone!

          September 19, 2013 at 7:26 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.