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. Jon


    September 19, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Doris

      What kind of truth? Like 1+1=2? For that matter any truth. What kind of notion expressed by man can be purely objective – from somewhere beyond man – without some form of consensus and subjectivity?

      September 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  2. LizardMom

    "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."

    This, as a devout Catholic, is what I believe, in addition to the Nicene Creed. I like this Pope and I like what he has to say. It touches my heart. You atheists do not belong on religious blogs. Ever. The next step, of course, is women priests. I hopefully will see it in my lifetime, as the nuns who are ready to step into that role. Gays, too, have a place in our Church.

    September 19, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • JWT

      As long as the religious people are trying have their religious stuff made into law other people than that religion subgroup have a lot that needs to be said about religion.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Athy

      This is not a religious blog. It's an opinion blog. Get with it, lizardmom.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Nice one!

      "I like the way this pope reminds us not to judge . . . hey! You don't belong here!"

      September 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • Ken

      This is not a "religious blog"; it's a blog about belief, and reasons for not having any is half of that discussion.

      Also, if Jesus is actually also God, and immortal, then how is the sacrifice of a temporary body any more inspiring than somebody losing a "life" in a video game? And why would it be needed anyway? Can't God do anything without some blood being spilled? Sorry, but it just doesn't make any sense.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        No he can't, the blood is required.

        September 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
        • sam stone

          Required, Robbie? Is god accountable to a higher authority? Still wearing them kneepads?

          September 19, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      lizardmom: it is a public forum. if those who have differing opinions posting bothers you, you are invited to stay the hell away. pull the crucifix out of your c-r-o-t-c-h

      September 19, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  3. Marcus

    Here is perhaps the most overlooked quote from his interview:

    “But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

    One has to read his interviews and writing in their entirety. Little can be learned from a sketchy article such as this.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  4. SmartPotato

    Love it! The pope is mere steps from coming out.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Gabrielle

      LOL, that explains it!

      September 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
  5. Prophecies

    My Holy Word may not be changed or adapted so that it becomes something else
    Saturday, September 7th, 2013

    My dearly beloved daughter, while I continue to make every effort to reach out to the world, through these Messages – still many devout followers of Mine, fail to accept My Hand. These precious souls of Mine are vulnerable because many will fail to see the way in which their faith will be used to endorse the new, soon-to-be liturgy, which will fail to honor Me, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man.

    Many will assume, incorrectly, that the new liturgy and the new mass – although changed greatly – can do no harm. So many will quietly question some of the contents, as well as the format and find them strange. Yet very few will challenge them as they will believe that these are blessed by the Church and so therefore, they cannot be wrong. What they do not understand is that My Holy Word may not be changed or adapted so that it becomes something else. My Church is infallible, but should any so-called servant or leader in My Church twist the Word of God, or rewrite the meaning of the Holy Eucharist, then they blaspheme against God.

    I was denied by humanity and crucified when they, including the leaders in God’s Temples, rejected the Truth. When anyone – no matter how high they stand amongst you – denies the Truth, they are guilty of heresy, and do not come from Me. Yet, they would have you believe that the Truth is a lie. They will deny all that you have been taught by Me to live full Christian lives. They will spit at Me, but lead you along a path, which they will say leads you to Me, but it will not.

    These things, foretold, will soon come to pass. Be prepared. When you see the signs, then know that these prophecies can only come from God.

    Your Jesus

    Read http://www.thewarningsecondcoming.com

    September 19, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  6. Cindy

    Who is the Pope??

    September 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm |

      Search me. Who is Alice B Toklas?

      September 19, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  7. nc1965

    Lev. 18:22
    "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination."

    Lev. 20:13
    "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them"

    September 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

      Godless Vagabond
      So stop doing that stuff, nc. If you don't god will smite thee. Really hard.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • name

      leviticus also says eating shellfish and wearing clothes made of 2 different clothes is an abomination. So all of america is going to hell. /s

      September 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      Aw, that's all from the Old Testament which was made obsolete when the New Testament came along!

      September 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
      • SallyP

        The 10 Commandments are also from the "Old" Testament. Same goes for all those prophesies that Christians say point to Jesus being the messiah. Take out the Old Testament and Christianity loses it's link to the God of Abraham.

        September 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
        • Dippy

          Its, not it's.

          September 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  8. peick

    On the off chance the Pope's staff actually read the peanut gallery comments:

    Mr. Pope, I respect your approach and agree with most of what you are saying. The only thing I would fault you with is that you seem not to feel that people with a strong religious conviction should use legal means to incorporate biblical principles in the laws which govern them. So you can say things that make people happy, like don't judge, be understanding etc., but when those same folks are aggressively attacking laws, school curricula, etc., to forward their own agenda, you must fight back if you believe it to be wrong. Right now you risk playing into their hands by being too gentle.

    Remember, if you are a doctor never tell the cancer patient he needs treatment, he will die and the blood will be on your hands.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • STFU

      And you are the exact reason why we fight to keep your nonsense out of public school.

      You're a cancer to sane society.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  9. Journey

    The Catholic Church is emerging from 500 years of some pretty nasty self-reflection, and If I was an evangelical I'd swallow my pride and take a cue from Pope Francis.

    The Popes got themselves into the mess they were/are in because they started mixing faith and politics in Medieval Europe. Papal elections were worse than Presidential elections. Result: 500 years of marginalizing (or killing) everyone who didn't pull their party line (i.e. reformers, scientists, minorities, etc.). So the reformers (i.e. Protestants) come to power in Western Europe and the Americas. Result: 500 more years of marginalizing (or killing) everyone who didn't pull THEIR party line (i.e. social reformers, scientists, minorities, etc.) Now all the minorities (think Obama) and scientists (think evolution) are running the show and will be for some time. Conservative evangelicals have been basically thrown out of the political system in the west and I'd say they need to accept that as a blessing and spend the next 500 years learning from their mistakes.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • ljrosullivan

      I think that's a pretty astute view of things. A lot of good has happened over the last 2,000 years too, but yes, Catholics urgently need to atone for past sins and humble ourselves to show a very sceptical world all the treasures it contains

      September 19, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  10. ljrosullivan

    I'm so proud to be a Catholic right now. Pope Francis makes it easier to be a good person.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • JWT

      It was just as easy to be a good person before this pope.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • JJ

      So your pedophile infested cult can rape tens of thousands of children all the while protecting the rapists along with your help and you just go along with it and then a pope comes along and says gays aren't going to burn in hell after all and now you're just beaming with pride? Disgusting.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
      • Aaron

        Yes, the priests who were pedophiles were a huge black eye to the church. However, little man, everyone sees by your anger, that your comment is just about your hate you have toward Catholics. Now, tell us what you think of blacks...if you have the sack, son.

        September 19, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  11. Fundies Gone Wild! They are panicking!


    September 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  12. Eben Goodale

    While I am not a Catholic, I really respect this Pope's vision and the way he carries out his job. He is a truly spiritual leader, for the world.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • WOW!!

      no he's not.. what has he done for the thousands of abused children??? Nothing. He's a con man.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • Jesus Loves You

      He should lead the sinners to Christ.

      We are all sinners and need Jesus for the forgiveness of ours sins, accept that Jesus shed His blood for us all sinners and He rose again from the dead and make Him Lord and Savior. Then let Him transform our lives day by day, carry our cross and follow Him and as He said to the woman adulterer, SIN NO MORE.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  13. nc1965


    Be a man. Don't go sticking your private part in another man's -a s s-. It wasn't made for that.

    And don't take it up the -a s s-. Receiving is for women.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:18 pm |

      Godless Vagabond
      How are you affected, nc? You seem to have an unnatural curiosity about gay sex.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • sam

      I think your ass was made to cradle your head, from what I can tell.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @nc.............What about lesbians? Are you ok with them? No pen-is an-al interaction there!

      September 19, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  14. marc

    Obviously the church is in decline and now needs the sinners they have persecuted for centuries to keep attendance up. Eventually the church will be in the same boat as the norse gods, roman an greek gods, Egyptian gods, mayan gods, aztec gods etc they all have the same thing in common. They killed people in the name of a imaginary being created originally to keep order and control over a specific population.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

      Godless Vagabond
      Yeah, I think they're just looking for more pew ploppers.

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


      Religion requires ignorance to perpetuate but its benefactors have progressively gotten more educated.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Say it ain't so

      God, the real God isn't made up however he did make you so shoosh.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
      • sybaris


        September 19, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  15. sybaris

    Why do religious people care what adults do with their genitalia in the privacy of their own home?

    September 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • sam stone

      because it excites them in ways they dare not speak

      September 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  16. Independent

    Is the Pope really a Rligious Guy?

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

      No, but I think he is a "religious" guy.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  17. nc1965

    Sucking, swallowing, taking it up the -a s s- and smelling feces.

    Well, that's the extent of the mating ritual of gay men.

    Well, they may tickle each others hairy testicles from time to time.

    Now the Catholic church wants to embrace these acts.

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

      It's really not that different from hetero relations if you really must get into detail. So why is it that you are so fixed on that?

      September 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
      • SmartPotato

        Totally... so obsessed with bodily fluids...

        September 19, 2013 at 7:51 pm |

      Godless Vagabond
      So what's your point, nc? If you have one.

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

      @nc................You sure kow a lot about gay s3x. Was your knowledge through experience or by enjoying yourself while watching?

      September 19, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • truthsayer

      That is what happens when you rut...other people make sure they are clean

      September 19, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • STFU

      You sure think about it a lot. I bet your browser history is fascinating.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • SallyP

      Speaking as a woman, what my husband does to me with his tongue can't be nearly as "disgusting" as what gay men do to each other. I don't hear too many religious folks speaking out against that, so it must all just come down to people being prudish aout stuff that aren't interested in doing themselves. Reminds me of my children saying "Ew, disgusting!" at my putting chilli on my hot dogs.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  18. Gorsh

    It is just amazing how many sad, bitter little people are out there attacking this man, regardless of what position he takes.

    But it is nice to see that they are a distinct minority-even here.

    September 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  19. RTYERT646546545









    September 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • WOW!!

      he's scuuuum, agreed

      September 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Devout Atheist

      I'm not attacking the man as much as the scam and work of utter fiction that is religion. The man himself seems to be a pretty decent human being.

      September 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  20. Ernesto Onofre

    Pope.....why don't you just go home...drink lots of wine....be with lots of women...( or men ) have " churrascos " every day...
    dance some Tango...smoke a few expensive cigars...sit back, relax...enjoy a sunset with a beautiful lady next to you...fornicate...use the body as it is made to do...and let the rest of us go to heaven or hell...whatever the case...you do not have to worry about me, because you do not even know me...have a nice day...sincerely....your inner little Satan...

    September 19, 2013 at 6:56 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.