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
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief'][twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. Not Falling For It

    Atheists have won. Finally. That only took 2000 years....

    September 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      what does this have to do with atheists?

      sounds to me like you are just another bigot having a hissy fit

      September 19, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Steve

      And your reward... Eternal nonexistent.

      September 19, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
      • doobzz

        Same as yours.

        September 21, 2013 at 1:33 am |
  2. tony

    I wonder why John McCain isn't trying to bomb the apparenly even more wicked Boko Haram, if he wants to be "righteous".

    September 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  3. Caby

    This is amazing.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  4. lala lolo

    you know what is funny? Pope Francisco is doing a better job in modernizing the Catholic Church than Republican.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
  5. Chettmix

    Is it possible that for once we have a religious figure that Jesus would agree with.....It's all about tolerance and treating each other as bothers and sisters, even if we have different views.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Speaking of foul odors....

      and those fabulous dresses and hats!

      September 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  6. McCave

    The entire staff at CNN peed their pants with excitement when they read what the Pope said.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  7. asdkfjasl;kj

    gays are untouchable.

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

    Pope Francis is a false Prophet. He goes against the teachings of Gods word which he is supposed to uphold.

    September 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Athy

      Who wrote God's word?

      September 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
      • Justin

        Just as a you've given someone a card through the post office, God wrote the Bible through people He created.

        September 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
        • sam stone

          man wrote, translated and edited the bible

          September 19, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
        • Athy

          So did god sign the final draft to make it official?

          September 19, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Observer


      "He goes against the teachings of Gods word"

      That is good news. As far as we know he doesn't support slavery and discrimination against the handicapped like the Bible does.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
      • Sally

        Or that the earth is flat and men can have multiple wives.

        September 19, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
        • Observer


          Did the Bible specifically say that or just not comment about those who did?

          September 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • Chettmix

      Depends on the readers interpretation. Just because you think one way doesn't mean that you will always be right.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  9. AE

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

    I don't get that.

    Who were Jesus' most loyal followers? Who was the first to proclaim the good news of Jesus (after Jesus)? Who did Jesus allow to be his disciples?

    Women. Women. Women.

    September 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's true. "You can't do nothin' without a woman or a girl"

      September 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • TruthandConsequence

      None were ordained to the priesthood, maybe that has something to do with it.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
      • AE

        I don't think Jesus ordained anyone.

        September 19, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
        • some young guy

          "You are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church"


          September 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
        • AE

          He was also Jewish.

          September 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  10. boredofceleb

    Every Catholic I've ever known (who was raised as a catholic) has been extremely miserable with the faith. Wished they'd never been forced to go to mass, catholic school, etc. Including my current spouse. That says a lot to me.

    September 19, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Jen B.

      Yep, former catholic lesbian here. Its all true!

      September 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • LaShundra

      I'm Catholic, most everyone I know is Catholic and not of one of them are anything like you describe. That says a lot.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
      • heehee

        Both of you should look up selection bias.

        September 19, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • brerol

      May I suggest yo step outside of that small minded world of yours. It would do you a world of wonders.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
  11. dzerres

    I think when he was Archbishop in Argentina and put all of his prestige behind the anti-gay marriage movement and then lost big he finally realized that his powers are truly limited to those his flock grants him. This is going to leave some nasty Bishops and Archbishops without anyone to vilify and thus twisting in the wind with their foul moods and ideas.

    September 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Doris

      I've been wondering about his tenure in Argentina and how it brings him to his current outlook. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when he had a recent meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  12. boredofceleb

    Why do all religious leaders where such strange looking garb? To make them LOOK religious??

    September 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Athy

      It's for the same reason a policeman wears a uniform. Or a chef wears a tall hat. It's a recognition thing.

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

        Police actually have a good reason outside of social status to wear a uniform.....A pope not so much

        September 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
        • Athy

          Agreed. But they still have to separate themselves from their sheep.

          September 19, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  13. John Stefanyszyn

    Jorge Bergoglio ("Pope Francis") stated in the above article "...but God in creation has set us free...".

    THIS IS A LIE...for it is clearly written in the Creator's Word that He commanded Adam and Eve NOT to take of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In other words. He forbid them , or in other terms, He did NOT give them the freedom to take of this tree for He said that their disobedience to this commandment would result in the judgement and consequence of their death.

    It is Eve that "saw" (established and justified) that this tree was instead good in her eyes....she , with Adam, disobeyed the commandment of the One God and established this act as "freedom" against the Will of the Creator and confessed it to be their "freedom" for their desires to establish and justify "their rights".

    A servant cannot be free unless it is given by his master....whereas President Obama has declared that "freedom is not given" implying that it must be taken. This "taken" freedom is not true freedom for the servant is still subject to the authority of, and consequentially, the punishment by the master.

    This love for this self-declared "freedom" is the mark on one's forehead that all receive willingly and it is the image that man worships. It is the "god of fortresses" that all follow, which confesses that it is right to be free to worship any 'god'...to serve and magnify oneself (the XES).

    Buy it is Only Christ, Son of the One God, that will rule according to and in obedience to the Will of the Creator Father and NOT according to man's love for his "freedom will".

    Man will weep and clench his teeth in anger when his self-proclaimed "freedom" will be no more.

    September 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • BakBic

      Too long.. too boring.. too much unnecessary capitalization.. too much BS..

      September 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
      • Creole

        Best comment!!! Lmao!

        September 19, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Daryl

      Thank goodness I'm an atheist!

      September 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
      • Jesus Loves You

        When you are no longer in this world and transported in your eternal destination, you will say the other way around. How I wish I listen and believe the Holy Bible. Now is too late. You will probably even shout the loudest you could and say Please Jesus Help Me... but it will be too late. Repent while there is time and accept Jesus' invitation. He loves you and He died for the forgiveness of your sins and He rose again from the dead to give life to the fullest. Make Him Lord of your Life and He will save you. Act now while there is time.

        September 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
        • jens gessner

          God loves you sooo much he will condemn you to hell if you don't believe the nonsense in the bible. Got it.

          September 19, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
        • Jesus Loves You

          God loves you much but you have your own free will to choose. It is your choice. There are only 2 choices: (1) RIght with God through redemptive work of Jesus (2) or Rejecting God eternally by not accepting Jesus.

          God is a Holy, Holy Holy God. All of us will be consumed in His presence. Only Jesus is the Way, Truth and The Life. Only Him can mediate between God and man. Without Jesus will be consumed, All of us are destined to experience spiritual death which is eternal separation with God. Do you know how painful it was for Jesus to carry your sins. He carried it because of His love to you ... to give you a chance to be with God. Act now while there is a chance will your choice still matters. Choose life over death.

          September 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
        • sam stone

          without proxy threats like this, christianity is dead in the water

          September 19, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
        • jens gessner

          Whew. Lot's to think about, preacher.

          "God is a Holy, Holy Holy God."

          As supposed to an 'unholy God"?

          "Do you know how painful it was for Jesus to carry your sins. He carried it because of His love to you ... to give you a chance to be with God."

          Since Jesus = God (Trinity), the crucifixion could not have been much of a sacrifice. Since deities are supposedly omnipotent, they would not suffer or give up anything – unless they are idiots. Thus stories about your deity suffering for you are meant to make you feel guilty. Guess it worked in your case.

          "Act now while there is a chance will your choice still matters. Choose life over death."

          Hate to break it to you: Death is not a choice. The only 'choice' we have is what kind of life to live. I choose to live a good, decent life, for my sake and for those around me. If I stick to that, I don't need to worry about an 'afterlife'. Your God – if such a deity really existed – should be able to see through BS. Does God prefer believers who believe only in order to gain access to heaven – or non-believers who live a decent life on its own account?

          Think about that one, preacher.

          September 19, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
        • Jesus Loves You

          According to the Holy Scripture. Jesus is the only Way, the Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. You can give many excuses and justifications but it will not change the absolute truth.
          Life is not just the physical life that you have now. There is more into it. I thought in the beginning there are more ways but I was wrong. I already had proven that He is the Only Way. He answers prayers. He changes lives. He makes miracles, demons flee by hearing His Name. My brother was a licensed chemical engineer and he was a new Christian at that time. In the workplace while he was in the caferia, a woman sudden shrieked and speak in different kinds of voices. Some of his officemates pulled him and maybe was trying to mock him but also in panic of the situation. My brother got scared at first but he remembered the teachings of Jesus that by His Name demons would flee. He said he would pray first by himself. When he approached the demon-possessed woman, he was surprised the woman was yelling on top of her voice and became scared of my brother. My brother asked who are you. the woman answered we are many. My brother said... In the Name that is above every other names, in the Name of Jesus I rebuked you get away from that woman. The woman in different voice was yelling until she became uncionscious. After a minute or so, she regained consciousness and asked what happened to me. My brother's co-workers were surprised. That story spread throughout the big workplace and some accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. My brother is now a full-time pastor with no regular salary and abandoned his professional career. He is still being used by God and but the greatest miracle a person can have is the miracle of salvation, when you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
          Jesus is who He claims He is . He is Eternal. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He created all things visible, invisible , dominions, powers. He holds all things together.

          Act now before it's too late. You will never know that your loaned life may be taken from you. Make the most of your life. Serve Jesus. He is coming soon and


          at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
          in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
          and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
          to the glory of God the Father.

          September 20, 2013 at 3:16 am |
    • Ken

      If the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil hadn't been eaten from, there wouldn't have been any need for "morality", commandments, religion, or even Jesus, right? Begs the question, also, how could Adam and Eve have known it was "wrong" to eat the fruit if it was the fruit that gave them a moral sense of what's right and wrong?

      September 19, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      blah, blah, fvcking blah johnnie boy

      September 19, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  14. Serge Crespy

    Dear Pope Francis, is it a sin to promote Jesus Christ and the apostles as "Gay" persons?

    September 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • SallyP

      Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus or any of his followers bash, or say a single negative thing against gays. So, a better question is whether it's a sin to state that Jesus was against h0m0se xuality?

      September 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
  15. Douglas

    Thank you Pope Francis!

    You have broken the silence and opened sincere dialogue with our LGBTQ
    brothers and sisters hungry to come on board as Christians in every sense of the word.

    Let us extend the hand of fellowship and break bread together knowing that the fulfillment of scripture means that there
    is a place for all, for all have fallen short and are worthy of redemption though repentance.

    As His Holiness 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.

    Rise up LGBTQ and follow the altar call to salvation!

    September 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • Jesus Loves You

      That is true, 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 8:29 pm |
      • Douglas

        Amen and thank you.
        The angels rejoice when a sinner once lost, is found!

        September 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
        • JWT

          If they are not part of your church Douglas they are not sinners.

          September 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
        • Douglas


          There is only one way to salvation. As Jesus said,

          John 14:6
          6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

          We are ALL in this together. Let's all enter through the narrow gate, LGBTQ, and straight alike,
          washed clean in his blood. He died for YOU and me.

          September 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
        • JWT

          Your jesus did not die for me Douglas as I am not a christian. Your views on religon are not the only ones. and they apply only to you and those that agree with you. Other people hold differing yet equal, if not better, views.

          September 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
        • sam stone

          Still in the closet, Doogie?

          September 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
      • Athy

        That sappy story always works on children. What's scary is it also works on some adults.

        September 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • heehee

      Being LGBTQ is not a sin, and I will continue to state that plainly. He extended a hand, and to take it would require accepting the unhealthy notion that LGBTQ may not be true to themselves. You may try to disguise that with smiles, but that is the position of the pope and his church.

      I for one, would like to move on from the whole issue of accepting LGBT and Qs. It's no big deal and for me the issue was resolved 25 years ago by simply moving to a big city and becoming familiar with more kinds of people. It takes a certain kind of deep stubbornness to have LGBTorQ friends and think of them as sinners.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • doobzz

      Is this gay coitus Douglas?

      September 21, 2013 at 1:08 am |
  16. *

    Truthfully, exactly what % of comments are nothing but troll splatter? 60%?

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

      Statements you disagree with are not all written by trolls.

      Religious topic are unique, in that disagreement – stated plainly – is seen as violent insult.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
  17. Speaking of foul odors....

    Old Christian Ladies and Churches.

    September 19, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  18. Lionly Lamb

    What would the Pope have to say about allowing all the world's farmers to grow as much Hemp (not Cannabis) as is feasibly possible and use the seeds as a stable food source within socially strife countries..? If you’re not on par on being Hemp wise, Hemp is an offshoot of the Cannabis Family Tree… Hemp contains hardly any THC, the psychoactive ingredient to give one a buzz… The additional nutrients coming from Hemp seeds could feed so many of the under nourished hungry masses with a nutritiously staple food source supplement without the buzz...

    September 19, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      After all things considered. Hemp is but a weed and will grow just about anywhere under even hostile conditions...Now Cannabis... It's the V-12 engine of the weeds...

      September 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
  19. boredofceleb

    Now he needs to say "Who am I to judge on the issue of abortion"? and we'll be getting somewhere.

    September 19, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Mr. Duckworth

      PEACE – (begins in the womb). Think about it dude. Thank God for Mother Theresa.

      September 19, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
      • SallyP

        Where did all the money that Mother Theresa raised go? It sure didn't go into building hospitals, or helping the poor, as promised, did it?

        Did it go to paying off abuse victims, or just to making more convents of her order, making more nuns to lobby for her quick sainthood?

        September 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
      • doobzz

        Her name is Teresa, and she was a creepy, depressed old crone who refused to give dying patients anything stronger than aspirin, and took stolen money from convicted felons and dictators with known human rights violations.

        She never built a hospital with any of the millions in unaccounted for dollars. Instead of going for charitable purposes, as it was intended, it went into the Vatican's general fund. Yet when she got sick, she flew in private jets to some of the most expensive medical facilities in the world.

        She told starving people that their suffering was "beautiful" and a dying woman that her pain was "kisses from Jesus".

        She was an attention whore and a hypocrite.

        September 21, 2013 at 1:17 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57
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.