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. francis

    I know that is the authority of God to judge, but didn't u all forget about Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 13:13-18) (Genesis19:24-25), ??! Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. OMG !

    September 20, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Didn't U forget that the stories in the bible are all made up?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:00 am |
      • Mark

        If you really think the stories in the bible are made up, visit be4thefire.com and check out all the video's and especially the vatican exposed link.

        September 20, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I'll be sure to throw my vir/gin daughters to a ravenous mob of rapists so that God will spare me.
      Just gotta warn my wife about the whole transforming into a condiment if she looks back...

      September 20, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Jim

      ◄ Ezekiel 16:49 ►
      "'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

      Funny, no mention of any kind of se x at all. "Arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned" with the poor and needy sounds more like the folks who are obsessed with vilifying gays.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  2. Grace

    This man would seem to be the closest and best representation of Jesus they've had yet in a Pope. I'm no longer a Catholic but I admire him and hope he lives a long and peaceful life. What a good man he is!

    September 20, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Tony

      I'm no longer a Catholic either but it is refreshing to see him as pope after Ratzinger.
      However, I don't really think he's proposing any change. It just sounds like they're going to stop talking about unpopular issues. If that's true, it's a bit dishonest for my taste.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • guest

      "What a good guy he is." Baloney! Just wait until he does start to mke changes and say that again.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      If you were baptized Catholic you are still Catholic. You may be unconfirmed or lapsed but you are still Catholic. Allow me to invite you back to the mass.

      September 20, 2013 at 9:22 am |
      • Tony

        So how exactly does one go about renouncing their former religion?

        September 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  3. sodom-ized

    it's a filthy organization..

    September 20, 2013 at 7:20 am |
  4. Tony

    So essentially what he's saying is he still condemns abortion and gay marriage,but they're not going to be as loud about it? It sounds like their position hasn't changed at all.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • sodom-ized

      he sure isn't against children abused.. More deflections from this filth pit.

      Cathoholics go to a dumpster for their religion.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:21 am |
      • Bob

        Nice! I always enjoy the postings of ignorant, anti Catholic bigots that have absolutely no understanding of the Catholic Church! Nice hate speech, sodom-iced! I'm sure the gang at the local Ku Klux Klan meetings you attend get a chuckle out of your bigotry!

        September 20, 2013 at 7:47 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Ignoring the facts doesn't make them go away. There are numerous priests who have been accused of pedophilia and who have been protected by the RCC. bishopaccountability.org has a huge lists of these priests, so before spewing your own bigotry and hate know the facts first and stop turning a blind eye to reality...look out for the innocent children for a change and show you care instead of being a self-righteous ass who only cares about his imaginary friend.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:51 am |
        • guest

          Look who is calling others ignorant?

          September 20, 2013 at 7:58 am |
        • Mirosal

          BOB .. you do realize that the KKK proudly call themselves a Christian organization, right?

          September 20, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  5. thykingdomcome-thywillbedone

    doctrine of deviles!!!
    telling the simple what they want to hear
    before the great tribulation, will be the great diception
    you will never be deceived if you do not trust the deceiver
    this is nothing but the voice of apostacy the bible warned us about
    Jesu did not sacrifice his life for these lies just think about it.
    he struggled against sin to the point of death
    this man is telling you that sin is not an issue
    but the wages of sin is death the bible says
    if you let this lies deceive you, you will be in hell forever
    THIS IS THE TRUTH believe me.

    September 20, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • sam stone

      ooooh. how scary

      September 20, 2013 at 7:19 am |
      • thykingdomcome-thywillbedone

        Hell is more scary
        chech out mary Baxters testimony of hell and be warned before it is too late. God say in
        The book of 2Cor5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...
        these are the days that everyone does what is good in his own eyes
        but god will judge every mans work. If trusted religious leader in the position of the pope starts by by being inclusive, you know that the end will be soon

        September 20, 2013 at 8:01 am |
        • Ken

          Mary Baxter is a false prophet according to most evangelical authorities. Her versions of heaven and hell go against scripture.


          September 20, 2013 at 8:30 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Have you been to hell to know it is real??

          September 20, 2013 at 8:30 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          Actually heaven is the most scary. Given that it is supposedly filled to the brim with pompous, sanctimonious Christians there isn't anything hell offers that tops how horrible heaven sounds.
          But just relax. Nobody has or is going anywhere, in any fashion, after they die. That's just a superstitious fantasy.

          September 20, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • One one

      Great point ! The church has always been about judgement, condemnation, bigotry, discrimination, intolerance, self-righteousness, lying, idiocy and hatred. Why would they want to change now ?

      September 20, 2013 at 7:24 am |
      • sam stone

        you must remember that jesus had a bad weekend for your sins

        September 20, 2013 at 7:27 am |
        • guest

          What does Jesus' bad week-end have to do with the RCC? When I think of the RCC, I think of 666, and the woman sitting on the red dragon.

          September 20, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • jA

      Believe you? Who are you to be so righteous?

      September 20, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  6. Anon

    Can anyone check to see if Jorge Mario Bergolio was born in the US? If he can get elected by the college of cardinals maybe he can be elected POTUS too?! Not Catholic or even Christian (not liberal either) and I'd cast my vote for him! Who in the world can't get behind Love and Acceptance?

    September 20, 2013 at 6:52 am |
  7. Bobby


    September 20, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  8. Pope

    This Pope is a Gay, This man is not Eligible to be a spiritual Leader of an enormous congregation of Catholics, One Question i wish to ask Is it forbidden to Give birth if you are a member of Catholic ?????

    September 20, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • midwest rail

      I'm sure you can prove your idiotic assertion. Or not.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:50 am |
      • Lisa. L


        September 20, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  9. AvdBerg

    Spiritual Truth about the Papacy

    The Pope who declared himself to be a 'sinner' is a false prophet in sheep's clothing, who deceives all his followers.

    – God heareth not sinners ((John 9:31)
    – He that committeth sin is of the devil (1 John 3:8)

    For a better understanding of what spirit the Pope serves (Luke 9:55; John 8:34), we invite you to read the articles 'Popes and the Princes of This World', 'Papal Infallibility, Contradictions and Spiritual Blindness' and 'The Mystery Babylon' listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    We also invite you to read the second item (Scarlet and Purple Colour) on the Recent Revelations Page. It simply and clearly explains the deceptions that for centuries have been hidden and have now been revealed, confirming what is written in Matthew 10:26 that there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14).

    September 20, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • Hubley

      What are you doing back here Andy?!!!

      September 20, 2013 at 6:47 am |
      • AvdBerg


        For the same reason that you are!! Please read the article 'CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times' listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

        September 20, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • midwest rail

      One can only hope he refrains from having a temper tantrum like last time.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:49 am |
  10. NYVeteran

    This courageous position can only help the dying church. Abortion and Gays have hijacked the Church agenda for too long and its been done by conservative politicians and followers. The hypocrisy is that they do not talk about the poor. So while Catholic bishops worldwide threaten liberal politicians with excommunication for voicing respect womens rights to their own body and peoples rights to love who they want. Yet when the same republicans eliminate funding for the poor, they are silent. The poor dont put money in the collection plates and keep tax exempt status safe. Loud mouth like Dolan in NY and that toothless mush mouthed moron Donahue of the Catholic League are nothing but politicians and do not represent anything but the people who give them money. These modern day money changers are the type their Jesus threw out of his Father's house. The politicians are nothing but the self righteous as described in the widows mite. One can only hope that their own proverbial eye of the needle and hypocrisy keeps them from their eternal life for their failures here on earth.

    September 20, 2013 at 4:59 am |
    • saggyroy

      "These are my principles, and if you don't like them I have others" – Groucho Marx

      September 20, 2013 at 5:59 am |
      • Lawrence of Arabia

        "I lost over 100,000 dollars in the stock market. I would have lost more, but that was all I had!"
        Love Groucho!

        September 20, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • M.A.P.

      Thank you for so clearly articulating this hypocracy! As a gay person I never uinderstood why the church spends so much time and energy to condemm me for being born the way I am. That is why I strongly dislike the church. But it is even worse that whilst they are condemming select groups, they do nothing to condemm greed, hate, pride and the other sins. It's cherry picking at its absolute worst! Gays need protection from regimes and hate groups, and in many countries face the death penalty! The hypocracy is blinding and infuriating.

      September 20, 2013 at 6:05 am |
      • sue

        Perhaps it's because there is no biological evidence to support the theory that gays are born gay. God is above man's law, even if this pompous pope destroys the purity of His Holy Word.

        September 20, 2013 at 6:11 am |
        • midwest rail

          Thank you, Sue, for demonstrating so early this morning the three primary characteristics of contemporary evangelical Christians – arrogance, condescension, and hatred. Well done.

          September 20, 2013 at 6:28 am |
        • Mirosal

          Sue, I suggest you erad more than just your big book of mythology. While a "gay gene" has not been discovered, there IS physiological evidence that people are born with certain predilections and apti'tudes. So tell us Sue, exactly when did you choose to be straight? How old were you?

          September 20, 2013 at 7:18 am |
        • sam stone

          nor is there any evidence for your god, sue

          September 20, 2013 at 7:23 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Mirosal, of course people are born with certain proclivities towards sin – thank you, you just defined the "sin nature" that every man is born with.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:42 am |
        • truthprevails1

          sue: What century is this? Where do you get the idea that gays are not born gay? Have you done any research outside of the bible on this matter or do you just choose to remain a bigot on purpose? Does your imaginary friend give you special brownie points for being so hateful? How does a person being gay directly affect your life?

          September 20, 2013 at 7:47 am |
        • Mirosal

          "sin" is but a concept, nothing more. It's your indoctrination that decrees "everybody is a sinner" ... and I resent that you think I should bear the iniquity of a mythical man (Adam) for any transgression he may have done, according to myth. All humans are born without ANY knowledge about a concept of a deity. That is something parents throw onto their kids as they are told "you better be good or god will punish you, you're already guilty you were born that way" ... I'm still wauting for Sue to tell us that since she thinks people choose to be gay when did she choose to be straight, and while we're at it, when did YOU choose?

          September 20, 2013 at 8:10 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Mirosal, the natural condition is het.ero.se.xuality since we're created either male or female... If ho.mose.xuality was the norm, then we'd all be born male... Or all be born female... People become "gay" when they choose to follow their proclivities towards sin and entice their lu.sts. And when lust is conceived it brings forth sin, and when sin is conceived, it brings forth death. Look at it like this, ho.mose.xuality can't be genetic, because the "gay gene" would have to be passed down from a parent who was also "gay." But since gay people don't generally have procreative relationships, then the gene would have died out after the first gay person failed to reproduce himself...

          September 20, 2013 at 9:14 am |
        • Observer

          Lawrence of Arabia,

          People are born gay just like we were born hetero.

          Skip the hypocrisy. There's virtually ZERO chance you believe everything in the Bible so don't pick on others who don't either.

          September 20, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  11. Corncop

    OK, got a Pope who at least has an open mind! Is there hope for the religious nuts in the Republican Party? Probably not, but ere can always be hope! Besides, after the next couple of elections they will all be on the outside looking in! As in, it will be a cold day in Hell before a lot of them get re-elected!

    September 20, 2013 at 3:42 am |
  12. BO

    Make you a deal. I'll shut up about gays if you libs shut up about my guns.

    September 20, 2013 at 3:35 am |
    • Peter

      When gays kill as many people as guns do, I'll take that deal. Until then, STFU.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:57 am |
    • sam stone

      how did this become a political thing, bo?

      September 20, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Free NRA memeberships for gay people!
      Then everybody is happy.

      September 20, 2013 at 8:35 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        The NRA used to have a ad campaign that went "I'm so and so and I'm the NRA". When a gay friend of mine told me he was going to get a concealed carry permit I said you should get a T-shirt that says "I'm gay and I'm the NRA"

        September 20, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  13. Daniaal

    Welcome to the humanity pope

    September 20, 2013 at 2:58 am |

      Godless Vagabond
      Want to try explaining that head-scratching statement to us, Daniaal? And the weird spelling of your name?

      September 20, 2013 at 3:03 am |
      • Daniaal

        Humans are sinners in a way or two, arne't they? so when the pope also finds himself to be a sinner after all he puts himself among us the sinners/humans/ordinary mortals

        September 20, 2013 at 4:49 am |
        • truthprevails1

          No, sin is a biblical concept and doesn't apply to those who see no valid reason to accept the bible as anything more than the fallacious story it is.

          September 20, 2013 at 5:05 am |
  14. Dr Tod Policandriotes

    The message I see is that he wants us to treat each other as we wish to be treated ourselves. Love each other instead of murdering or hurting another. Just imagine how strong of a race we would be if we would work together to solve world problems. Imagine a world at peace working toward expanding our footprint in this solar system and further. It is sad that the people of this planet do not stand up and say STOP, enough wars, enough death, we want peace and prosperity.

    September 20, 2013 at 2:41 am |
    • Steven Carr

      He's in deniaal.

      September 20, 2013 at 4:39 am |
  15. pleaseignoreme

    Sooner or later, Pope Francis will announce all gays are welcomed into communion with the catholic church, or the College of Cardinals will declare him unfit to head the church and will be the third Pope to abdicate.

    September 20, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • Elizafish Taylor

      LOL.... Gays have been receiving Communion for years... if there's one thing about gays, they're very good at finding free booze.

      September 21, 2013 at 1:35 am |
  16. so

    tolerance of religious idiocy is coming to a swift end...

    By all means necessary, Enough is enough

    We really need to start euthanizing religious people.

    September 20, 2013 at 1:05 am |

    • Hello faith. Who are "we" tonight?

      September 20, 2013 at 1:06 am |
      • sam stone

        apparently, it is the same old faith, threatening FBI action over his/her/its paranoid delusions

        September 20, 2013 at 1:12 am |
        • Genius_mind

          The Honorable Excellnce Pope's statements mentioned are found to be (by me) very comprehensive and exhaustive spritual and political stands and remarks; and it resembles an old fashioned religious preachings. And above it can be considered as sharp and pre-emptive (no gap-left over) statement of spritual leadership.

          September 20, 2013 at 2:03 am |
      • sam stone

        faith has that jeebus marital aid on high, jammed up her stanky weed patch

        September 20, 2013 at 1:17 am |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      Example of how the war against christianity in particular and faith in general is being pursued.

      September 20, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  17. Levi 2013

    Everyone must listen to me and follow wha I've said.

    September 20, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • dying morality

      It's a 'must' for me these days that I may not ultimately succ.umb on the immorality of men.

      September 20, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  18. mongol1

    Speaking from the perspective of a former Catholic and former seminarian (and currently an aspirational Buddhist) there is much about Pope Francis that I admire. One thing that I strongly disagree with him and the rest of the Church's hierarchy is their centuries old discrimination against women by refusing them ordination. Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' closest apostles and held authority even after his ascension, but Peter and his apostolic "clique" edited her out of the picture to seize control over the fledgling religion, and subsequently even a Gnostic gospel attributed to her (or her teachings) was banned by a discriminatory patriarchal power structure.

    Women who have "the calling" should be ordained. Furthermore, I believe that Christianity in general has twisted the teaching of Jesus to impose priests or ministers as intermediaries between "God" and man. I think the concepts in the gospel of Thomas is more true to Christ's teachings: "salvation" must come from within each human being, being a kind of spiritual evolution. I believe that Jesus was strongly influenced by the teachings of the Buddha, which predated Christianity by 500 years, which would explain what he was studying in the 30 years before he began his ministry.

    September 20, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I'm curious about where damnation comes from – the thing we're to be saved from. And eternal life vs eternal punishment. That's the part of it that seems so plainly contrived.

      September 20, 2013 at 12:44 am |
      • Susan

        Christ said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Follow Christ (and his cross), and all manner of death is overcome.

        September 20, 2013 at 1:10 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          The problem is that we are being told that there is no death of the sort that seems probable – no me forever after. There is either the eternal barbecue pit or conformation to the way of eternal life. It's plainly intended to herd us into the religious nonsense.

          September 20, 2013 at 1:16 am |
        • sam stone

          good for jesus, a loudmouth who got whacked by the romans. neither the first, nor the last

          September 20, 2013 at 7:36 am |
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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.