Pope Francis on Gay Priests: ‘Who Am I to Judge?’

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Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Inching toward progress, Pope Francis ended his first trip abroad with a candid question-and-answer session in which he was asked about the possibility of, gasp, sexually inactive gay men in the Church. "If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?" he said, breaking with Catholic tradition. "They shouldn't be marginalized." The Vatican's mythical "gay lobby" allegedly helped to precipitate Pope Benedict XVI's premature exit, but the new pope said today, "When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they're our brothers."

Pope Benedict's rules, as signed in 2005, said the Church "cannot admit in seminaries nor give access to the sacred Orders to those who practice homosexuality, who present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or supporting the so-called gay culture." But Pope Francis said that while criminal acts, like the sexual abuse of children, should be punished by law, "the sins of youth" are not the same: "When the Lord forgives, He forgets," he said.

Lest things get too accepting, Pope Francis did call for more "truly deep theology of women in the church" but insisted that women would never become priests: "On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no," he said. "John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed."