Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge” gay people? “Women in the Church are more important than bishops.”

“If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

“The Madonna and Mary were more important than the apostles, bishops, deacons and priests. Women in the Church are more important than bishops and priests. I think we are missing a theological explanation on this.”

– Pope Francis in press Q&A on the plane back from Rio; full transcript is not yet available

Last week, Archbishop Chaput said “right wing” Catholics weren’t happy Pope Francis hadn’t talked about the hot-button issues yet. I think now they probably wish he’d kept quiet.

Is it a 180? No. I’m reminded of the way some on the Left felt about President Obama at the beginning, investing in him all their hopes for radical change, while forgetting that he emerged through and was a product of the current system. John Allen stakes out the middle ground, saying these latest remarks from the pope are neither huge shifts in policy nor offhand remarks; they are, he says, “a significant shift in tone.” But even though it’s true the pope isn’t advocating for women priests or gay marriage, I think Allen is underplaying it a bit. In recent decades, the Vatican has actively suppressed talk of reform and hardened its positions on social issues. As I said a few weeks ago, a reversal of not just tone but also emphasis, away from attacking those in disagreement over dogma and towards holding up universal Christian values, will restore a culture in which conversation can occur, in which people of faith can discuss what’s essential and what is not — such as as with Fr. Schuller’s current U.S. tour. In the long run, this may lead to substantial change. And while women priests may be off the table, Francis has said women deacons are not. Gay marriage is one thing, but as archbishop of Buenos Aires he is reported to have supported a civil unions bill. On celibacy of priests, he’s said it’s a tradition, not a matter of faith, and “might change.” As I reported a few weeks ago, Pope Francis said, “the Church always goes forward, giving space to the Holy Spirit that renews these structures, structures of the churches. Don’t be afraid of that!” Reform may be closer than many people hope or fear.

Oh, and I just love this detail from the press conference. Pope Francis was asked about the bag he carried on the plane. You see, popes don’t typically carry their own luggage! Associated Press reports his answer:

“The keys to the atomic bomb weren’t in it,” Francis quipped. The bag, he said, contained a razor, a prayer book, his agenda and a book on St. Terese of Lisieux, to whom he is particularly devoted.

“It’s normal” to carry a bag when traveling, he said, stressing the style that separates him from other pontiffs, who until a few decades ago were carried around on platforms. “We have to get use to this being normal.”

I’m certainly not surprised he’s devoted to the Little Flower.

About Phil Fox Rose

Phil Fox Rose is a writer, editor and content lead based in New York. He is coordinator of Contemplative Outreach of New York, helping promote centering prayer, which has been his contemplative practice for nearly 20 years. Raised atheist by ex-Mormons, Phil has journeyed through Quakerism, deep ecology, Buddhism and Catholicism. Now he's a congregant, worship leader, cook and chair of the leadership team at St. Lydia's, an awesome dinner church in Brooklyn, NY, and spends as much time in nature as possible. Phil has been a political party leader, videographer, tech journalist, punk roadie, software designer, sheepherder, stockbroker and downtempo radio DJ. A common thread is the process of learning about stuff, figuring it out and then sharing that understanding with others. Follow Phil by RSS feed, email, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

  • Steve

    Francis was strongly against gay marriage and abortion


    He isn’t “left” or “right”. Those pathetic words shouldn’t have any meaning to Catholics

    • Phil Fox Rose

      Steve, thanks for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree that the labels “left” and “right” do not apply to Pope Francis, and should not apply to religious leaders and entities. We are supposed to be following a different authority. That’s part of what’s so refreshing about him. I never said, and have never heard anyone say, by the way, that Pope Francis is “for” gay marriage or abortion. He has supported gay civil unions, however. And that points to what I think is the exciting possibility for the Church with him. Because in the last few decades the Catholic Church HAS gotten entangled with partisan thinking, and this has led to all sorts of strategic power calculations and hardened positions and slippery slope fears, like the US bishops fighting against universal health care ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philfoxrose/2009/08/for-i-was-ill-and-you-cared-for-me/ ) ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philfoxrose/2009/11/health-care-reform-and-catholicism-revisited/ ). In this environment, a leader whose sole compass seems to be love of God and neighbor is earthshaking.

    • Phil Fox Rose

      Oh, and BTW, funny that you jumped on *my* use of the term “right wing” as not being appropriate to use describing Catholics. Note that I put “right wing” in quotes because those were the words of Archbishop Chaput and I was distancing myself from them a bit.

      • Steve

        My mistake then.

  • Alison Lees

    Women are more important than priests and bishops for the simple reason that laypeople (men and women both) are more important than the clergy (of any sex) who serve them. The theology is already there, but it won’t help him tackle the problems faced as a result of the role that women are perceived to hold in the catholic church.

  • Mario S. De Pillis, Sr.

    Phil, of the many public reactions to this welcome pope yours is the most balanced and fair reaction to his astonishing comments. It is indeed “earthshaking” and seems to be moving millions of believer. I would suggest to Alison Lees that “perceptions” do change, and in any case are not relevant to a pope who clearly thinks and prays without obeisance to perceptions.

    • Phil Fox Rose

      I appreciate your very generous words! Thank you.