Pope Francis on Gays: Who Am I to Judge?

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Pope Francis had a busy week in Brazil, visiting slums and prisons, blessing the Olympic flag and bringing three million people to mass on Sunday.

But it was on the plane back to Rome where the newly-anointed pontiff took questions from reporters and made perhaps his biggest headline of the trip.

Pope Francis Photograph

According to the Wall Street Journal, he was asked about homosexuality, the reported "gay lobby" and the topic of gay priests in the Catholic Church.

Here is how Pope Francis, 76, broached the delicate, hypothetical question of how he would respond to finding out that a cleric in his ranks was gay.

"Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" the pontiff said, speaking in Italian. "You can't marginalize these people."

The Pope noted that he has not encountered significant resistance to reform, and joked that if there is a “gay lobby” he hasn’t yet seen it on anyone’s ID cards.

Father James Martin, S.J., who is an admirer of Francis, said that the pontiff's comment about gay people is consistent with the rest of his papacy.

"One of Francis' hallmarks is an emphasis on mercy, which you see in that response. That mercy, of course, comes from Jesus. And we can never have too much of it."

Predecessor Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.

Francis has been much more conciliatory, as evidenced by these remarks.

While stressing Catholic teaching that calls for homosexuals to be treated with dignity, Francis took issue with reporting on alleged Vatican gay sex scandals.

One of Francis' aides was allegedly investigated in a sex scandal, and rumors that Pope Benedict is gay surfaced shortly after his abrupt resignation.

Francis took journalists to task for reporting on such matters, saying the allegations concerned matters of sin, not crimes like sexually abusing children.

He denied wrongdoing on his aide's part, and noted that in general, whenever someone sins and confesses, God not only forgives but forgets.

"We don't have the right to not forget," he said.

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