Pope Francis said today that he favors the right of gays to marry.
In an interview with Lithuanian newspaper Rausva Plunksna, the leader of the Catholic Church explains that since gays are part of God's creation, they deserve the same rights and respect as all human beings.
"We have learned much about homosexuality in recent years," he told a reporter aboard the papal jet. "We now know that being gay isn't a choice, but something one is born with. If our Lord decides that someone should come into this world a certain way, who are we to judge his choice?
"And for those who do judge, where exactly in the Bible does it say marriage is reserved for heterosexual relationships? Is it in the Ten Commandments? I don't see it there. You'd think if stopping gay marriage were so important Jesus would have mentioned it – I don't know – maybe once in the Bible.
"The Bible mentions not eating shellfish more than it mentions homosexuality. And yet many anti-gay activists – including some Catholics – are running around eating shrimp and telling others what to do with their lives. I view these people as bigoted and ungodly and I will confront them during my time as pontiff. Who are we to tell anyone who to love? "
Pope Francis ascended to the papacy following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI earlier this year. Although he had previously been a fierce defender of church doctrine, since becoming pope Francis has hinted at more progressive views on social issues – such as the idea of married priests, female priests and homosexuality.
So far many devout Catholics have welcome's Francis's overtures, dismissing them as changes in tone rather than substance. But endorsing gay marriage outright may be a step too far for some.
"The queers have gone too far this time," says former Senator Rick Santorum, a prominent Catholic, anti-gay politician, "They've clearly taken control of Pope Francis using some sort of gay mind control. The Catholic Church has a proud 2,000 year tradition of intolerance towards homosexuals, and I find it hard to believe our leader would willingly end that impressive achievement."
In the interview, however, Francis appeared to be in control of his own thoughts and preemptively counterattacked his critics by calling into question their dedication to the faith.
"Some people believe that religion is all about getting to heaven," he explains" These people try to prove to God that they're more deserving than others. So they decide to judge entire groups of people — minorities, immigrants, single mothers — to make themselves look better in God's eyes.
"But the Lord does not look kindly upon such judgement. All human beings are equal before his eyes. And saying 'I am holier than him because he is gay or because he speaks a different language' — this is a strategy that is bound to fail."