Liberals around the world applauded Pope Francis for meeting the bare minimum standard of human decency on Monday by saying, when asked about the possibility of gay priests, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

The remarks would seem to reflect a break from Francis' predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who had written in 2005 that "the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture.'"

Francis answered the question about gay clergy on his plane, "Shepherd One," on his way back from Brazil, where he celebrated mass in front of millions of congregants on Copacabana Beach. During the half-hour enplaned conference, Francis also responded to allegations that one of his aides was "involved in an alleged gay tryst a decade ago":

He said he investigated the allegations according to canon law and found nothing to back them up. But he took journalists to task for reporting on the matter, saying the allegations concerned matters of sin, not crimes like sexually abusing children.

And when someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives but forgets.

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

[image via AP]