A New York Times article from July 29, 2013 introduced Pope Francis’s remark on gay priests which he made aboard the papal airplane on the way back from his first foreign trip, to Brazil.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word “gay.”

Pope said this in Italian. Is "Who am I to judge?" a right translation? Couldn't it be "Whom am I to judge?" or "Who am I if I were to judge?" How could I spell out this phrase?

P.S. Ross Douthat provided full text of Pope’s remark including “Who am I to judge.” in NYT Jul 30 issue:

“A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will - well, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby.”

I was under the impression that “Who am I to judge” was just a clip from a short Q&A between the pope and reporters aboard the papal plane, but it was a part of a well-structured discourse. It seems I made a premature post, without checking the full context of Pope’s message. Now the meaning is pretty clear to me.

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    He said "chi sono io per giudicare?" which means "who am I to judge?" Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 10:19
  • 2
    1 - People really don't use 'whom' anymore. 2 - 'Whom am I ...' would be incorrect in the past anyway. 3 - "...remark on gay" -> "remark on homosexuality", because 'gay' is an adjective (mostly).
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 12:41
  • +1 @Mitch for "People really don't use 'whom' anymore"... It sounds archaic/Old English-y
    – Izkata
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 15:50
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    @Mitch - "Whom am I" wouldn't be old-fashioned, it would just be wrong. Whom is an object pronoun - the only context in which "Whom am I to judge?" would be if the answer were "Those people, over there."
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 18:26
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    Whom am I to look down upon with great disdain for claiming that people don't really use "whom" any more?
    – oosterwal
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


"Who am I to judge" is the correct translation.

It is not a question about judging someone else and asking who that might be (using whom as the object of judge): it is a question about the asker himself — Who am I?

It means "What status do I have that allows me to judge?"

  • Yes, but perhaps add an explanation about predicate nominatives and subjective v. objective case?
    – bib
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 13:08
  • @bib OK. (And some more text in a comment)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 13:11
  • Excellent answer whit a perfect sentence at the end, +1.
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 13:22
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    Specifically, the subject is "I", and "who" is a pronoun used as a predicate nominative. These are terms used with a linking verb, and the predicate is basically equated to the subject and takes the same case as the subject. "Who" is the subjective case, as opposed to "whom" which is the objective case. If the pronoun were used as a true object, (such as "Whom did you hit?", it would take the objective case.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 15:48
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    It should also be noted that "Who am I to judge?" is not an uncommon phrase in English.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 0:36

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