On Tuesday, January 24, Pope Francis publicly stated that homosexuality isn’t a crime during an interview with the Associated Press where he called on Catholic bishops to welcome LGBTQ+ people into the church.
He clarified that he believes with regard to homosexuality, there is a distinction between a crime and a sin stating, “…Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime…It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another”.
Pope Francis acknowledged that some Catholic bishops continue to support laws that criminalise homosexuality and discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. He attributed their actions to their cultural backgrounds.
While Vatican teachings still consider being LGBTQ+ as “disordered,” the Pope said that these bishops need to change their views and recognise the dignity of everyone. He also quoted the Catholic Church Catechism and said LGBTQ+ people must be welcomed and respected, not be marginalised or discriminated against.
Pope Francis has made more efforts to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community compared to his predecessors, including meeting with trans people during the pandemic. In consideration for LGBTQ+ people, he has urged reluctant members of the clergy to practice “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us”.
In 2013 Pope Francis famously declared, “Who am I to judge?” regarding gay members of the priesthood but he was also criticised last year following the Vatican’s statement on the church not being able to bless same-sex unions “because God cannot bless sin”.
The United Nations has stated that laws that criminalise homosexuality violate international law to protect human rights, and Pope Francis said the Catholic Church should work to put an end to these “unjust” laws that suggest homosexuality is a crime.
There are currently 67 countries that criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity. Even when these laws are not enforced, they directly contribute to violence against LGBTQ+ people by creating a hostile environment where hate is acceptable.
The pope has plans to visit South Sudan which criminalises homosexuality in early February. In October, the Catholic Church is hosting a churchwide assembly that is expected to address the Catholic LGBTQ+ community.
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