AP Interview: Pope doesn’t consider homosexuality a crime


Andrew Medicini/Associated Press

Pope Francis delivers his message at home during Mass for the feast of St. Mary at the beginning of the new year at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, Saturday, January 1, 2022.

VATICAN — Pope Francis has slammed laws criminalizing homosexuality as “unfair,” saying God loves all of his children for who they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people to church.

“Being gay is not a crime,” Francis said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

Francis has acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against LGBT people, and he himself called the issue the term “sin.” But he attributed this attitude to cultural background and said that bishops, in particular, need to go through a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.

“These bishops should have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should show “tenderness, please, like God to each of us.”

Hailed as a milestone by gay rights advocates, Francis’ comments are the first to be spoken of by the Pope about such laws. But they also align with his general approach to LGBT people and his belief that the Catholic Church should welcome everyone and not discriminate.

About 67 countries or jurisdictions around the world criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or already have the death penalty, according to the Human Dignity Trust, which is working to repeal such laws. Experts say that even where laws are not enforced, they contribute to harassment, stigmatization and violence against LGBTQ people.

In the US, more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws, despite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that declared them unconstitutional. Gay rights advocates say outdated laws are being used to justify harassment, citing newer laws like Florida’s “Don’t Call Yourself Gay” law, which bans teaching sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as evidence. ongoing efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for the repeal of laws that explicitly criminalize homosexuality, saying they violate rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination and violate countries’ obligations under international law to protect the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. or gender identity.

Declaring such laws “unjust,” Francis said the Catholic Church could and should work to end them. “He has to do it. He has to do it,” he said.

Francis cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that gays should be welcomed and respected and should not be marginalized or discriminated against.

“We are all children of God and God loves us for who we are and for the strength with which each of us fights for our dignity,” Francis told the AP at the Vatican hotel where he lives.

Francis’ remarks came before a trip to Africa, where such laws are common, as they are in the Middle East. Many date from British colonial times or are inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops strongly supported them as being in line with the teachings of the Vatican, while others called for their abolition as an attack on basic human dignity.

In 2019, Francis was expected to make a statement against the criminalization of homosexuality during a meeting with advocacy groups that were conducting research on the effects of such laws and so-called “conversion therapies”.

In the end, after the audience was leaked, dad didn’t meet with the bands. Instead, Vatican No. 2 made and affirmed “the dignity of every person and against every form of violence.”

There was no indication that Francis had spoken out about such laws now because his more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had recently died. This question was never raised in an interview, but Francis readily answered, even citing statistics on the number of countries where homosexuality is criminalized.

Francis said on Tuesday that a distinction must be made between crime and sin in relation to homosexuality. Church teaching maintains that homosexual acts are sinful or “intrinsically abnormal,” but gay people must be treated with dignity and respect.

Joking at himself, Francis formulated the position: “This is not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Okay, but first let’s distinguish between sin and crime.

“It is also a sin not to show mercy to each other,” he added.

Francis has not changed church teaching that has long irritated gay Catholics. But he has made appealing to LGBTQ people a hallmark of his papacy.

The Pope’s comments did not specifically address transgender or non-binary people, only homosexuality, but supporters of greater inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Catholic Church hailed the Pope’s comments as an important step forward.

“His historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBT people deserve to live in a world without violence and judgment, and with more kindness and understanding,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and Chief Executive Officer US director. based on the human rights group GLAAD.

She described his comments as “game-changing in the fight to decriminalize LGBTQ people.”

New Ways Ministry, a Catholic LGBTQ advocacy group, said the church hierarchy’s silence on such laws has had a devastating effect so far, perpetuating such policies and fueling violent anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

“The Pope is reminding the church that how people treat each other in the social world is of far greater moral importance than what people can do in the privacy of their bedroom,” group chief executive Francis DeBernardo said in a statement. .

Starting with his famous 2013 declaration “Who am I to judge?” — when asked about the allegedly gay priest — Francis has repeatedly and publicly ministered to the gay and transgender communities. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he advocated providing legal protection for same-sex couples as an alternative to approving same-sex marriage, which Catholic doctrine forbids.

Despite such propaganda, Francis came under fire from the Catholic gay community for a 2021 decree from the Vatican’s doctrinal office saying the church could not bless same-sex unions.

In 2008, the Vatican refused to sign a UN declaration calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, saying the text was beyond its original scope. In a statement at the time, the Vatican urged countries to avoid “unfair discrimination” against gays and lift sanctions against them.

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