Pope says homosexuality is not a crime
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has criticized laws criminalizing homosexuality as “unjust.”
“Being gay is not a crime,” Francis said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Francis acknowledged that in some parts of the world, Catholic bishops support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against LGBTQ people, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural origins, saying that bishops in particular must undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.
“These bishops must have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they must apply “tenderness, please, as God has done for each of us.”
Francis’ remarks, hailed as a landmark by gay rights advocates, are the first by a pope on such laws. But they are also in line with his holistic approach to LGBTQ 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 carry the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust, which is working to end such laws. Experts say that even where laws are not enforced, they contribute to harassment, stigma and violence against LGBTQ people.
In the United States, more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws in place, despite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling declaring them unconstitutional. Gay rights advocates say outdated laws are being used to justify harassment and point to new legislation, such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans education about sexual orientation and gender. gender identity from kindergarten through third grade, as evidence. ongoing efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.
The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to laws that outright criminalize homosexuality, saying they violate the right to privacy and freedom from discrimination and violate countries’ obligations under international law to to protect the human rights of everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. or gender identity.
Declaring such laws “unjust,” Francis said the Catholic Church can and must work to end them. “That should do it. He has to do it,” he said.
Francis quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church which stated that homosexuals should be welcomed and respected and should not be marginalized or discriminated against.
“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” Francis said from the Vatican hotel where he lives.
Francis’ remarks precede a trip to Africa, where such laws are common, as they are in the Middle East. Many date back to British colonial times or are inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops have strongly supported them as consistent with Vatican teachings, while others have called for their cancellation as a violation of basic human dignity.
In 2019, Francis was reported to issue a statement opposing the criminalization of homosexuality at a meeting with human rights organizations that have been researching the effects of these laws and so-called “death therapies”. conversion”.
Finally, after the news broke from the public, the pope did not meet with the groups. Instead, Vatican #2 did just that, reaffirming “the dignity of every human person and against all forms of violence.”
There is no indication that Francis was now speaking of such laws, as his more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, recently passed away. The question had never been asked in an interview before, but Francis was quick to answer, even citing statistics on the number of countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence.
On Tuesday, Francis said a distinction should be made between a crime and a sin when it comes to homosexuality. Church teaching states that homosexual acts are sinful or “inherently disordered”, but that homosexuals should be treated with dignity and respect.
Jokingly to himself, Francis expressed the position: “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Okay, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.
“It is also a sin to lack charity for each other,” he added.
Francis did not change the teachings of the Church, which has long angered gay Catholics. But he has made LGBTQ outreach a hallmark of his papacy.
The pope’s comments weren’t specifically about transgender or non-binary people, just homosexuality, but proponents of greater LGBTQ inclusion 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: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world free of violence and condemnation, and with greater kindness and understanding,” said Sarah Kate Ellis. , President and CEO of the United States. GLAAD, a New York-based advocacy group.
New Ways Ministry, a Catholic LGBTQ advocacy group, said the church hierarchy’s silence on these laws so far has had devastating consequences, perpetuating such policies and fueling violent rhetoric against LGBTQ people. .
“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 possibly do in the privacy of a bedroom,” the group’s CEO, Francis DeBernardo, said in a statement. . .
One of the cardinals recently appointed by the Pope – Robert McElroy, the Bishop of San Diego – is one of the Catholics who would like the Church to move forward and fully welcome LGBTQ people to the Church, even if they are sexually active .
“It is a demonic mystery of the human soul why so many men and women harbor deep and entrenched animosity toward members of LGBT communities,” McElroy wrote Tuesday in the Jesuit magazine America. “The Church’s main witness to this fanaticism must be one of embrace rather than renunciation or condemnation.”
Starting with his famous 2013 quote: “Who am I to judge? — when asked about an alleged gay priest — Francis continued to repeatedly and publicly address gay and transgender communities. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he advocated granting legal protection to same-sex couples as an alternative to sanctioning same-sex marriage, which Catholic doctrine prohibits.
Despite such efforts, Francis has come under fire from the gay Catholic community over a 2021 decree from the Vatican’s doctrinal office stating that the Church could not bless same-sex marriages.
In 2008, the Vatican refused to sign a UN statement calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, complaining that the text was out of scope. In a statement at the time, the Vatican urged countries to avoid “unjust discrimination” against gay people and to end sanctions against them.
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