VATICAN CITY (HPD) — Pope Francis has slammed laws criminalizing homosexuality as “unjust,” said God loves all his children just as they are, and called on Catholic bishops who support those laws to welcome LGBTQ people. in the church.
“Being homosexual is not a crime,” Francisco said during an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, calling homosexuality a “sin.” However, he attributed those attitudes to cultural contexts and said that bishops in particular must also go through a process of change to recognize the dignity of all.
“The bishop also has a conversion process,” he said, adding that they should show “tenderness, please, tenderness, as God has with each one of us.”
Some 67 countries or jurisdictions around the world criminalize consensual same-sex relations, and 11 of them can or do carry the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust, which is working to end those laws. Experts point out that even when 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 their laws, despite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that declared them unconstitutional. LGBTQ rights advocates say such outdated laws are being used to harass homosexuals and point to new rules like the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” rule in Florida, which bans sexual orientation and gender identity education between kindergarten and third grade, as evidence of ongoing efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.
The United Nations has repeatedly called for the abandonment of laws that criminalize homosexuality and affirms that they violate the rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination, in addition to failing to comply with the obligations of those countries under international law to protect the human rights of everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Francis declared those rules “unfair” and said the Catholic Church can and should work to end them. “They have to, they have to,” he said.
Francis cited the catechism of the Catholic Church to point out that homosexuals must be received and respected, and must not be marginalized or discriminated against.
“We are all children of God and God loves us as we are and with the strength that we each fight for our dignity,” said Francis, who spoke to the HPD at the Vatican hotel where he lives.
Such laws are common in Africa and the Middle East and date back to the British colonial era or are inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops have strongly defended them as consistent with Vatican doctrine, which views homosexual activity as “intrinsically disordered,” while others have called for them to be repealed as a violation of fundamental human dignity.
In 2019, Francis was expected to publish a statement against the criminalization of homosexuality during a meeting with human rights groups that investigated the effects of these norms and so-called “conversion therapies.”
In the end, the pope did not meet with the groups, who instead met with the Vatican’s number two, who reaffirmed “the dignity of every human person and against any form of violence.”
Francis said Tuesday that when it comes to homosexuality, a distinction must be made between crime and sin.
“Being homosexual is not a crime,” he said. “It is not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Well, first let’s distinguish sin from crime. But lack of charity towards one’s neighbor is also a sin.
Catholic teaching indicates that while homosexuals should be treated with respect, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” Francis has not changed that position, although he has made outreach to the LGBTQ community one of the hallmarks of his papacy.
Since his famous 2013 statement “who am I to judge?” When asked about a priest who was reportedly gay, Francis has continued to repeatedly and publicly address the gay and trans communities. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was in favor of offering legal protections to same-sex couples as an alternative to supporting gay marriage, something prohibited by Catholic doctrine.
Despite that outreach, Francis was criticized by the LGBTQ Catholic community for a 2021 decree from the Vatican’s office of doctrine that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions “because God cannot bless sin.”
In 2008, the Vatican declined to sign a United Nations declaration calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, complaining that the text went beyond the original draft and also included sections on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” that it found problematic. . In a statement at the time, the Vatican urged countries to avoid “unfair discrimination” against homosexuals and end sanctions against them.