VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has slammed laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all of his children as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome people LGBTQ in the church.
“Being gay is not a crime,” Francis said in a Tuesday interview 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, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural origins and said 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 should apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”
Some 67 countries or jurisdictions around the world criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or impose 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 effect, despite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling declaring them unconstitutional. Gay rights advocates say outdated laws are being used to harass gay people and point to new legislation, such as Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which bans teaching about sexual orientation and sex. gender identity from kindergarten to grade three, as evidence of continued efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.
The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to laws outright criminalizing homosexuality, saying they violate the right to privacy and freedom from discrimination and are a violation of countries’ obligations under the international law to protect the human rights of all, regardless of their sexual orientation. or gender identity.
Declaring such laws “unjust,” Francis said the Catholic Church can and must work to end them. “It has to do that. He has to do it,” he said.
Francis quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church saying 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, speaking to the AP from the Vatican hotel where he lives.
Such laws are common in Africa and the Middle East and date from British colonial times or are inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops have strongly backed them as being in line with Vatican teaching that views homosexual activity as “inherently disordered”, while others have called for their cancellation as a violation of basic human dignity.
In 2019, Francis was due to issue a statement opposing the criminalization of homosexuality during a meeting with human rights groups who have conducted research into the effects of these laws and so-called “death therapies”. conversion”.
In the end, the pope did not meet with the groups, instead meeting with Vatican No. 2, which reaffirmed “the dignity of every human person and against all forms of violence.”
On Tuesday, Francis said a distinction must be made between a crime and a sin when it comes to homosexuality.
“Being gay is not a crime,” he said. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it is a sin. Okay, but let’s first distinguish between a sin and a crime.”
“It is also a sin to lack charity towards one another,” he added.
Catholic teaching holds that while homosexuals should be treated with respect, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered”. Francis did not change this teaching, but he made LGBTQ community outreach a hallmark of his papacy.
Beginning with his famous 2013 statement, “Who am I to judge? When asked about an allegedly gay priest, Francis continued to repeatedly and publicly address the gay and trans community. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he favored granting legal protections to same-sex couples as an alternative to endorsing same-sex marriage, which Catholic doctrine prohibits.
Despite such outreach, Francis has come under fire from the Catholic LGBTQ 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 refused to sign a UN declaration that called for the decriminalization of homosexuality, complaining that the text exceeded the original scope and also included language on “sexual orientation” and “the gender identity” which he found problematic. In a statement at the time, the Vatican urged countries to avoid “unjust discrimination” against gay people and end sanctions against them.