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Pope Francis: Homosexuality is not a crime


VATICAN CITY –

Pope Francis has slammed laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unfair”, saying God loves all of his children as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ2S+ people into the church.

“Being gay is not a crime,” Francis said in an exclusive 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 LGBTQ2S+ people, 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.”

Francis’ comments, which have been hailed by gay rights advocates as a milestone, are the first by a pope on such laws. But they are also consistent with its holistic approach to LGBTQ2S+ people and its belief that the Catholic Church should welcome everyone and not discriminate.

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 LGBTQ2S+ 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 Gay rights advocates say outdated laws are being used to justify harassment and point to new legislation, such as Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which prohibits teaching about sexual orientation and gender. gender identity from kindergarten through third grade, as evidence. ongoing efforts to marginalize LGBTQ2S+ 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.

Francis’ remarks precede 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 have strongly supported them as being in line with Vatican teaching, 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”.

Ultimately, after news of the audience broke, the pope did not meet with the groups. Instead, Vatican #2 did so and reaffirmed “the dignity of every human person and against all forms of violence.”

There is no indication that Francis spoke of such laws now because his more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, recently passed away. The question had never been raised in an interview, but Francis readily answered, even citing statistics on the number of countries where homosexuality is criminalized.

On Tuesday, Francis said a distinction must be made between a crime and a sin when it comes to homosexuality. Church teaching holds that homosexual acts are sinful or “inherently disordered”, but that homosexuals should be treated with dignity and respect.

Joking with himself, Francis articulated the position: “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it is a sin. All right, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.

“It is also a sin to lack charity towards one another,” he added.

Francis did not change church teaching, which has long pissed off gay Catholics. But he has made LGBTQ2S+ 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 LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in the Catholic Church hailed the pope’s comments as a momentous 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 more 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 LGBTQ2S+ advocacy group, said the Church hierarchy’s silence on these laws so far has had devastating effects, perpetuating such policies and fueling violent rhetoric against LGBTQ2S+ people.

“The pope reminds 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,” said the group chief executive, Francis DeBernardo, in a statement. .

One of the cardinals recently appointed by the pope – Robert McElroy, the bishop of San Diego – is among the Catholics who would like the church to go further and fully welcome LGBTQ2S+ people into the church even if they are sexually active. .

“It is a demonic mystery of the human soul why so many men and women hold deep and visceral animosity toward members of LGBT communities,” McElroy wrote Tuesday in Jesuit magazine America. “The main witness of the church in the face of this fanaticism must be one of embrace rather than distance or condemnation.”

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 gay and transgender communities. 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 gay Catholic community for a 2021 decree from the Vatican’s office of doctrine that stated the church could not bless same-sex unions.

In 2008, the Vatican refused to sign a UN declaration that called for the decriminalization of homosexuality, complaining that the text went beyond the original scope. In a statement at the time, the Vatican urged countries to avoid “unjust discrimination” against gay people and end sanctions against them.

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