The AP Interview Pope Francis Homosexuality is not a crime.webp

The AP Interview: Pope Francis: Homosexuality is not a crime

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis has criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust” and said God loves all His children just the way they are and urged Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church To be called.

“Being gay is not a crime,” Francis said in an 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 the LGBTQ community, and he himself described the issue as a “sin”. But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, saying that bishops in particular need to go through a process of change to recognize the dignity of all.

“These bishops need to go through a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should “please exercise tenderness as God has done for each of us.”

About 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or do impose the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust, which works to end such laws. Experts say that even where the laws are not enforced, they contribute to harassment, stigma and violence against LGBTQ people.

In the US, more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws on their books, despite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling declaring them unconstitutional. Gay rights advocates say the antiquated laws are designed to bully gays, citing as evidence new laws such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade Class bans continued efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to laws that outright criminalize homosexuality as a violation of the right to privacy, non-discrimination and countries’ international obligations to protect the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Francis declared such laws “unjust” and said the Catholic Church can and should work to put an end to them. “It has to do that. It has to do this,” he said.

Francis, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, said gay people must 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 with which each of us fights for our dignity,” Francis told AP at the Vatican Hotel, where he lives.

Such laws are common in Africa and the Middle East, dating back to British colonial times or inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops have strongly affirmed them as consistent with Vatican teaching, which regards homosexual activity as “intrinsically disordered,” while others have called for it to be rescinded as a violation of basic human dignity.

In 2019, Francis was due to make a statement against the criminalization of homosexuality during a meeting with human rights groups studying the impact of such laws and so-called “conversion therapies.”

In the end, the Pope did not meet with the groups, who instead met with Vatican No. 2, which affirmed “the dignity of every human person and against all forms of violence.”

On Tuesday, Francis said there must be a distinction 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’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

“It is also a sin not to have charity with one another,” he added.

Catholic teaching states that while gay people must be treated with respect, homosexual acts are “inherently disordered.” Francis has not changed this teaching, but he has made reaching out to the LGBTQ community a hallmark of his papacy.

Beginning with his famous 2013 declaration, “Who should I judge?” when asked about an allegedly gay priest, Francis has repeatedly and publicly ministered to the gay and trans community. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he advocated granting legal protections to same-sex couples as an alternative to sanctioning gay marriage, which Catholic doctrine forbids.

Despite that reach, Francis has been criticized by the LGBTQ Catholic community for a 2021 Vatican Magisterium decree stating that the church cannot bless same-sex partnerships “because God cannot bless sin.”

In 2008, the Vatican refused to sign a UN declaration calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, complaining that the text went beyond the original framework and also included language on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” which it considered found problematic. In a statement at the time, the Vatican called on countries to avoid “unjust discrimination” against homosexuals and to end penalties against them.