Those who criminalize homosexuality are “in the wrong,” Pope Francis said in a letter released this Saturday seeking to clarify previous comments on homosexual acts being considered a sin. In an interview on Wednesday, the pope said that being homosexual was “not a crime”. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin,” he continued, adding, “It’s also a sin not to have charity toward others.”
In a letter to American priest James Martin, the Pope points out that these recent statements on homosexuality were intended “to emphasize that criminalization is neither good nor just”. The 86-year-old pope’s letter was in response to the letter from James Martin, who told the Associated Press news agency on Wednesday asking for clarification.
“I want to say that anyone who wants to criminalize homosexuality is wrong,” Francis writes in this letter, written in Spanish and published on the Outreach website, a Catholic LGBT website of which James Martin is the editor. Pope Francis points out that his comments on sin were a reference to moral teaching within the Catholic Church. “When I say it’s a sin, I’m just referring to Catholic morality, which states that any sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin.”
“Of course, you always have to consider the circumstances that can mitigate or eliminate an error,” he adds. “As you can see, I repeated something general. I should have said, “It’s a sin, like any sexual act outside of marriage.” The comments come days ahead of a trip by the Pope to Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, where criminalization of homosexuality is common.
The issue of homosexuality created a major split in the Catholic Church between modernists and conservatives. Since becoming Pope in 2013, Pope Francis has caused controversy with his relatively liberal stance on sexual orientation. Although he often received homosexuals and said that they should be kindly received in the Church, Pope Francis does not deviate from the line of Catholic teaching on marriage, which is defined as the union between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation.
In a June 2021 letter to James Martin, the Pope thanked the priest for his work with LGBT people, emphasized the inclusive nature of Catholicism, and wrote that God “loves each of His children.” A few months earlier, the Vatican had reiterated that it considered homosexuality a “sin” and homosexual people could not receive the sacrament of marriage.