VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has slammed laws criminalizing homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all of His children as they are and urging Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church.
“Being gay is not a crime,” Francis said during an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.
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 roots and said bishops in particular needed to go through a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.
“These bishops must have a conversion process,” he said, adding that they must practice “grace, as God gives to each of us.”
According to The Human Dignity Trust, which seeks to end such laws, about 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalize same-sex sex, 11 of which carry or carry the death penalty. Experts say that even where the laws are not enforced, they lead to harassment, stigmatization and violence against LGBTQ people.
More than a dozen states in the US still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, despite the Supreme Court declaring them unconstitutional in 2003. Gay rights activists say older laws are being used to oppress gays and point to new legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Continued efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.
The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to laws that openly criminalize homosexuality, saying they violate the right to privacy and freedom from discrimination and violate countries’ obligations under international law to protect the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation. or gender identity.
Declaring such laws “unjust”, Francis said the Catholic Church could and should work to end them. “He should do it. He should do it,” he said.
Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Francis said gay people should be welcomed and respected, not marginalized or discriminated against.
“We are all children of God, and God loves us for who we are and for the strength with which each one of us fights for our dignity,” Francis told the Associated Press at his Vatican hotel.
Such laws are widespread in Africa and the Middle East, and are left over from British colonial times or inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops strongly supported them in line with Vatican teaching that considers homosexual activity “peculiarly disordered,” while others called for their abolition as a violation of basic human dignity.
In 2019, Francis was expected to issue a statement against the criminalization of homosexuality during a meeting with human rights groups investigating the effects of such laws and so-called “conversion therapies.”
In the end, the pope did not meet with the groups, and the groups met with Vatican No. 1. 2, he affirmed “the dignity of every human being and his opposition to all forms of violence.”
On Tuesday, Francis said there should be a distinction between a crime and a sin related to homosexuality.
“Being gay is not a crime,” I said. “This is not a crime. Yes, but it is a sin. “Okay, but first let’s distinguish between sin and crime.”
“It is also a sin not to show charity to one another,” he said.
Catholic teaching holds that while gay people should be treated with respect, homosexual acts are “specifically depraved.” Francis has not changed this teaching, but has made reaching out to the LGBTQ community a hallmark of his papacy.
Starting with his famous declaration in 2013, “Who am I to judge?” when he was asked about the alleged gay priest, Francis repeatedly and openly continued to minister to the gay and trans community. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, I advocated legal protection for same-sex couples as an alternative to endorsing gay marriage, which is prohibited by Catholic doctrine.
Despite such publicity, Francis was criticized by the Catholic LGBTQ community for a 2021 decree by the Vatican’s doctrinal office that the church could not bless same-sex unions because “God cannot bless sin.”
In 2008, the Vatican refused to sign a UN declaration calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, departing from the original scope of the text and including language regarding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” that it deemed problematic. In a statement issued at the time, the Vatican called on countries to avoid “unjust discrimination” against gays and to end punishments against them.
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