Pope Francis has reiterated that homosexuality is “not a crime” in a new interview published Wednesday.
The interview with The Associated Press covered a wide range of topics, including laws that criminalize homosexuality and sodomy.
“Being homosexual is not a crime. It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime,” the Pope told the AP.
The remark promises to be a point of controversy. On the one hand, the Catholic Church has long condemned any forms of unjust discrimination of those with same-sex attraction, including laws in dozens of countries that criminalize homosexuality and sodomy. On the other hand, the Church does not teach that same-sex attraction is sinful in itself.
In the interview conducted at Pope Francis’ residence in Vatican City on Jan. 24, the Pope reiterated the Holy See’s position that laws that criminalize homosexuality outright are “unjust” and that the Church must work to put an end to them.
Under Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued a statement in 2008 urging that “every sign of unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons should be avoided” and that countries should “do away with criminal penalties against them.”
“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,” Pope Francis said.
The Pope told AP that bishops who support laws that criminalize homosexuality “have to have a process of conversion” and should apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”
Francis attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.
“Every man and every woman must have a window in their lives where they can pour out their hope and where they can see the dignity of God. And being homosexual is not a crime. It is a human condition,” he said.
In the interview, which lasted more than one hour, Pope Francis also decried the German Synodal Way as unhelpful, revealed that the intestinal problem that he had surgery for in 2021 has returned, and denied that he had any role in the handling of the alleged abuse by Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik.
The AP first published the Pope’s comments about distinguishing between a crime and a sin with regard to homosexuality before publishing the full transcript of the interview in Spanish.
The Catholic Church does not teach that homosexuality, that is having same-sex attraction, is a sin.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” it says.
“These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
In 2021 the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a clarification approved by Pope Francis that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions because “God cannot bless sin.”
The Vatican also stated at the time that “the Christian community and its Pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.”
In his response to the question about laws that criminalize homosexuality, Pope Francis also described the ending of the pop opera The Prodigal Son as an example of how “God is generous in his mercy.”
“If we preached more about that and not about nonsense, we would be better off,” the Pope said.