Pope Francis said laws criminalizing homosexuality are “unjust,” calling homosexuality a sin for Catholic worshippers – but not a crime.
“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said in an interview this week with The Associated Press.
He noted that Catholic bishops around the world support laws criminalizing homosexuality and discriminating against LGBTQ individuals. He said the leaders should "have to have a process of conversion,” and opt for “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”
“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,
The pope said the Catholic Church should work to end laws criminalizing homosexuality.
Approximately 67 countries and jurisdictions around the world criminalize same-sex sexual activity. In the United States, more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws, though the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the statutes are unconstitutional.
Francis’ comments were not a full embrace of LGBTQ people. The church still calls homosexuality a sin.
“It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime,” Francis said during the interview.
“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added.
What has Pope Francis previously said about LGBTQ rights?
Francis last year called on parents around the world to never condemn their children if they are gay.
During a weekly general audience, he was speaking about the biblical figure Joseph.
Francis addressed parents "who see that their children have different sexual orientations, how they manage that and accompany their children and not hide behind a condemning attitude.”
“Never condemn a child,” he said
However, the Vatican in 2021 said the Catholic Church and its priests cannot bless same-sex unions, arguing that God “cannot bless sin.”
"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,” the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has said.
Francis has previously endorsed civil unions and called gay and transgender people children of God.
"Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God," Francis said in an interview for a 2020 documentary. "You can't kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered."
How were the pope’s comments received?
Francis’ comments this week were not a change in church teachings, but they were still lauded by several LGBTQ groups.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said Francis’ “historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world without violence and condemnation, and more kindness and understanding.”
Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ-centered Catholic group, said in a statement to USA TODAY that Francis’ declaration “will help save lives and promote respect for LGBTQ+ people, particularly in areas where law or social norms make them victims of fear, hatred, violence and death.”
“The pope is reminding the church that the way people treat one another in the social world is of much greater moral importance (than) what people may possibly do in the privacy of a bedroom,” the statement said.
Contributing: Orlando Mayorquin, USA TODAY; Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pope Francis says homosexuality isn't a crime, calls on church leaders