Pope Francis in an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday said being gay is not a crime as he criticized laws that criminalize same-sex relationships, in what appears to be the latest attempt by the pope to soften the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality.
Francis said “being homosexual isn’t a crime” and said the Catholic Church “must” work to get rid of “unjust” laws that target same-sex relationships.
Francis, however, noted that he believed homosexuality “is a sin” and attempted to distinguish between what he considers a sin and a crime, saying “to lack charity with one another” was also a sin.
Acknowledging the Catholic Church’s involvement in supporting such laws around the world, the pope called for “a process of conversion” among bishops on this issue as he urged them to treat LGBTQ people with dignity.
To back his stance, Francis cited the primary doctrine of the Catholic Church, saying all people are the “children of God, and God loves us as we are.”
Since ascending to the papacy in 2013, Francis has taken a relatively softer stance on LGBTQ issues compared to his predecessors. Just months after taking over as pope, Francis famously said “who am I to judge” when asked about his stance on gay Catholic priests. In 2020, the Catholic News Agency reported that Francis had declared support for civil unions for same-sex couples, stating “homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” in a documentary film about him called “Francesco.” It was later revealed that the pope had made this statement a year earlier in a 2019 interview with a Mexican broadcaster, but this statement was edited out before the interview aired. Despite this, the Catholic Church in 2021 said it cannot bless same-sex civil unions as it is “impossible” for God to “bless sin.”
Last week, the Church of England issued a formal apology for its past mistreatment of LGBTQ individuals but stopped short of allowing same-sex marriages in church. The Church of England, like Francis, has expressed support for same-sex unions and last week it offered to go one step further than the Catholic Church by allowing clergy members to “affirm and celebrate same-sex couples,” which includes offering prayers for the couple following a civil union.
The AP Interview: Pope Francis: Homosexuality not a crime (Associated Press)