Pope Francis has become the first Catholic pope in history to call for an end to laws criminalizing homosexuality around the world, but stops short of not calling homosexuality a “sin”.
Some 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or do impose the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust.
Pope Francis has called laws that criminalize homosexuality “unjust”, saying instead that God loves all his children just as they are, and calling on Catholic bishops to welcome LGBTQ+ people into the church.
“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said on Tuesday in an interview with Associated Press.
Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against LGBTQ people, then referring to the topics in terms of “sin.”
But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.
“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”
He goes on to say that laws which criminalize homosexuality are “unjust” and that the Catholic Church should work to stop them.
“It must do this. It must do this,” Francis said. “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 added, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In the United States, more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws, the AP reports, even though the Supreme Court determined them to be unconstitutional in 2003.
Despite Francis dropping ‘the S-bomb’ during the feature, advocates acknowledged that the declaration is still an ‘immense step forward’, and called on other influential voices in faith to similarly speak out on outdated laws that criminalize the lives and relationships of LGBTQ people.
In some 70 countries, homosexual relations are still a crime; in a few countries, a person can be executed for being gay. This is a historic step forward for the church, and the Pope’s clear statement today will help to lessen violence against LGBTQ people and save lives.
“I have spoken clearly about this, no? Marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is a sacrament” the Pope said back in September of last year.
“The church doesn’t have the power to change sacraments”, he continued. “It’s as our Lord established. These are laws that try to help the situation for many people of different sexual orientation. It is important that this helps people but without imposing things that by nature do not function in the church.”
Instead, he explained that the church can support secular civil union laws so that gay couples can have joint rights:
“If they want to spend their lives together, a homosexual couple, nations have the possibility civilly to support them, to give them safety with regards to inheritance and health.”
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