Saying that God loves all his children just as they are, Pope Francis said that laws that criminalize homosexuality are “unjust”.
“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis was quoted as in an interview by The Associated Press.
The Pope similarly acknowledged that there are Catholic bishops in parts of the world who support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against LGBTQIA people. But he attributed the attitudes of anti-LGBTQIA church leaders to cultural backgrounds. For Francis, though, 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, stressing the need to apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”
To date, 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide still criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, with 11 imposing the death penalty. And Francis said that such laws are “unjust,” and the Catholic Church can and should work to put an end to them. “It must do this. It must do this.”
Francis similarly quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church, stating that gay people must be welcomed and respected, and should not be marginalized or discriminated against. “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.”
For Francis, there is a need to distinguish between a crime and a sin when it comes to homosexuality – i.e. the church teaches that homosexual acts are sinful, or “intrinsically disordered”, but gay people must still be treated with dignity and respect. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime… It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” Francis said.
The new comments from Francis did not address transgender or nonbinary people, only homosexuality.