AP interview: Pope says homosexuality is not a crime

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has criticized laws criminalizing homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all His children as they are and calling on Catholic bishops who support the law to welcome LGBTQ People enter the church.

‘Homosexuality is not a crime,’ says Francis In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, an issue he himself called a “sin”. But he attributed the attitude to cultural context and said bishops in particular needed to go through a process of change to recognize the dignity of every human being.

“These bishops must have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should “show meekness, just as God does with each of us.”

Francis’ comments are the first by the pope on such laws, but they are consistent with his general approach to the LGBTQ community and his belief that the Catholic Church should welcome all people and not discriminate.

Some 67 countries or jurisdictions around the world criminalize consensual same-sex sex, 11 of which carry or do carry the death penalty, according to the Trust for Human Dignity, which works to end such laws. Even when laws are not enforced, they can fuel harassment, stigma and violence against LGBTQ people, experts say.

In the United States, more than a dozen states have enshrined anti-sodomy laws, although the Supreme Court declared the laws unconstitutional in a 2003 ruling.Gay rights advocates say outdated laws are being used to harass gay people, pointing to new legislation such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Lawwhich banned the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as evidence of continued efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to laws that directly criminalize homosexuality, saying they violate the rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination, and violate States’ obligations under international law to protect the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity .

Declaring the laws “unjust,” Francis said the Catholic Church can and should work to end them. “It has to do it. It has to do it,” he said.

Francis cited the Catholic Catechism as saying gay people must be welcomed and respected, not marginalized or discriminated against.

“We are all children of God, and God loves us for who we are and for the strength in each of us to fight for our dignity,” Francis told The Associated Press at the Vatican hotel where he lives.

Francis’ speech came ahead of a trip to Africa, where such laws are as common as in the Middle East. Many date back to British colonial times or were inspired by Sharia law. Some Catholic bishops strongly support their alignment with Vatican teachings, while others have called for their overthrow because they violate basic human dignity.

In 2019, Francis is expected to issue a statement opposing the criminalization of homosexuality at a meeting with human rights groups that have conducted research on the impact of such laws and so-called “conversion therapy”.

In the end, the Pope did not meet with the groups after word of the audience leaked. Instead, Vatican II did and reaffirmed “the dignity of every human being and the rejection of all forms of violence.”

There is no indication that Francis is now speaking publicly about these laws because His more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, recently diedThe question was never brought up in the interview, but Francis responded readily, even citing statistics on the number of countries where homosexuality is criminalized.

On Tuesday, Francis said there needed to be a distinction between crime and sin when it came to homosexuality.

“It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a crime,” he said. “Okay, but first let’s distinguish between sin and crime.”

“Lack of kindness towards one another is also a sin,” he added.

Catholic teaching holds that while homosexuals must be respected, homosexual behavior is “essentially disorderly”. Francis has not changed that teaching, but he has made reaching out to the LGBTQ community a hallmark of his papacy.

start from His famous 2013 manifesto, “Who am I to judge?” – when he was asked about a priest who was allegedly gay – Francis continued to repeatedly and publicly preach to the gay and transgender community. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he favored legal protections for same-sex couples as an alternative to supporting same-sex marriage, which is prohibited by Catholic teaching.

Despite this outreach, Francis has come under criticism from the Catholic LGBTQ community over a 2021 decree issued by the Vatican’s Doctrine Office that says the church cannot bless same-sex unions.

In 2008, the Vatican refused to sign a UN statement calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, complaining that the text went beyond its original scope. In a statement at the time, the Vatican urged countries to avoid “unjust discrimination” against gay people and to end punishment for them.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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