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Pope Francis Says Homosexuality Is Not a Crime, but Is a Sin

In an interview with The Associated Press, the pope said the church should do more to end laws that criminalize same-sex relations.

Pope Francis condemned “unjust” laws that criminalize homosexuality in an interview with The Associated Press that was published on Wednesday, adding that the Roman Catholic Church should do more to put an end to such legislation and that bishops should welcome L.G.B.T.Q. people into the church, especially in those countries where such laws exist.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said in the interview, adding that God loved all his children just as they are. He also called on bishops who support laws that punish or discriminate against the L.G.B.T.Q. community, which exist in more than five dozen countries worldwide, to undergo a “process of conversion” and instead apply “tenderness,” he said, “as God has for each one of us.”

Francis quoted the catechism of the church, which teaches that L.G.B.T.Q. people should not be marginalized but instead welcomed. But he also made clear that he believed that homosexual acts, which the Catholic Church considers “intrinsically disordered,” were a sin.

“It’s not a crime,” Francis said of homosexuality during the 75-minute interview conducted on Tuesday in Santa Marta, the Vatican hotel he calls home. “Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.” He said that lacking “charity with one another” was also a sin.

The pope has made outreach to the L.G.B.T.Q. community one of the pillars of his papacy. Only a few months after his election in 2013, he famously said, “Who am I to judge?” when asked during a papal flight from Brazil about priests who might be gay. In a 2020 documentary, he appeared to endorse same-sex civil unions. The Vatican later clarified that the pope believed that gay couples deserved civil protections, including legal rights and health care benefits, but that his comments had not marked a change in church doctrine.

In 2021, many in the L.G.B.T.Q. community took Francis to task for a ruling issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith banning priests from blessing same-sex unions, calling any such blessing “not licit.” The ruling had been issued in response to questions from some pastors and parishes that sought to be more welcoming and inclusive of gay couples.

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