Pope denounces anti-gay laws

By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer

Pope Francis has become the first ever Pope to call for the decriminalization of homosexuality.

In his yearly interview with the Associated Press that covered several pressing issues within the Catholic Church, Francis offered his thoughts on several controversies that had arisen, notably animosity about his relationship with his late predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who died last month. When asked about his thoughts on the rights of gay people, Francis declared that laws that prosecute them are “unjust.”

“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,” the Pope said, citing the Catechism of the Church.

“It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime,” he said. “It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he continued.

While the Vatican as a whole has never supported homosexual impulses as a “sin-free” act, saying as recently as 2021 that priests could not bless same-sex marriages because “God could not bless sin,” the movement to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide has been one of Pope Francis’ largest undertakings

In 2008, the Vatican signed a declaration by the United Nations calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, advocating for “unjust discrimination” to end. 

The Pope himself has been lauded as the most progressive pope in the history of the position. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he advocated for the legal protection of gay people as an alternative to gay marriage, which Catholic doctrine forbids. In 2013, when asked about gay priests, he famously stated “Who am I to judge?” 

Pope Francis has also praised organizations that promote respect for LGBT+ people — notably New Ways Ministry, which the Vatican had previously condemned.

According to the Human Dignity Trust, an organization looking to eliminate wrongful discrimination laws, about 67 countries in the world list homosexuality as a crime. Eleven of them punish homosexuality with the death penalty.

Many organizations that support gay Catholics praised the pope for speaking out against the criminalization of homosexuality. 

“His historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world without violence and condemnation and more kindness and understanding,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the U.S.-based advocacy group GLAAD, said.

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Fransisco DeBernardo also released a statement thanking the Popefor “reminding the church that the way people treat one another in the social world is of much greater moral importance than what people may possibly do in the privacy of a bedroom.”

The Pope is set to travel to Africa in the coming weeks visiting South Sudan, which criminally punishes homosexuality.

Currently, 66 UN member states criminalize same-sex relations, according to ILGA World — the International LGBTI Association.