Pope Francis Says Crime Is Wrong

Pope Francis Says Crime Is Wrong

ROME— Pope Francis said laws punishing homosexuality are unjust and the Catholic Church should work to repeal them.

The statement, in an interview with the Associated Press published on Wednesday, is the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures made by Pope Francis towards gay people.

He said more than 50 countries have laws against homosexuality and some prescribe the death penalty. “I think it’s unfair,” he said. “Being gay is not a crime. It is a human condition,” the Pope said.

“We are all children of God and God loves us as we are,” the Pope said, echoing earlier comments, including his famous 2013 remark about gay priests: “Who am I to judge?”

Pope Francis, who has expressed support for same-sex civil unions, indicated in the interview that he was not changing the church’s teaching on the morality of homosexual acts.

“Being homosexual is not a crime. It is not a crime. Yes, but it is a sin. Well, let us first distinguish between sin and crime,” said the Pope.

Some countries in the Muslim world and Africa have laws against homosexuality, sometimes with the support of local Catholic bishops. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ghana has expressed its “unwavering support” in 2021 for a proposed law that would impose prison sentences to punish gay sex.

The Vatican has previously said that there should be no criminal penalties for homosexuality, even though Catholic teaching prohibits homosexual acts. Pope Francis’ latest comments are the first time a pontiff has spoken out against illegal laws.

The Pope said that there are bishops who support such laws, “although they are good bishops, they are part of the culture and some of them still have their minds in that culture.” Such bishops must go through a “process of conversion,” the Pope said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, an authoritative summary of doctrine, says that homosexual acts are “fundamentally disordered” and “cannot be permitted under any circumstances.” But he also says that people with “deep homosexual tendencies… must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. All signs of unfair discrimination against them should be avoided.”

In 2008, the Vatican opposed a United Nations resolution calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, arguing that the resolution was too lenient and could be used to pressure countries to legalize same-sex marriage. But a Vatican spokesman said at the time that “no one wants the death penalty or prison or fines for homosexuals.”

In 2021, the Pope approved a decree that prohibits the blessing of same-sex relationships, on the grounds that “God cannot bless sin.”

Write to Francis X. Rocca at francis.rocca@wsj.com

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