Those who criminalize homosexuality are “wrong”, says Pope Francis in a letter published this Saturday, seeking to clarify previous comments on homosexual acts considered a sin. During an interview on Wednesday, the pope said that being homosexual is “not a crime”. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it is a sin”, he continued, adding: “It is also a sin to lack charity towards others”.
In a letter addressed to the American priest James Martin, the pope indicates that these recent comments on homosexuality were intended “to emphasize that criminalization is neither good nor just”. The letter from the 86-year-old pontiff was a response to that of James Martin, who demanded clarification after remarks made on Wednesday to the Associated Press agency.
“I would like to say that whoever wants to criminalize homosexuality is wrong,” writes Francis, in this letter written in Spanish and published on Outreach, a Catholic LGBT site whose editor is James Martin. Pope Francis points out that his comments on sin were a reference to moral teaching within the Catholic Church. “When I say it’s a sin, I’m just referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin.”
“Of course, one must always consider the circumstances, which can diminish or eliminate a fault,” he adds. “As you can see, I was repeating something general. I should have said, ‘It’s a sin, like any sexual act outside of marriage’. The comments come days before a trip by the pope to Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, where the criminalization of homosexuality is common.
The question of homosexuality caused a major split in the Catholic Church between modernizers and conservatives. Pope Francis has caused controversy since being named pope in 2013 with his relatively liberal attitude towards sexual orientation. Although he often received homosexuals and said that they should be welcomed with kindness within the Church, Pope Francis does not deviate from the line of Catholic teaching on marriage, defined as the union between a man and a woman in order to procreate.
In a June 2021 letter to James Martin, the pope thanked the priest for his work with LGBT people, emphasizing the inclusive nature of Catholicism and writing that God “loves each of his children.” A few months earlier, the Vatican had reaffirmed that it considered homosexuality “a sin”, and that homosexual people could not receive the sacrament of marriage.