Pope Francis says homosexuality ‘is not a crime’, but gay sex is ‘a sin’

Rome – Pope Francis has called laws criminalizing homosexuality fundamentally “unjust”, making it clear that in the mind of the head of the Catholic Church, “being homosexual is not a crime”.

The pontiff addressed discrimination against the LGBTQ community, his own health and future plans, and the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, among others, in an extensive interview with The Associated Press published Wednesday.

Vatican The Ap Interview Pope Francis Takeaways
Pope Francis pauses during an interview with The Associated Press at the Vatican, January 24, 2023.

Andrew Medichini/AP


“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are,” he told AP reporter Nicole Winfield at his Vatican residence.

Francis, however, reiterated the teaching of the Church that engaging in homosexual activity is a sin.

“It’s a sin,” Francis said, adding, “Let’s first distinguish between sin and crime.”

Significantly, the pope made it clear that discrimination against others was also a sin, saying, “It is also a sin to lack charity towards one another, so what about that?”


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Catholic Church teaching says that homosexuals should be welcomed into the Church and treated with respect and kindness, despite the fact that homosexual acts are considered “intrinsically disorderly.”

Francis did not change this teaching, and in 2021 the Vatican’s doctrinal office decreed that the Church could not bless same-sex unions because “God cannot bless sin.”

However, Pope Francis has repeatedly championed gay rights and advocated for the inclusion of LGBTQ people in Catholic life.

Francis said the church “must” work to have unjust laws abolished around the world.

Sexual acts between people of the same sex are considered crimes in some 67 countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, according to the organization Human Dignity Trust. In 11 of these countries, the sentence can include the death penalty.

More than a dozen US states still have sodomy laws, despite Supreme Court declaring them unconstitutional in 2003.

The pope said some bishops from countries that criminalize homosexuality support the laws because they are part of the local culture, and he called on those bishops to undertake a “conversion” process, in order to accommodate LGBQT people in their ministry “with tenderness.”


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The pope also lambasted a movement in Germany called the “Synodal Way”, in which bishops and laity are examining the possibility of controversial Church reforms, such as allowing priests to marry and allowing women deacons and blessings of church for same-sex couples.

Although Francis did not specifically address the issues under discussion, he discredited the process as neither serious nor helpful, and said it was run by an “elite” and did not represent “all the people of God”.

Earlier this week, the Vatican rejected a proposal by German bishops to establish a new governing body for the German Church, which would be made up of both bishops and laity.

Francis, 86, also addressed questions about his health, revealing diverticulitis which required surgery in 2021 had returned. He said the small knee fracture that forced him to cancel trips and use a wheelchair healed without surgery, crediting laser and magnetic therapy.


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“I’m already walking, helping myself with the stroller, but I’m walking,” he said. “I’m healthy. For my age, I’m normal.”

Since death of retired pope Benedict XII earlier this year, rumors intensified that Francis might decide to retire. But he told the AP he plans to continue for as long as he can.

He reiterated that if he retired he would like to live in a residence for retired priests in Rome and be known as the Bishop Emeritus of Rome.

“Benedict’s experience has opened the door for new popes who step down to fit (into society) more freely,” he said.


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Francis said that with Benedict’s death he had lost a father figure and a confidant.

“For me, it was security. If in doubt, I would ask for the car and go to the monastery” where Benedict lived to ask for advice. “I have lost a good companion.”

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