Homosexuality is a ‘Sin’ But Not a ‘Crime’

ROME—In what has already started to ruffle feathers in the conservative reaches of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has made the most decisive comments on homosexuality in his 10-year pontificate. “Being homosexual is not a crime,” he told the Associated Press in an interview in Rome. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime. It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another.”

He went on to criticize the 67 countries that criminalize homosexuality, calling them “unjust” and calling on bishops in those countries who support such legislation to undergo “a process of change” to recognize the dignity of everyone. “These bishops have to have a process of conversion.”

The comments, made in Spanish, will undoubtedly revive criticism about Francis’ seemingly “liberal” stance on homosexuality, which many argue is not in line with Catholic dogma that calls homosexuality “intrinsically disordered.” He repeated his oft-said comments about welcoming gays into the Catholic church. “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.”

When asked about criticism from those cardinals and bishops who aligned themselves with Pope Benedict XVI, who died on Dec. 31, 2022, he called them unpleasant, “like a rash that bothers you a bit.”

He said he did not wish to silence them, however. “You prefer that they don’t criticize, for the sake of tranquility,” he said. “But I prefer that they do it because that means there’s freedom to speak.”

He said that if they were not allowed to express opposition, the Vatican would be a dictatorship, which, despite the pontiff being the supreme leader, is not. “If it’s not like this, there would be a dictatorship of distance, as I call it, where the emperor is there and no one can tell him anything,” he said. “No, let them speak because … criticism helps you to grow and improve things.”

Francis was also asked about his relationship with disgraced Cardinal George Pell, who died Jan. 10 after hip surgery. Pell was convicted and later acquitted of historical sex crimes in his native Australia, and was criticized for his role in covering up clerical sex abuse. Pell also wrote an anonymous blog post criticizing the pontiff as a “disaster.” Francis, who attended his funeral inside St. Peter’s basilica, said he didn’t hold a grudge. “Even though they say he criticized me, fine, he has the right. Criticism is a human right,” Francis said. “He was a great guy. Great.”

Francis also clarified rumors about whether he will resign now that Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign in 400 years, has died. “I’m in good health. For my age, I’m normal,” the 86-year-old said, adding that he still suffers with diverticulitis, which caused him to have 13 inches of his large intestine removed in 2021. He then joked, “I might die tomorrow, but it’s under control. I’m in good health.”

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