(ZENIT News / Rome, 25.01.2023).- In an interview with AP Agency, published on January 25, 2023, Pope Francis answered questions regarding his relationship with Benedict XVI, the Rupnik case, the criticisms by some sectors of his Pontificate, his trip to Africa, the use of arms, the war, the Synod of the Church, the German synodal way and the criminalization of homosexuality.
Non-Catholic media’s sensibility has concentrated on this controversial subject of interest and in some cases has presented the Pope’s answer as revolutionary. Nicole Winfield, AP’s correspondent in the Vatican, who did the interview, asked the Pope:
There is a subject that is complicated — the criminalization of homosexuality. It’s a subject that is increasingly discussed, but there are many countries that have criminal laws against homosexuals and some even contemplate the death penalty. Even in places where these laws aren’t implemented, the rules contribute to an atmosphere of violence, discrimination against the gay and trans communities. What is the position of the Church? What must the Church do, as there are Bishops who support these laws?
Hence, the question focuses on one subject: the criminalization of homosexuality, which in some cases even includes the death penalty (for instance, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Mauritania), and the Church’s position in regard to that criminalization.
“Being homosexual isn’t a crime. It’s not a crime [. . . ] but it’s a sin,” was part of the Pope’s answer, who further on added that “being homosexual isn’t a crime. It’s a human condition.”
However, the answer was broader. The Holy Father began by recalling that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that people of a homosexual tendency must be received, must not be marginalized, accompanied if a place is offered.” Then he recalled that globally famous phrase issued as an answer to a question, during the return flight from Brazil to Rome: “If there is a person seeking God and is sincere, who am I to judge him? The Lord is there.”
He also recalled another affirmation, in this case during the return flight from Ireland: “A family that has a son or a daughter with a homosexual tendency must not banish him/her. It must create a family framework so that he/she lives in peace. “
And after this last answer, the Pope said, in line with what the journalist asked: that there are countries which criminalize homosexuality, the Holy Father replied: “I think it’s unjust.” This is what the Pontiff has done in the Vatican in the last months:
“Here in the [Wednesday] Audiences, I receive, in fact, persons who are like that. I do it in general: I greet them, people that come in groups. A woman who works a lot with this — this is an example –, I want to say it, is an 80-year-old nun. Sister Geneviève, who is one of the circus’ chaplains, who lives in a trailer. They are the Sisters of Foucauld, three live there, in the circus. And she brings me — I don’t say every Wednesday –, but at least two, three Wednesdays a month, a group of people with a priest who also lives there.”
And he added:
We are all children of God and God loves us as we are, and with the strength that each one of us fights for our dignity. It’s not a crime to be homosexual. It’s not a crime. But it is, yes, a sin. Well, first let us distinguish sin from crime. But it’s also a sin to lack charity with one’s neighbour. And how are you doing? That is, I distinguished that. And there are ten countries that have the death penalty, 12, I believe still, more or less. But it’s curious, they never say the word, they say ‘dishonest actions’ or something [else]. They use a twist to say it. No, this is wrong, it’s wrong, it’s very wrong. I believe one must not discriminate against anyone. Even more, leaving the problem of homosexuality, we go to another. The greatest killer, the greatest chopper must not be discriminated against either. Every man and every woman must have a window in their life where they can pour out their hope and where they can see God’s dignity. And to be homosexual isn’t a crime. It’s a human condition.
The Pontiff made a distinction between what is a crime and what is a sin. That statement calls for a clarification, as, the way it is formulated, gives rise to understand that in itself “to be homosexual is a sin.” In fact, the Church teaches that homosexuality is an intrinsically disordered tendency but the inclination in itself isn’t a sin. The sin is constituted by the active exercise of the tendency.
The journalist then asked that, in States that have laws criminalize, can “the Church contribute to abolish those laws?” To which the Pontiff answered:
Yes, yes. They must do so, they must do so. What happens is that there are cultures, cultures in a State, and the Bishops of that place, although they are good Bishops, form part of the culture and some still have their mind set in that culture. Or not? A Bishop also has a process of conversion. I have no adverse information on the Bishops of those places, of anyone, they are open to help not only in this, but with other problems. But tenderness, please, tenderness, as God has with each one of us. Let’s go back to God’s three categories. God has three attitudes: closeness, mercy and tenderness. And those three suffice; the whole of Theology is there. A close God, who is in my hand. A merciful God, who forgives me over and over, a tender God.
As can be noted, it is an answer attuned with what has always been the Doctrine of the Church, although expressed with a different vocabulary. Many “surprises” and more or less sensational headlines could be avoided if something so elemental as the Catechism of the Catholic Church was known.