Pope Francis criticized "unjust" laws criminalizing homosexuality in an interview Tuesday. "Being homosexual isn't a crime," he told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview at the Vatican, and if it's a sin, so is not being charitable to gay people. This was the first time a pope has publicly condemned laws criminalizing homosexuality, AP reported Wednesday. "Some 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or do impose the death penalty."
Some Catholic bishops support laws criminalizing same-sex relationships and other discrimination against LGBT people, Pope Francis said, and "these bishops have to have a process of conversion" and work to apply "tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us." The Catholic Church "must" work to put an end to these "unjust" laws, he added.
Pope Francis has not tried to change Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, which holds that homosexual sex is sinful, but he has backed same-sex civil unions and made a point throughout his papacy to "minister repeatedly and publicly to the gay and transgender communities," AP reports.
"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," Francis told AP, paraphrasing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. "Being homosexual is not a crime. It's not a crime. 'Yes, but it's a sin.' Fine, but first let's distinguish between a sin and a crime. But it's also a sin to lack charity with one another, so what about that?" He repeated later that "being homosexual isn't a crime, it's a human condition."
As the pope noted, some Catholic bishops — including in Africa, where Francis is heading at the end of January — support laws criminalizing homosexuality as consistent with Catholic teaching. Other bishops have gone farther than the pope in welcoming LGBT Catholics.
"It is a demonic mystery of the human soul why so many men and women have a profound and visceral animus toward members of the LGBT communities," newly appointed Cardinal Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego, wrote Tuesday in the Jesuit magazine America. "The church's primary witness in the face of this bigotry must be one of embrace rather than distance or condemnation."