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Pope Francis Condemns Criminal Penalties for Homosexuals

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, the Pope condemned laws that criminalized homosexuality, calling them "unjust." He said that "being homosexual is not a crime" and added that harsh criminal penalties for homosexuality are "very wrong. I don't think anyone should be discriminated against." 


The Pope distinguished criminality and sin when it came to homosexuality. Although the Catholic Church considers homosexual acts "intrinsically disordered" and sinful, the Church encourages treating LBGTQ+ individuals' beliefs with respect and tenderness. 


The Pope's interview occurred before he embarked on a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.  


67 countries in the world have criminal penalties for LGBTQ+ people, sexual activity between people of the same gender, or the gender expression of transgender individuals. Punishments across the globe vary from a year in prison in Ethiopia to 14 years of imprisonment and a fine in South Sudan. 


11 countries, primarily concentrated in the Middle East and Africa, have capital punishment for homosexuality.


Islamic law or residuals of British colonial laws inspire many measures. The Pope attributed the harsh penalties to cultural backgrounds and urged bishops to change their views on homosexuality. 


Some African Catholic bishops have chosen to uphold these laws as consistent with Catholic doctrine, while others have condemned them as violating human rights. 


The Pope said in the A.P. interview, "these bishops have to have a process of conversion." Francis encouraged tenderness toward and acceptance of homosexual individuals instead of marginalization and shame. 


Francis said, "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 whether the Catholic Church should help combat discriminatory laws, he replied, "yes, yes. It must do this. It must do this." 


The Pope has historically made efforts to improve outreach to the LGBTQ+ community. The Church had previously avoided the topic, but the Pope famously replied, "who am I to judge?" when asked about gay priests. 


Despite Francis's comments about integrating and accepting LGBTQ+ individuals into the Catholic Church, the Pope has drawn criticism for still stating that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions.


The Pope's comments about condemning laws against homosexuality have again elicited a tremendous public response. 


In a Twitter post, Friar James Martin, Editor of America Magazine, said, "Pope Francis' historic call for decriminalizing homosexuality worldwide is a huge step forward for L.G.B.T.Q. People, their families and all who love them." 


Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (G.L.A.A.D.), said in a Twitter post that Pope Francis' comments were "a game changer in the fight to decriminalize L.G.B.T.Q. people." 


However, Pope Francis' statements did not come without backlash from more conservative Catholics. Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland retweeted a Catholic account quoting Pope John Paul II, who criticized gay couples wishing to marry and adopt children as "seeking to use human rights against humanity and the family."

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