After Pope Francis brought up the subject of homosexuality and crime during a recent interview, Ed weighed in on the subject and provided a bit more context. I did as well, although I took a more secular approach to the topic. We were far from the only people kicking that particular football around because the Pope’s comments clearly sparked a global conversation. Now, however, the Pontiff has delivered a few notes in Rome seeking to clarify what he meant and tamp down on some of the ensuing uproar. But a quick look at the notes left me thinking that he was really just saying the same thing with some minor changes to the wording. (Associated Press)
Pope Francis has clarified his recent comments about homosexuality and sin, saying he was merely referring to official Catholic moral teaching that teaches that any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin.
And in a note Friday, Francis recalled that even that black-and-white teaching is subject to circumstances that might eliminate the sin altogether.
Francis first made the comments in an interview Jan. 24 with The Associated Press, in which he declared that laws criminalizing homosexuality were “unjust” and that “being homosexual is not a crime.”
The Rev. James Martin of the Outreach ministry for LGBTQ Catholics was the person who got the ball rolling on this update. He personally asked Pope Francis to clarify his comments and received a written response from the Pontiff, which he published online for his followers. (You can read the full response at the link.)
Perhaps it’s just me, but it doesn’t seem as if there was really much “clarification” in this follow-up. The Pope does include some of the same statements with slightly different wording, but he also includes some possible exceptions and talks of extenuating circumstances “which may decrease or eliminate fault.”
The criminalization angle has attracted most of the international attention, however. The AP made a big deal out of the Pope “calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality.” But his original remarks on the topic were so brief that it wasn’t at all clear to me that he was specifically saying homosexuality should be “decriminalized everywhere.” In these notes, Pope Francis clarifies that part of the conversation and confirms that he meant to say that. He said he wanted to “stress that criminalization is neither good nor just.”
He reiterated his position that homosexual acts are a sin (as opposed to simply being gay). But he seemed to attempt to clear that up by admitting that he should have added ‘as is any sexual act outside of marriage.’ That will probably make the LGBTQ community feel a lot better about it, but it also opens the door to other uncomfortable aspects of the discussion.
Gay marriage may be legal in the United States, but the Catholic Church still refuses to bless same-sex marriages and the church put out a statement to that effect as recently as 2021. In other words, all homosexual acts are still sins in the eyes of the church because they are still “outside of marriage” since the union isn’t recognized. And that brings us back to the important distinction between crimes and sins that I attempted to make earlier this week.
With all due respect (and I mean that sincerely), you might want to limit your analysis to the province of sins and virtues, Your Holiness. As soon as you chime in on the legalization aspect, the whole discussion blows up again. Let the church define what is or isn’t a sin (for better or worse) and leave the criminalization questions to the world’s various governments.