Opinion: Pope Francis’ statement about homosexuality is a step in the right direction


Photo credit/ Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Jeon Han)

Pope Francis smiles and waves

In a recent interview with Associated Press, Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, said explicitly that “homosexuality is not a crime” and took it one step further to say that laws that criminalize homosexuality are “unjust” and that God loves all His children just as they are.

In addition to declaring anti-LGBTQ+ laws “unjust,” the Pope also said that the Catholic Church should work to put an end to them.

According to the Human Dignity Trust, 67 countries have jurisdictions that criminalize homosexuality and 11 of those jurisdictions can or do impose the death penalty for homosexual activity.

Pope Francis addressed Catholic bishops around the world that support laws that criminalize homosexuality and emphasized the responsibility bishops have to recognize the dignity of everyone. He acknowledged that cultural backgrounds can contribute to a way of thinking that associates homosexuality with crime, but called for the bishops to undergo a process of change.

“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” said the Pope.

Pope Francis clarified his point by using a hypothetical dialogue between two people. He said that someone might say that homosexuality “is a sin,” but, the Pope elaborated, “first we distinguish between sin and crime,” and that “it is also a sin to lack charity toward one another.”

This is a huge step in a direction of welcoming and including LGBTQ+ people into the Catholic Church and a huge moment in Vatican history.

Some catholics have tried to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people throughout the years. One example is New Ways Ministry, an organization bridging the gap between LGBTQ community and the Catholic Church since the 1970s.

The ministry, founded by Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick in Maryland, focuses on advocacy and justice for LGBTQ+ Catholics and was formed with the goal of creating acceptance for LGBTQ+ people within the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1999, the Vatican ordered Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick to end their 30 year ministry to LGBTQ+ people after an investigation found that the did not comply with the Catholic Church’s teachings on the “intrinsic evil of homosexual acts.”

The Vatican issued a statement calling the priest and sister’s inclusive message and ministry “erroneous and dangerous.”

It seems contradictory that a ministry dedicated to inclusion and acceptance could be labeled “erroneous and dangerous.”

Now, nearly 24 years later, the current Pope’s message is very different from the one issued in 1999.

In fact, in a letter written to New Ways Ministry in 2021, Pope Francis commended the organization for its outreach to the LGBTQ community and praised Sr. Jeannine Grammick, calling her a “valiant woman.”

Also in the letter, Pope Francis acknowledged that New Ways Ministry’s “history has not been an easy one,” but that loving our neighbors is the second commandment, tied “necessarily” to the first commandment which is to love God.

Fr. James Martin, S.J. wrote for Outreach, an LGBTQ Catholic Resource, that Pope Francis is the first pope to make such a clear call on this issue.

On the Pope’s comments, Martin says, “this represents an immense step forward for LGBTQ people, their families and friends, and will undoubtedly save lives.”

Pope Francis’ message is one of inclusion, love, and welcome. LGBTQ+ people should feel respected, valued, loved, included, and welcomed by the Church. If Jesus’ message was one of love and acceptance, shouldn’t the Church’s be too?

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