(January 25, 2023) Pope Francis called laws that criminalize same-sex relationships "unjust," stating that "being homosexual is not a crime" in an interview with the Associated Press today. The Pope also called for the Roman Catholic Church to play an active role in opposing and repealing those laws, recognizing that some bishops who advocate for criminalization and discrimination laws against the LGBTQ community must undergo "a process of conversion," welcome LGBTQ people into the church, noting "it's also a sin to lack charity with one another."
Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, released the following statement:
"Pope Francis denounced laws in nearly 70 countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and called on the Roman Catholic Church to take an active role in repealing those laws. His historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world without violence and condemnation, and more kindness and understanding. Other influential voices in faith, government, business, sports, and entertainment should similarly speak out on outdated laws that criminalize the lives and relationships of LGBTQ people and that negatively impact travel and business in these countries."
Ellis continued: "Today's statements from Pope Francis are a game changer in the fight to decriminalize LGBTQ people and also illustrate the work that needs to be done with religious leaders to finally show that being LGBTQ is not a sin."
Pope Francis said to the AP: "It's not a crime. Yes, but it's a sin. Fine, but first let's distinguish between a sin and a crime." He then continued, noting that mistreating LGBTQ people is a sin as well: "It's also a sin to lack charity with one another."
ABOUT CRIMINALIZATION OF LGBTQ PEOPLE
GLAAD has been working to raise awareness about the criminalization of LGBTQ people around the world, most recently speaking about the issues during last week's World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.
There are currently 67 countries around the world with laws on the books that criminalize private same-sex relationships among consenting adults. All of those countries criminalize same-sex relationships among men and 41 do so among women, while 11 countries include the death penalty as punishment.
LGBTQ criminalization laws are often one part of larger human rights abuses and have been used to justify home raids, attacks, imprisonment, and family and societal rejection of LGBTQ people. In at least 26 countries, authorities public order, vagrancy and misdemeanor offenses to harass, arrest and prosecute transgender people. Blackmail, extortion, and physical and sexual violence is commonplace.
Still, in recent years, social acceptance of LGBTQ people has increased around the globe. Many nations have made progress in decriminalizing same-sex behavior, including Singapore, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda. At the same time, several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Ghana, and Indonesia, have recently passed various laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people and organizations.
The AP notes more than a dozen states in the U.S. have anti-sodomy laws on the books despite a Supreme Court decision in 2003 declaring them unconstitutional. In his concurrence in the decision overturning Roe v Wade, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas called for the Lawrence ruling to be reconsidered.
ABOUT LGBTQ PEOPLE OF FAITH
In the U.S., 47% of LGBTQ people consider themselves religious. One in seven highly religious LGBTQ people are in a same-sex relationship.
According to a 2022 poll, majorities of all religious groups favor state laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodations. This includes support from a majority of Hispanic Catholics (80%), white Catholics (80%), and white Evangelical Protestants (60%).
For more information on LGBTQ people and religion, refer to GLAAD's Media Guide: www.glaad.org/reference/religion. For more information on the state of global LGBTQ rights, refer to: www.glaad.org/reference/global.
Catholic LGBTQ+ ministry praises Pope's call for decriminalization
MOUNT RAINIER, MarylandNew Ways Ministry rejoices because of Pope Francis' declaration that homosexuality should not be criminalized, a statement which millions of Catholics have long called for from church leaders. This call for decriminalization will help save lives and promote respect for LGBTQ+ people, particularly in areas where law or social norms make them victims of fear, hatred, violence, and death.
The pope is reminding the church that the way people treat one another in the social world is of much greater moral importance that what people may possibly do in the privacy of a bedroom.
Most important, the pope highlights that being LGBTQ+ is not sinful and criminal, but harming one's neighbor is most certainly both. That simple principle is a bedrock of Catholic teaching.
Too many church leaders have often ignored this principle and refused to teach it. The hierarchy's silence has helped to perpetuate a culture of draconian laws, rampant disrespect, violent rhetoric, and brutal and often fatal physical attacks against LGBTQ+ people.
It is shameful that in some nations where criminalization exists or has been proposed, Catholic bishops and other leaders have been in the forefront of supporting such abhorrent measures. The pope's statement will help end this tragic record of church leaders' complicity with the scourge of criminalization.
The pope's statement highlights the Catholic value of protecting human dignity which too many church leaders have refused to apply to the oppressive social situations of LGBTQ+ people around the world, including in the U.S. Nothing Pope Francis said contradicts church teaching. Indeed, his words are rooted in that teaching.
In the U.S., and in many nations, Catholics in the pews have been calling on the pope and other church leaders to condemn criminalization and violence. In 2014, New Ways Ministry instituted the #PopeSpeakOut campaign, calling on supporters to send tweets and messages to urge Pope Francis to make a statement against criminalization laws. When the pope visited Uganda, Kenya, and the Central African Republic in 2015, many African advocates for LGBTQ+ people called on him to make an anti-criminalization statement, but he did not. In 2021, over 750 church leaders and scholars endorsed a public theological statement calling on Catholics to put an end to LGBTQ+ discrimination.
We hope Pope Francis will speak this message when he visits South Sudan, which criminalizes homosexuality, during his apostolic journey, January 31-February 5, 2023
As anti-LGBTQ+ movements around the U.S. and the globe gain strength, Pope Francis' statement is greatly needed. We hope that more church leaders will be emboldened to make similar statements, particularly when initiatives which damage the human dignity and the lives of LGBTQ+ people arise in their regions and nations.
New Ways Ministry is a 46-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBTQ+ people and the church. For more information visit: www.NewWaysMinistry.org .
DignityUSA response to Pope Francis' condemnation of laws criminalizing homosexuality
January 25, 2023. The world's oldest Catholic group advocating for LGBTQIA+ equality is celebrating Pope Francis' statement that "being homosexual isn't a crime" in an interview with the Associated Press. DignityUSA says this welcome change in the Vatican's position "could vastly improve the lives of LGBTQIA+ people around the world."
"Since the Vatican led the opposition to a 2010 United Nations proposal to decriminalize homosexuality DignityUSA has repeatedly challenged our church leaders to reverse this stance," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA's Executive Director. "We have led nationwide witnesses at cathedrals across the U.S. for this purpose, held a rally at the United Nations, and called on Pope Francis to make a statement like this when he visited Africa in 2015. I served as an Advisor to the State Department on faith and LGBTQ+ issues during the Obama administration, and urged both Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama to make this their top request when they visited with Pope Francis."
Duddy-Burke noted that the Vatican's stance on homosexuality has world-wide impact. "World leaders and legislators in many, many countries pay attention to what Catholic officials say. The Vatican's support of criminalizing homosexuality has made life very dangerous for countless gay people in countries on nearly every continent. Shifting the stance and pushing for an end to making Queer identity illegal will make life safer for many people around the world," she said.
Duddy-Burke said that DignityUSA stands ready to work with Vatican officials on the implications of this new position. "It is critical that the church's bishops immediately end any support they have given to laws that make being gay or same-sex relationships illegal. We also call on Catholics in our own country and around the world to support equality and non-violence for their LGBTQIA+ neighbors."
DignityUSA is the world's oldest organization of Catholics working for justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in our church and society. Founded in 1969 it is also a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.