Pope Francis has reiterated his call for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, stating that to condemn gay people as some clergy do is a sin.
Speaking on the flight from Juba to Rome after his ecumenical pilgrimage to South Sudan, the Pope said that gay people “are children of God, and God loves them, he accompanies them”.
“To criminalise people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice,” said Francis.
“I am not talking about groups, but people. You can say ‘they make groups, etc’, but they are people. Lobbies are another thing, but they are people.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who was also on the papal flight, said that he would “quote the Holy Father” at the Church of England’s general synod this week during debates on the blessing of same-sex marriages.
The Pope was responding to questions about his widely-publicised remarks in an AP interview last month, in which he called for the decriminalisation of homosexuality but seemed to suggest it was still a sin.
In the US, following the interview, the priest Fr Jim Martin SJ, who leads an apostolate to the LGBT community, published a note from Francis clarifying those comments.
“When I said [homosexuality] is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin,” the Pope wrote.
“Of course, one must also consider the circumstances, which may decrease or eliminate fault. As you can see, I was repeating something in general. I should have said ‘It is a sin, as is any sexual act outside of marriage.’
“This is to speak of ‘the matter’ of sin, but we know well that Catholic morality not only takes into consideration the matter, but also evaluates freedom and intention; and this, for every kind of sin.”
The debate over the Pope’s remarks has accompanied controversy surrounding comments by San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy in an article for America magazine.
McElroy stated his conviction that not all sexual sins were grave enough to warrant abstaining from communion.
He also questioned the pastoral consequences of the traditional distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts.
The Archbishop of Denver, Samuel Aquila, responded to McElroy in the Denver Catholic.
“The Church recognises that someone who lives a particular way, whether it be in willing violation of natural law or some other moral category, is not in communion with the Church,” Aquila wrote.
“As Pope Francis said so simply during an in-flight interview September 15, 2021: ‘This is not a penalty: you are outside. Communion is to unite the community.’
“This is not to condemn the person but to recognise the truth of their situation and call their immortal soul to something greater.”
Aquila added: “I must admit that if I thought the way some of my brothers think I would have left the Church long ago and joined another Christian community.”