Earlier this week, in an interview with the Associated Press, Pope Francis made some headlines when he answered a question about criminalizing homosexuality:

On Tuesday, Francis said there needed to be a distinction between a crime and a sin with regard to homosexuality.

“Being homosexual is not a crime,” he said. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added.

This sparked some debate about what he meant, and whether his comments had been mistranslated.

As editor of the LGBTQ Catholic resource Outreach, Father James Martin wrote a letter to the Holy Father asking for clarification:

We framed these questions as an interview, in order that he knew that his responses would be made public. Our three questions were:

1. Holy Father, thank you for your strong call to decriminalize homosexuality. Why did you decide to say this at this time?

2.  There seems to have been some confusion about your comment, “Being gay is a sin,” which, of course, is not part of church teaching. My feeling was that you were simply repeating what others might say hypothetically. So, do you think that simply being gay is a sin?

3.  What would you say to Catholic bishops who still support the criminalization of homosexuality?

The translated reply:

Dear brother,

Thank you for your letter.

It is not the first time that I speak of homosexuality and of homosexual persons.

And I wanted to clarify that it is not a crime, in order to stress that criminalization is neither good nor just.

When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin. 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.

And I would tell whoever wants to criminalize homosexuality that they are wrong.

In a televised interview, where we spoke with natural and conversational language, it is understandable that there would not be such precise definitions.

I pray for you and for your work. Please do the same for me.

May Jesus bless you and may the Holy Virgin protect you.



You can see the letter and read more here.