Pope Francis pens a letter to Jesuit Fr. James Martin explaining his recent comments in an interview with AP that “being homosexual is not a crime”, saying he was referring to Catholic doctrine that teaches that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin.
“I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin.”
Pope Francis penned those words in response to a letter from Father James Martin, SJ, who carries out his apostolate among the LGBTQ community in the United States.
The American Jesuit had written to the Holy Father following his recent interview with the Associated Press.
The Pope's handwritten response in Spanish was posted on Father Martin's website, along with a translation in English.
It was already clear from the context of the interview that the Pope had spoken of homosexuality, meaning in that case "homosexual acts" and not homosexuality itself.
In his letter, Pope Francis reiterated that his position is that of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as he had already said in his first interview with reporters on the flight back from Brazil in 2013 ("If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?").
Responding to Fr. Martin, the Pope stressed that, regarding sin, “one must also consider the circumstances, which may decrease or eliminate fault.”
“I should have said ‘It is a sin, as is any sexual act outside of
marriage’,” added the Pope. “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.”
Pope Francis went on in his letter to repeat that being homosexual is not a crime.
“I would tell whoever wants to criminalize homosexuality that they are wrong,” he wrote. “In a televised interview, where we spoke with natural and conversational language, it is understandable that there would not be such precise definitions.”
There are over 50 countries that hold out the possibility of legal sentences for homosexual people and some of these nations even employ the death penalty.
The Pope concluded his letter by assuring Fr. Martin that he prays for him and his work with the LGBTQ community.
“Please do the same for me,” he said.