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Catholic commentator says God's mercy and justice ‘must be reflected in church' as Pope Francis says homosexuality is not a crime

by Heather Preston

A Catholic speaker has been sharing his thoughts on the Pope's recent comments about the act of homosexuality.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Pope Francis stated that the practise of homosexuality "is a sin, but not a crime."

He acknowledged that in some parts of the world Catholic Bishops support laws that criminalise homosexuality.

The Pontiff has encouraged Catholic leaders to welcome the LGBTQ community into churches with "tenderness, as God has for each one of us”.

According to advocacy group Human Dignity Trust, some 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity, eleven of which can or do impose the death penalty.

Francis explained that a distinction needed to be made between a crime and a sin with regard to homosexuality.

"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.

Speaker for Catholic Voices, Peter Williams told Premier the Pope's comments align with 2000 years of Church teaching.

"In [the UK], we had an act that to criminalise homosexuality in the 16th century, introduced by Thomas Cromwell, who was famous for suppressing the Catholic Church. Prior to then, when England was Catholic, we actually didn't have any laws against homosexuality. It was purely an ecclesiastical thing ... you would be given penances by the church, but you wouldn't be criminalised, you wouldn't be put into the prison, you wouldn't be hurt or tortured.

"It's never been necessarily a Catholic thing at all to believe that sins should be crimes. Some sins that are very serious, like murder or abuse of some description of course, should be a crime. But ordinary, everyday sins or sexual temptations obviously should not be - and that's all the Pope was saying here."

During his interview, Francis quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church to note that all must be welcomed and respected within the church and not be discriminated against.

"We are all children of God and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity," he said.

Williams reflected on how this can be worked out in the everyday practice of the Church, highlighting the importance of balancing both the need for supportive care for those who are same-sex attracted together with the need for repentance from sin.

"In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says that we should treat people who experience same-sex attraction with respect and compassion, and dignity. And so that should always be an element of our care. Children of God need to be treated with that compassion and care irrespective of their sexual orientations. That's always going to be the case.

"But that doesn't take away from the fact that the temptation is towards a particular sin. There's a balance - that this is something which revelation of Holy Scripture reveals is wrong. That's on the one hand, something we have to take into account. But on the other hand, people who are subject to that temptation need to be treated with the greatest degree of compassion and care and love. That's both those things - God's mercy, as well as justice, are things that needs to be reflected within the everyday practice of the church.

"Maybe there are some people who'd go too far one way or too far the other. Too much in judgement or too much in terms of trying to care without bringing a sense of repentance of sin, which is the basis for real spiritual health."



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