Last Month Pope Francis told the Associated Press during an exclusive interview, “Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” sending global shock waves again. “It’s not a crime,” the pontiff stated. “Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

The pontiff’s statement helps and hurts the LGBTQ+ community.

The LGBTQ+ community worldwide is under constant attack. Pope Francis is a global influencer; he alone can create a movement to decriminalize homosexuality.

Nearly 70 countries have criminalized their LGBTQ+ populations with the death penalty in 11 of them. Last year in the U.S., over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ legislation bills in 28 states were presented. Florida’s “Don’t Say Bill” was signed into law.

Many LGBTQ+ organizations and Catholics have applauded the pontiff’s statement. Some see Francis’s pronouncement as a softer and more humane attempt to mitigate the harassment, stigma, violence, and in some cases, death our community has experienced.

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,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the U.S.-based advocacy group, GLAAD, told the press.

Francis correctly states that his “bishops, in particular, need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.” In 2008, the Vatican declined to sign a U.N. declaration to decriminalize homosexuality. However, we have seen throughout Francis’s papacy that his pronouncements don’t alter Church teachings, making him look like a church bureaucrat, a flip-flopper, or, at worse, a titular head.

For example, in 2020, The Vatican walked back Francis’s vocal support for same-sex unions. In October 2020, while interviewing about his life for the documentary “Francesco,” Francis fully endorsed same-sex civil unions, again setting off global shock waves.

Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” the pontiff said in the film by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky. “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way, they are legally covered.”

Francis’s statement was a Hallelujah moment for many LGBTQ+ Catholics. It optimistically suggested a game-changer, having dogma-transforming ramifications for the church in this 21st century despite conservatives and traditionalist priests still hell-bent on continuing on the anti-modernity track of his now-deceased predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.The Vatican stepped in, making public its terse statement, “Nothing to see here, Secretariat of State argues, saying no change in view of homosexuality.”

Another example was in 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, issued a formal statement instructing its priests not to offer blessings to same-sex couples. The church’s reason: God cannot bless sin. To the shock of LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies globally, Pope Francis approved the decree. His approval of the decree was a betrayal despite the many liberal-leaning LGBTQ+ optimistic pronouncements heard during his papacy.

For instance, I recall Pope Francis’s remarks while flying home after a weeklong visit to Brazil in 2013, responding to a question about a possible “gay lobby” in the Vatican. His answer set off global shock waves. “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby,” he said. “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” The pontiff’s public statement was then the most LGBTQ+ affirming remark the world had ever heard from the Catholic Church until his recent comment that “homosexuality is not a crime.”

But Francis hurts the global LGBTQ+ community by calling homosexuality a sin.

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,” Francis stated in a written response to Outreach editor James Martin, S.J.

The pontiff has been in office just a month shy of a decade. His seemingly affirming statements during his tenure have not changed church teachings on homosexuality or same-sex unions.

I do hope some countries heed Francis’s advice and stop criminalizing homosexuality. However, Francis stating that “Homosexuality is a sin” leaves in place his characterization and the church’s belief of us as being “intrinsically disordered” and contrary to natural law.

Being LGBTQ+ is not a crime. Being LGBTQ+ is not a sin. However, the church’s stance about us is a sin upon itself, and a crime against humanity.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister, motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and a weekly Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also she writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She appears in the film For the Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s coming out story is profiled in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in America. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC.

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