Metro Weekly

Pope Francis Says Homosexuality “is a Human Fact”

In an interview with "60 Minutes," Pope Francis criticized conservatives for their hostility toward LGBTQ people.

Pope Francis being interviewed by CBS's Norah O'Donnell - Photo: Adam Verdugo/CBS News/"60 Minutes"
Pope Francis being interviewed by CBS’s Norah O’Donnell – Photo: Adam Verdugo/CBS News/60 Minutes

Pope Francis criticized religious conservatives who object to the Catholic Church’s more compassionate overtures toward the LGBTQ community during an interview with the CBS news program 60 Minutes.

When Nora O’Donnell noted that he had previously said that “homosexuality is not a crime,” the 87-year-old pontiff responded, “It is a human fact.”

He also clarified to O’Donnell that his December 2023 announcement allowing priests to bless people in same-sex unions does not constitute an endorsement of same-sex marriage, which continues to be contrary to church doctrine.

“What I allowed was not to bless the union,” Pope Francis said. “That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament [of marriage]. I cannot — the Lord made it that way — but to bless each person. Yes, this blessing is for everyone — for everyone.”

He continued, “To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the given right, against the law of the church. But to bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all.”

The pope’s allowance of blessings for individuals in same-sex couples enraged some African bishops from countries where homosexuality is not only considered socially taboo but may also be criminalized.

But the pope said that criticisms of that policy were coming from “small ideological groups” and that clerics need to better understand “the suffering of people.”

The pope previously said in January that he regretted that some priests from more conservative groups within the church are unwilling to engage in “brotherly discussion” and jumped to “ugly conclusions” about what the policy actually entails.

Last November, the pope fired Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, who has repeatedly criticized him for moving in a more liberal direction when it comes to tolerance of LGBTQ people, even going so far as to accuse him of undermining the Catholic faith.

Strickland’s comments give voice to the concerns of conservatives within the Church hierarchy who have privately balked at Francis’s liberalism, particularly in comparison to the doctrinaire conservatism that characterized the tenure of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

However, Pope Francis has criticized Catholics who have become so obsessed with culture-war issues that they overlook other key tenets of Catholicism.

For example, he noted that while some conservatives rail against homosexuality, they appear less concerned about the idea of priests blessing other “sinners.”

“No one is scandalized if I give a blessing to an entrepreneur who perhaps exploits people: and that is a most serious sin,” he said. “Whereas they are scandalized if I give it to a homosexual… This is hypocrisy! We all have to respect each other. Everyone!”

Even while he has stood firm in his opposition to recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages, has called for openly gay clerics to be barred from entering the priesthood, and rejects the very idea that one’s gender identity can differ from their assigned sex at birth, Francis’s tenure as pope has also marked a significant step toward tolerance for LGBTQ people, with less of a condemnatory, fire-and-brimstone approach to complicated social issues.

Francis has spoken out against laws criminalizing homosexuality, insisting that God loves all his children, even admitted sinners. He has urged U.S. bishops to dial back anti-LGBTQ attacks and has even compared politicians who revel in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, while ignoring other Catholic teachings, such as charity and social justice, to Nazis.

Such statements emphasize the contrast between the atmosphere that liberals like Francis have tried to foster within the Catholic community, taking a more conciliatory approach to LGBTQ people who may have been raised Catholic but have since left the church.

“[A] conservative is one who clings to something and does not want to see beyond that,” Francis said in the 60 Minutes interview. “It is a suicidal attitude, because one thing is to take tradition into account, to consider situations from the past, but quite another is to be closed up inside a dogmatic box.”

Read a full transcript of the pope’s 60 Minutes interview here.

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