The LGBTQ+ community and the Catholic Church
Grace Sullivan | Monday, February 13, 2023
It is common knowledge that homosexuality is viewed as a sin by the Catholic Church. The influence of Catholicism has spread all across the world creating a sense of universal values among individuals who practice the religion. While there is a wide diversity of beliefs among Catholics, a common one for conservative Catholics is the belief that homosexuality is a sin and a crime. On the contrary, Pope Francis made a public statement exclaiming how criminalizing homosexuality is unjust.
As explained in a report by NPR, Catholic teaching holds that homosexual acts are a sin, but being homosexual is not a crime. The key detail in Pope Francis’s public statement is deciphering the difference between sin and crime.
In the Catholic church, there are two types of sin: mortal and venial. In the traditional belief, committing a mortal sin cuts off your relationship with God while venial sin damages your relationship with God. In other words, there is more at stake when a mortal sin is acted upon compared to a venial sin. While being a member of the LGBTQ community is not a sin in itself, the person is viewed as “intrinsically disordered.” In terms of homosexuality, it is the act of pursuing homosexual urges that is considered a mortal sin if acted upon with full knowledge and consent. Ironically, homosexuality is more criminalized and discriminated against than engaging in premarital sex, which can be equated to the mortal sin of homosexuality. Nonetheless, in the Catholic Church all sins can be forgiven. Furthermore, criminalizing sin is not only hypocritical but morally unjust.
In an article by Forbes, Pope Francis explains how he still holds the traditional Catholic belief that acting on homosexual urges is a sin, but that does not make it okay to criminalize it. Despite Pope Francis’ progressive statement, the Church doctrine on gay marriage has not changed as Vatican refuses to bless same-sex marriage and maintains that acting on homosexual urges is a sin. Regardless, Pope Francis affirmed that God and Jesus still love gay Catholics for “God loves them as they are.” He further detailed how gay people have always existed throughout human history, for this and other reasons parents of gay children should not condemn them, and Catholics should welcome LGBTQ+ members to the Church. As Pope Francis said soon after becoming the Pope in July 2013, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Pope Francis has not only advocated for more inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in the church, but also for the Catholic church to work on putting an end to laws in countries that criminalize homosexuality. According to an article that with data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2019, hate crimes based on sexual orientation represent 16.7% of all hate crimes. Another article by the New York Times explains how people who study hate crimes suggest that there has been an increase in “L.G.B.T.” hate crimes might have to do with a more accepting attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community in recent decades. Because the majority of society has become more tolerant of queer people, opponents of this rhetoric to become more radical. As stated by a psychology professor at the University of California, Gregory M. Herek explains how “They may feel that the way they see the world is threatened, which motivates them to strike out in some way, and for some people, that way could be in violent attacks.” These statistics and analysis do not suggest that all anti-LGBTQ+ offenders are Catholic, however, it does show how deeply rooted homophobia is both a systemic and institutional issue.
As defined by Planned Parenthood, homophobia is the fear, hatred, discomfort with or mistrust of people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Homophobia can take many forms, it is often based in irrational fear and misunderstanding. Some LGBTQ+ people experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity from religious institutions, companies or the government. Institutional discrimination further perpetuates and validates the spread of homophobic rhetoric.
As our society starts to become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, it is important for the Catholic church to uphold its social teachings and welcome individuals of all identities into the Church. While homosexuality is viewed as a sin by the church, Pope Francis stated that it should not be criminalized. The National LGBTQ task force shared a quote from Pope Francis that further advocates for his stance to be inclusive to LGBTQ+ people: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.” In order to promote peace and justice, the Catholic church must live up to the morals they preach. Jesus’ instruction to “love thy neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) should not be taken lightly. Justice is at the core of Catholic tradition, every person should treat others fairly, as they would like to be treated. As highlighted by Pope Francis, everyone is equal in the eyes of God, Catholics should not discriminate against others on the basis of identity. As a society, we must continue to accept all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation to promote and uphold the dignity of all human beings.
Grace Sullivan is a first-year at Notre Dame studying global affairs with a minor in gender studies. In her column I.M.P.A.C.T (Intersectionality Makes Political Activist Change Transpire), she is passionate about looking at global social justice issues through an intersectional feminist lens. Outside of The Observer, she enjoys hiking, painting and being a plant mom. She can be reached at @[email protected]