WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – During a lengthy interview with America magazine, Pope Francis made several comments about homosexuality, following the headline-grabbing statements he made on the subject earlier this year.
“In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this,” he was quoted as saying. “During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.”
He added, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘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 must always consider the person.”
The pope said the church should not “interfere spiritually” with the lives of gays and lesbians.
“Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person,” he said.
During the mid-flight interview mentioned by Pope Francis, he specifically referenced clergy members with histories of homosexuality. He said at the time who is he to judge them.
The Catholic church has traditionally condemned homosexuality, with some of Pope Francis’ predecessors voicing staunch opposition to gays and lesbians.
Pope Benedict XVI, who occupied the position before abdicating earlier this year, was an especially loud voice of opposition to the LGBT community, going so far at one point as to call same-sex marriage a threat to “the future of humanity itself,” according to Reuters.
Pope Francis also made surprising comments when asked about his life before the papacy, when he was Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
“I do not know what might be the most fitting description …I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition,” he told the magazine. “It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
He also addressed other hot-button issues for the Catholic church. In particular, the emphasis placed on such matters by religious officials and the frequency with which they are discussed.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he told America. “I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”
Pope Francis added, “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”