Pope Francis has written a letter to clear up comments he made regarding sin and homosexuality during a recent interview with the Associated Press.

In his letter to Jesuit Father James Martin, Pope Francis writes:

“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,”

Pope Francis explains that his comments on the criminalization of homosexuality, stating that it “is neither good nor just,” were intended to be separate from his comments on sin. He writes:

“As you can see, I was repeating something in general,” he wrote. “I should have said ‘It is a sin, as is any sexual act outside of marriage.’ This is to speak of ‘the matter’ of sin, but we know well that Catholic morality not only takes into consideration the matter but also evaluates freedom and intention; and this, for every kind of sin.”

Pope Francis also acknowledges that his comments may have been unclear in the interview, due to the conversational tone, writing:

“It is understandable that there would not be such precise definitions,” he said.

Pope Francis also emphasizes that the AP interview was not the first time he has spoken about homosexuality and homosexual persons. He notes that when speaking about sin, one must also consider the circumstances, which may reduce or eliminate fault, writing:

“When speaking about the sin of sexual activity outside of marriage, he added that ‘of course, one must also consider the circumstances, which may decrease or eliminate fault.'”

The Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction itself is not a sin, but that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and cannot be approved. The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs that people with homosexual tendencies should be treated with respect and that unjust discrimination against them should be avoided. For a sin to be considered mortal, the Church teaches that it must involve grave matter, be committed with full knowledge, and with deliberate consent.

Photo credit: Shawn via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
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