“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,” the pope wrote to Jesuit Father James Martin in response to a request for clarification.
Francis said he was trying to say in the interview that criminalization of homosexuality “is neither good nor just.”
“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.”
Martin published the pope’s Spanish-language letter and an English translation on the website of Outreach on Jan. 27. Martin is the editor of Outreach, which describes itself as “an LGBT Catholic resource” operating under the auspices of America Media.
In an interview published Jan. 25 by AP, Pope Francis said: “Being homosexual is not a crime. It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”
The Outreach article posited that the pope’s comment that “yes, but it’s a sin” was intended to be from a hypothetical interlocutor to whom Pope Francis was responding.
In his Jan. 27 letter, Pope Francis ascribed the confusing statement to the conversational tone of the interview.
“It is understandable that there would not be such precise definitions,” he said.
The pope also noted that the AP interview was “not the first time that I speak of homosexuality and of homosexual persons.”
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 does not teach that homosexuality, that is having same-sex attraction, is a sin.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people with homosexual tendencies should be treated with respect, and unjust discrimination against them should be avoided, while “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”
The Catechism also teaches that for a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be met: It must be grave matter, which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.