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OPINION
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Pope Francis Isn't Wrong on This One

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AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Why are we supposed to be outraged over Pope Francis's advocacy against the criminalization of homosexual acts? I don't quite get it.

Pope Francis has stepped up his criticism of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. He called laws criminalizing homosexuals unjust but reiterated Catholic Church teaching that homosexual activity is sinful. 

Bantering with himself, Francis articulated the position: “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

Any regular reader of this column knows I don't hesitate to criticize Pope Francis. In this Catholic columnist's opinion, the Pontiff has too often been sloppy in his public statements regarding some of the more controversial issues facing the Church.

Frequently, Pope Francis finds himself on the back of his papal jet musing with hostile reporters about topics like the existence of hell, divorced and remarried Catholics receiving the Eucharist, and the disposition of same-sex attracted Catholics within his flock.

These are issues that require careful consideration and precise language so as to properly articulate the position of the Church, which often finds itself in the hostile crosshairs of a popular culture looking for any opportunity to do away with one of the pillars of Western civilization and Judeo-Christian morality.

Precise language on these issues is also important for Catholics who themselves are struggling on a day-to-day basis with their faith, which demands deference and compliance to the Church's authority on these matters. It isn't easy to relinquish authority to a church on issues like homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, gender identity and other hot-button cultural issues when one experiences pressure from one's society, one's government and even one's family to just go along with the prevailing wins.

To maintain the Catholic Church's millennia-old teachings requires a lot of support and leadership from the Vatican, the College of Cardinals and Bishops worldwide.

In other words, we Catholics need to know that the Pope has our back on these things. And too often, it has appeared on the surface that he has not.

That said, Pope Francis's recent statements about decriminalizing homosexuality don't at all seem to be the heresy many conservative Catholic commentators want to be.

Dr. Taylor Marshall has a large YouTube audience and an influential social media presence, and I understand that opposition to the Pope on issues like this is good for clicks. But when the Pope specifically says in this interview that homosexual acts are sinful, but he opposes governments that have criminalized those acts, I don't quite see why I should be outraged or scandalized.

First of all, let's take the hot-button issue of same-sex attraction out of the mix. I'm sure that Dr. Marshall would agree that adultery is a sin. I mean, it's right there in the ten commandments. Even your most liberal Protestant Christian would agree that there's no getting around this fact. Adultery is a sin.

But would Dr. Marshall want adultery to be against the law in America? Would he want people who commit this sin to be arrested and even jailed? Would it be heresy for a priest, bishop, or Pope to advocate against such an unjust law?

Now, let's bring homosexuality back into the conversation because this really is about same-sex attraction and homosexual acts. Homosexual acts are just as sinful as adultery. We, as Catholics, can't say one is more sinful than the other, can we? 

And let's look at the countries that Pope Francis is referring to when it comes to the criminalization of homosexuality. These are countries like Iran, which after convicting a citizen of homosexuality, will often sentence them to be thrown off of a building to their death. Am I to believe that the traditional, conservative, Catholic position is that this is okay? Am I to believe that calling on a country like Iran to show mercy and compassion and not make it common practice to execute homosexuals is somehow not in keeping with the tradition of the holy Catholic Church?

Quite the contrary.

And before we're done with this discussion, let's answer Dr. Marshall's rhetorical question about Pope Francis and his title as Vicar of Christ. Does Pope Francis advocating for the abolition of draconian laws against homosexuality disqualify him as Vicar of Christ? I think Scripture could answer this question for us. Christ lived in a time when a woman accused of adultery would be sentenced to death by stoning. He was confronted with this personally. 

Adultery is a sin. And the woman faced stoning as the result of a man-made, civic law meant to enforce God's commandment. 

We all know how Jesus responded to that incident. 

Is Pope Francis wrong to say that homosexuality is a sin but should not be criminalized? Perhaps Dr. Marshall should cast the first stone. 

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