Vatican opposes anti-LGBTQ legislation, top cardinal says

FILE PHOTO: New cardinals meet family members after consistory ceremony at the Vatican
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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -The Vatican is against laws that criminalize same-sex acts, as enforced by a number of countries with the support of Catholic groups, the head of the Vatican's doctrine office said on Monday.

Presenting a publication which reaffirmed the Vatican's opposition to sex reassignment surgery, so-called "gender theory" and having a child via surrogacy, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez called laws punishing LGBTQ people "a big problem" and said: "of course we are not in favour of criminalisation."

Fernandez, a liberal theologian whom Pope Francis appointed as head of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith less than a year ago, told reporters it was "painful" to see some Catholics support such legislation.

In February 2023, returning from a trip to Africa where same-sex relationships are often taboo, Francis said laws criminalising LGBT people were a sin and an injustice, because God loves and accompanies people with same-sex attraction.

"The criminalisation of homosexuality is a problem that cannot be ignored," the pope said, citing unnamed statistics according to which 50 countries criminalise LGBT people "in one way or another" and about 10 others have laws including the death penalty.

Under Francis, the Catholic Church has become more welcoming towards LGBT people. In December, Cardinal Fernandez's office issued a landmark document allowing the blessing of same-sex couples, triggering substantial conservative backlash.

Nevertheless, the Church officially teaches that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered".

Answering a question on whether such language may be amended, Cardinal Fernandez said, "it is true that it a very strong expression and that it needs a lot of explanation, perhaps we could find a clearer one."

He said that the point of Catholic teaching was that same-sex unions cannot match "the immense beauty" of heterosexual ones, and the Church "could find more apt words to express" this.

(Reporting by Alvise ArmelliniWriting by Keith Weir, editing by Gianluca Semeraro and Tomasz Janowski)