Pope Francis insists sexual sins are ‘not the most serious’

Pope Francis meets with young people in Rome

Pope Francis has officially declared that sex outside of marriage and “sins of the flesh” are “not the most serious” of sins.

The leader of the Catholic Church indicated during a press conference aboard the papal plane on Monday (6 December) that people of faith should be more concerned about other transgressions.

“Sins of the flesh are not the most serious,” Pope Francis said.

Instead, Pope Francis said that hatred and pride are the “most serious” of sins, the Independent reported.

His ranking of worst wrongdoings followed his acceptance of the resignation of Michael Aupetit, the former Archbishop of Paris, earlier this month. Aupetit denied having an “ambiguous” relationship with an unnamed woman in 2012, but said he would resign to “preserve the diocese from the division that suspicion and loss of trust are continuing to provoke”.

While aboard the papal plane earlier this week, Pope Francis said Aupetit had been the victim of an “injustice”, Reuters reported.

“It was a failing against the sixth commandment (You shall not commit adultery) but not a total one, one of small caresses, massage given to his secretary – that is what the accusation is,” Pope Francis said. “There is a sin there but not the worst kind.”

He added that Aupetit “could no longer govern” as he had been “condemned” “by public opinion, by gossip”.

Francis DeBernardo – the executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for greater acceptance of LGBT+ people in the Catholic Church – told PinkNews that Catholic leaders have “emphasised sexual sins as the worst kind” of sin for “far too long” and “used this focus to exclude people from the church community”.

“This has been especially true for LGBTQ people who have often been treated as pariahs by some in the church,” DeBernardo explained. “Since one of his first interviews after becoming pope, Francis has been trying to get bishops to focus on social and economic issues, as he recognises that sexuality is not the most important focus that the church should have.”

He continued: “Jesus said nothing about sexuality in the Gospels, but he said a lot about how people should treat one another, live justly and treat those in poverty or weakness.”

In one sense, DeBernardo admitted the ranking of sins is “not new from the pope”. But he said it was a “positive message of welcome and inclusion” to the LGBT+ community and “others who have been excluded because of their sexuality” anytime a church leader – “especially the pope” – sends the message that “sexuality is not the most sinful area of life”.

“It helps to end the tyranny of focusing on sexuality which has not only harmed many people but also presents a narrow and petty image for the church, whose teachings and values are about so much more,” DeBernardo said.

In March, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions because God “does not and cannot bless sin”.

The message, which was approved by Pope Francis, came in response to questions about whether the Catholic Church should reflect on increasing societal and legal acceptance of same-sex unions.

However, the Vatican said a blessing could only be conferred on a couple’s relationship when they live according to the “designs of God inscribed in creation”. As such, the letter said the Catholic Church cannot have the “power to bless unions of persons of the same sex”.

Pope Francis doubled down on the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex marriage in September. He declared that “marriage is a sacrament” and that the “church doesn’t have the power to change sacraments”.

But Pope Francis insisted that refusing to allow same-sex couples the same sacramental rights as opposite-sex couples “does not mean condemning” them.

“Marriage is marriage, but this does not mean condemning [homosexual] people,” he said. “No, please, these are our brothers and sisters, and we need to be close to them, but marriage as a sacrament is clear.”