Pope Francis apologizes after being quoted using vulgar term about gay men when discussing ban on gay priests

Pope Francis has apologized after he was quoted as using a vulgar term about homosexuals to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s ban on gay priests. Photo / AP

  • Pope Francis apologized for using a derogatory term about gay men during a meeting with Italian bishops on May 20.
  • A Vatican spokesperson did not confirm the Pope’s use of the term, but offered apologies to those offended.
  • The controversy highlights ongoing tensions between the Vatican’s stance on gay priests and the presence of LGBTQ+ people within the church.

Pope Francis has apologized after he was quoted as using a vulgar and derogatory term about gay men to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s ban on gay priests.

The uproar that followed underscored how the Church’s official teaching on homosexuality often clashes with the unacknowledged reality that there are many gay men in the priesthood and many LGBTQ+ Catholics who want to be fully part of the life and sacraments of the Church. .

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni issued a statement acknowledging the media storm that erupted around Francis’ comments, which were delivered behind closed doors to Italian bishops on May 20.

Italian media had cited unnamed Italian bishops in reporting that, while speaking in Italian during the meeting, Francis jokingly used a term that translates in English as “f*****ness.”

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He had used the term to reaffirm the Vatican’s ban on allowing gay men to enter seminaries and be ordained priests.

Bruni said Francis was aware of the reports and recalled that the Argentine pope, who has made outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics a hallmark of his papacy, has long insisted that there is “place for everyone” in the Catholic Church. .

“The Pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term that was reported by others,” Bruni said.

With the statement, Bruni carefully avoided direct confirmation that the pope had indeed used the term, in keeping with the Vatican’s tradition of not revealing what the pope says behind closed doors.

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But Bruni also did not deny that Francisco had said it.

And for those who have long advocated for greater inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ+ Catholics, the issue was bigger than the word itself.

“More than the offensive insult uttered by the Pope, what is harmful is the institutional church’s insistence on ‘banning’ gay men from the priesthood as if we do not know (and minister alongside) many, many celibate and gifted gay priests , ”said Natalia Imperatori-Lee, chair of the religious studies department at Manhattan College.

“The LGBTQ community seems to be a constant target of improvised and spontaneous ‘mistakes’ by people in the Vatican, including the Pope, who should know better,” he added.

The 87-year-old Argentine pope often speaks informally, jokes using slang and even curses in private.

However, he has been known for his outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, beginning with his famous “Who am I to judge” comment in 2013 about a priest who allegedly had a gay lover in his past?

He has ministered to transgender Catholics, allowed priests to bless same-sex couples and called for an end to anti-gay legislation, saying in a 2023 interview with The Associated Press that “being gay is not a crime.”

However, he has occasionally offended LGBTQ+ people and their advocates, including in that same interview in which he implied that, while homosexuality was not a crime, it was a sin.

He later clarified that he was referring to sexual activity and that any sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman was sinful in the eyes of the church.

And most recently, he signed a Vatican document stating that gender-affirming surgery was a grave violation of human dignity.

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New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics, welcomed Francis’ apology, saying it confirmed that “the use of the slur was a careless colloquialism.”

But the group’s director, Francis DeBernardo, questioned the underlying content of the pope’s comments and the blanket ban on homosexuals entering the priesthood.

“Without clarification, his words will be interpreted as a blanket prohibition on accepting any gay man into a seminary,” DeBernardo said in a statement, calling for a clearer statement on Francis’ views on gay priests “many of whom who faithfully serve the people of God every day.”

Andrea Rubera, spokesperson for Paths of Hope, an Italian association of LGBTQ+ Christians, said he was in disbelief when he first read the pope’s comments, and then was saddened when the Vatican did not deny it.

He said it showed that the Pope and the Vatican still have a “limited vision” of the reality of LGBTQ+ people.

“We hope, once again, that the time will come to undertake a discussion in the church towards a deepening of the LGBT issue, especially from the experience of the people themselves,” he said.

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