The Pope apologizes after being quoted using a vulgar term when talking about the ban on homosexual priests | World News

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

Francis was addressing an assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference, which recently approved a new document outlining the training of Italian seminarians. (Reuters)

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. .

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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 on Monday cited anonymous Italian bishops in reporting that Francis jokingly used the term “faggot” while speaking in Italian during the meeting. 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. 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 problem 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.

Francis was addressing an assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference, which recently approved a new document outlining the training of Italian seminarians. The document, which has not been published pending review by the Holy See, supposedly sought to open some room for maneuver in the Vatican’s absolute ban on homosexual priests by introducing the issue of celibacy as the main requirement for priests. priests, homosexual or heterosexual.

The Vatican ban was articulated in a 2005 document from the Congregation for Catholic Education, and then repeated in a later 2016 document, which said the church cannot admit to seminaries or ordain men who “practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture.”

The position has long been criticized as homophobic and hypocritical for an institution that certainly has gay priests in its ranks. The late psychotherapist Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who taught in American seminaries, estimated in the early 2000s that up to 30% of American clergy had a homosexual orientation.

The late Rev. Donald Cozzens, a seminary rector, said the percentage was even higher, stating in his book “The Changing Face of The Priesthood” that the American priesthood was increasingly becoming a gay profession since so many heterosexual men They had abandoned the priesthood. get married and have families.

Priests of the Latin rite Catholic Church cannot marry, while those of the Eastern rite churches can. Church teaching holds that homosexuals should be treated with dignity and respect, but that homosexual activity is “intrinsically disordered.”

Francis strongly reaffirmed the Vatican’s ban on gay priests at his May 20 meeting with Italian bishops, joking that “there is already a faggot air” in the seminaries, Italian media reported, after initial reports from the website Dagospia gossip.

Italian is not Francis’ native language, and the Argentine pope has made linguistic errors in the past that drew attention. The 87-year-old Argentine pope often speaks informally, jokes using slang and even curses in private.

However, he is known for his outreach to LGBTQ Catholics, beginning with his famous comment “Who am I to judge?” 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 at times 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.

New Ways Ministries, which advocates for LGBTQ Catholics, welcomed Francis’ apology on Tuesday, 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. This showed, he said, 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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