Pope Francis apologizes for using vulgar term about gay priests

Pope Francis apologizes for using vulgar term about gay priests
Pope Francis apologizes for using vulgar term about gay priests

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

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

On Monday, the press reported that anonymous Italian bishops reported that Francis jokingly used the term “faggot” while speaking in Italian during the meeting to reaffirm the Vatican’s ban on allowing gay men to be seminarians and ordained priests.

Bruni said Francis is 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 room for everyone” in the Catholic Church.

“The pope has never wanted to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he addresses his apologies to those who have felt offended by the use of a term spread by others,” Bruni said.

In the statement, Bruni was careful to avoid categorically confirming that the pope had used the term, in keeping with Vatican tradition of not revealing what the pontiff says behind closed doors. But Bruni also did not deny that Francis used it and acknowledged that some people have been offended by it.

Francis spoke before a conference of Italian bishops, who recently approved a new document outlining training for seminarians. The document, which has not been published and will be reviewed by the Holy See, allegedly seeks to poke a hole in the Vatican’s absolute provision for gay priests by introducing the issue of celibacy as the main requirement for priests, whether gay or straight.

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

The stance has long been criticized as homophobic and hypocritical in 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 that in the early 2000s, 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 in the United States, the priesthood was becoming increasingly in a gay profession because straight men had left it to get married and have a family.

Priests of the Latin rite of the Catholic Church cannot marry, while those of the Eastern churches can.

Francis firmly ratified that stance in his May 20 meeting with the Italian bishops, jokingly saying that “there is already an air of faggot” in the seminaries, Italian media reported, following an initial report by the gossip site Dagospia.

Italian is not Francis’ native language, and the Argentine pope has made linguistic errors in the past, which have raised eyebrows. The Argentine pope, 87, usually speaks informally, jokes using colloquialisms and even swears in private.

However, he has become 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 the past.

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