Pope Francis Apologizes For Allegedly Using Slur For Gay Men Amid Severe Backlash

Pope Francis apologized after reportedly using a derogatory slur about gay men while reiterating the Catholic Church's ban on gay priests. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni clarified that Francis did not intend to offend and reiterated the pope's inclusive stance.

Critics, however, highlighted the ongoing exclusion of gay men from the priesthood as a deeper issue. Francis has historically shown support for LGBTQ+ individuals but faced criticism for occasional missteps.

Pope Francis Apologizes For Using Slur About Gay Men

Pope Francis met about 160 children of the Sant'Alessio- Margherita di Savoia care institution for blind, visually impaired, or with other disabilities and a group of children refugee from Ukraine4 Jun 2022
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On Tuesday, Pope Francis issued an apology after being reported to have used a derogatory slur about gay men while reinforcing the Catholic Church's ban on gay priests.

During an address to the Italian bishops conference on May 20, which had recently approved a new document on training for seminarians, Francis reportedly introduced celibacy as the main requirement for priests, regardless of their sexual orientation.

According to the Associated Press, Italian media revealed that Francis, while discussing the Vatican's ban on gay men entering seminaries and becoming priests, joked that "there is already an air of f-ggotness" in seminaries.

The Vatican's ban on gay priests was outlined in a 2005 document from the Congregation for Catholic Education and reiterated in a 2016 document. These documents state that the Church cannot accept into seminaries or ordain men who "practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture."

Vatican Spokesman Matteo Bruni Says Pope Francis' Extends His Apologies'

Pope Francis on the phone before the General Audience
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Following the media uproar about Francis' comment, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni issued a statement.

Bruni acknowledged that the pope was aware of the reports and emphasized that Francis, who has prioritized outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics throughout his papacy, has consistently affirmed that there is "room for everyone" within 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," he said per AP.

However, in his statement, Bruni carefully avoided confirming whether the pope had actually used the term, adhering to the Vatican's policy of not disclosing the pope's private remarks. However, Bruni also did not deny that Francis had made the comment.

Critic Slams Pope Francis For The Church's Insistence On 'Banning Gay Men From Priesthood'

Pope Francis arrives at the Vatican from the Gemelli hospital
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However, for advocates of greater inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ+ Catholics, the controversy extends beyond the use of the offensive term.

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, chair of the religious studies department at Manhattan College, noted: "More than the offensive slur uttered by the pope, what is damaging is the institutional church's insistence on 'banning' gay men from the priesthood as if we all do not know (and minister alongside) many, many gifted, celibate, gay priests."

"The LGBTQ community seems to be a constant target of offhand, off-the-cuff 'mistakes' from people in the Vatican, including the pope, who should know better," she added.

New Ways Ministry, which supports LGBTQ+ Catholics, welcomed Francis' apology, acknowledging that the offensive term was likely a "careless colloquialism."

However, the group's director, Francis DeBernardo, expressed concern about the broader implications of the pope's comments and the ongoing ban on gay men in the priesthood.

"Without a clarification, his words will be interpreted as a blanket ban on accepting any gay man to a seminary," DeBernardo explained and called for a more explicit declaration on Francis' stance regarding gay priests, noting that many serve the Church faithfully every day.

Pope Francis Says Being Homosexual Is Not A Crime, But A Sin

Pope Francis at Ash Wednesday mass, Rome, Italy 23 Feb 2023
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Francis has been known to make some notable slip-ups in the past, as Italian is not his first language. The 87-year-old pontiff from Argentina often speaks informally, frequently uses slang, and even occasionally curses in private.

Known for his efforts to connect with LGBTQ+ Catholics, he made headlines in 2013 with his famous remark, "Who am I to judge?" when asked about a priest who allegedly had a gay relationship.

Francis has also shown some care towards transgender individuals, permitted priests to bless same-sex couples, and advocated for the repeal of laws criminalizing homosexuality, stating in a 2023 interview with The Associated Press, "Being homosexual is not a crime."

Nonetheless, he has sometimes alienated LGBTQ+ individuals and their supporters. In the same interview, he suggested that while homosexuality isn't a crime, it is a sin. He later clarified, stating that he was referring specifically to sexual activity, asserting that the Church considers any sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage to be sinful.

The Pope Approved Of The Blessing Of Same-Sex Couples

Pope Francis: Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square
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In December last year, Pope Francis announced to the Catholic community that he had formally approved marital blessings for same-sex couples. He released the document through the Vatican's doctrine office.

In the document, the pope extensively defined the concept of a "blessing" from the scripture. He insisted that sexuality shouldn't hinder anyone from seeking God's love, mercy, and a transcendent relationship.

It read in part, "Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God. The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live."

The new document reiterated the statement and explained further that marriage is a permanent sacrament between a man and a woman. It also stated that blessings for same-sex couples should not be liturgical and come separately from the civil union ceremony and its standard rituals.