News Writer Grace Fynn reports on Pope Francis apologising for using homophobic slur in a private meeting

Written by Grace Fynn

Pope Francis used a derogatory term about gay men in a private meeting with the Bishops of the CEI (the Italian Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops) on May 20, 2024. The aim of the meeting was to consider whether or not gay men should be admitted to Catholic seminaries, where Catholic priests are trained. The meeting was reportedly an informal Q&A session at the CEI, with around 200 members of the clergy in attendance. According to the Guardian, Pope Francis’ response to the question was to reiterate his objection to allowing gay men into seminaries on the grounds that ‘it was likely that a gay person could risk leading a double life.’ Following this, the Pope then used a highly derogatory Italian slur.

Italian newspapers that reported on the incident claimed that some of the Bishops attending the meeting were highly shocked by the term, with some saying they believed Pope Francis intended it as a joke. Others noted that Spanish, not Italian, is the Pope’s first language and that he may not have fully understood the ramifications of the term. However, this has been challenged by the BBC, who noted that he grew up in an Italian-speaking household in Argentina, and therefore will likely understand the meaning of the term.

…Vatican apologies are normally issued when they wish to right ‘historical wrongs’ not personal slip-ups.

The Vatican statement, quoted in a Sky News article, on the incident reiterates that previously the Pope has said that in the Church there is room for everyone. They also stated that the Pope had no malicious intention and did not mean to offend anyone or use homophobic language. Finally, they mentioned that the Pope apologises for any offence caused. The Guardian notes that this apology from the Vatican is extremely rare, and that Vatican apologies are normally issued when they wish to right ‘historical wrongs’ not personal slip-ups. Vatican reporter Christopher White is quoted in the Guardian as saying that the apology may be due to the Pope’s ‘desire not to undo the bridge-building work he seems to sincerely be engaged in.’

The Catholic Church’s official position on homosexuality is that homosexual people should be treated with respect, but that acting on homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.” They go on to say that gay men who ‘practice homosexuality’ are not allowed to be ordained.

They go on to say that gay men who ‘practice homosexuality’ are not allowed to be ordained.

The issue of homosexuality has appeared many times during Pope Francis’ pontificate. Francis has regularly made attempts to take the Roman Catholic Church in a more welcoming direction when it comes to the LGBT+ community. When he first became Pope in 2013, he said: ‘If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?’ Notably, last year Pope Francis allowed priests to bless same-sex couples, which sparked a lot of conservative backlash within the Church.

However, the Pope’s record with homosexuality has been mixed. In 2018, he is reported as telling Italian bishops to reject any priesthood applicants they suspect to be gay. In the same year, the Vatican deleted comments made by Pope Francis from the official transcript of an in-flight press conference, in which the Pope said that gay children should seek ‘psychiatric help’.

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