Pope Francis’s homophobic comment keeps resounding


Reports concerning Pope Francis’s homophobic comment keep hitting headlines.

Francis reportedly used a homophobic word when he discussed the question of gay candidates for priesthood with Italy’s bishops on May 20.

The official Church position is that they should be barred from ministry if they are sexually active. Francis’s word for “sexually active” was reported as being crude and homophobic.

He has since apologised.

Contrary views

Italian media reported that Francis had used the word “frociaggine” in the closed-door meeting. The word reportedly translates as “faggotness” or “faggotry”.

Friends of the pontiff and top Vatican watchers think his use of the word could be his biggest-ever PR disaster.

But it should not obscure his record as a reforming, LGBT-friendly pope, they say.

However, some say his apparent gaffe undermines his authority, raising questions about his convictions and Church reforms.

Foul language – in character

Those who know him say Francis’s direct expression is in character.

“I’m obviously not justifying his use of an offensive term … but it is normal for him in private to speak very, very directly” papal biographer Austen Ivereigh said. “He doesn’t talk like a politician.”

A personal friend of the Pope – a gay Argentine man – said Francis knows he has a problem with foul language.

“He has never been diplomatic. I am actually surprised something like this didn’t happen earlier.”

LGBT exclusion out of character

Pope Francis is known for his welcome to all.

Early in his papacy he said “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”.

Last year the Pope allowed priests to bless members of same-sex couples. There was a substantial conservative backlash.

He has lunched at the Vatican with transgender sex workers. He’s a close friend of Father James Martin SJ who ministers to the LGBT community.

“The idea that he would be homophobic makes no sense to me” Martin said.

“His record on LGBTQ people speaks for itself. No pope has been a greater friend to the LGBTQ community.”

He also supports civil partnerships – though is opposed to same-sex marriages.

He helped victims of homophobic crimes in Argentina in the 1990s “when being gay was tough”.

Gay subculture upset

Nevertheless, the Pope’s words have upset many.

“Even if intended as a joke, (it) reveals the depth of anti-gay bias and institutional discrimination that still exist in our church” LGBT Catholic rights group DignityUSA said in a statement.

Both Faggioli and Ivereigh said the issue is particularly sensitive for the Italian Catholic Church, given the active gay “subculture” in some of its seminaries.

“My sense was that the Pope was responding to a question about certain behaviour in Italian seminaries, rather than closing off the priesthood to all gay men” Martin said.



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