Pope repeats gay slur, Italian media reports

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Pope Francis places his hand on his face during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican in 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Pope Francis has once again come under scrutiny for using a disparaging term to describe homosexuals, despite having apologized for it just last month. According to ANSA, an Italian news agency, the pope repeated the term during a meeting with Roman priests on Tuesday, June 11, stating, “there is an air of [vulgar term] in the Vatican,” and suggesting that young men with homosexual tendencies should not be allowed to enter the seminary.

The Vatican’s press office, when asked about this incident, referred to a statement issued regarding Tuesday’s meeting. In this statement, Pope Francis reiterated the Church’s call to welcome gay individuals while expressing caution about their suitability for the seminary.

Repeating the same term in a matter of weeks

This controversy echoes a similar incident from just a week ago. On May 20, during a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops, the pope reportedly used the same vulgar term. Following this, the Vatican press office clarified that Pope Francis “never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended.”

The Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera confirmed with unnamed bishops that the pope had used the term. Corriere della Sera noted that Pope Francis, being Argentine, might not fully grasp the offensive nature of the term in Italian.

Matteo Bruni, the director of the Vatican press office, responded to these reports by emphasizing the pope’s inclusive vision for the Church: “In the Church, there is room for everyone, for everyone! No one is useless, no one is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, everyone.”

A cautious stance toward seminary admission

Despite his inclusive rhetoric, Pope Francis has consistently maintained a cautious stance regarding the admission of gay men into the seminary. During a similar meeting with Italian bishops in 2018, he advised against accepting candidates if there were any doubts about their ability to live a life of celibacy. In a 2018 book interview, he emphasized the need for rigorous discernment when it comes to candidates with homosexual tendencies.

The pope’s comments have sparked significant debate within the Church, especially regarding the interpretation and implementation of guidelines on homosexuality in seminaries. The 2005 instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education, approved by Pope Benedict XVI, explicitly stated that individuals with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be admitted to holy orders.

As Pope Francis’ remarks continue to attract attention, it underscores the ongoing tension the Church faces to balance inclusivity with adherence to Gospel teachings on human sexuality.

Material from Catholic News Service was used in this report.

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