What lies behind Pope Francis’s second use of a homophobic slur?

— During a meeting with priests directly under his care in Rome, Pope Francis used for the second time in less than a month, an Italian homophobic slur.


Emmanuel Macron, President of France and Pope Francis. Social media of the French Presidency.

By Rodolfo Soriano-Núñez

Pope Francis’s use of the homophobic slur reveals the deep contradictions marring the Church’s understanding the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The Pope’s new use of the homophobic slur happened before a meeting with comedians from all over the world, some of them with a known position regarding their own gender identity.

Despite the damage brought by his use of the Italian word frociaggine, a homophobic slur, during an allegedly private meeting with Italian bishops on May 20th, Pope Francis used it again, on June 10th, during a not so private meeting with priests in the diocese of Rome, the religious district directly under the Pope’s authority.

The meeting at the Salesian Pontifical University of Rome was with priests having between eleven and 39 years of service. It was a celebration of sorts, with an exchange of ideas between the Pontiff and the 160 priests or so in attendance, although there were questions about housing and sustenance issues it was the second pontifical use of the frociaggine slur what stole the headlines.

The Pope stuck to the approach already known by now that gained him sympathy in the civil and secular media of dismissing the more authoritarian and intolerant attitudes of his fellow Catholic clerics to offer a friendlier approach to human sexuality.

And yet, when dealing with the issue of the discipline of the clergy in his diocese, Francis went for the Italian slur that has turned into a sort of synonym for the many contradictions shaping the Catholic Church and the sort of civil war that said Church and Christianity at large lives now because of its understanding of sexuality.

The second rendition of the slur is harder to process because the Pope’s agenda was full of activities where Francis tried to display, once again, the “loving grandfather” attitude that he has tried to cultivate for the last eleven years.

On Thursday June 13th, before meeting with the leaders of the so-called G-7, the top global economies, he had a festive reunion with comedians. Although comedians such as Steven Colbert are known for his sympathy for the Pope, and how he “goes to war” defending the Pontiff on his show, in other cases, it was harder to understand the reasons behind the invitation.

 
Pope Francis and some of the comedians invited to Rome.

Why inviting comedians who have “come out of the closet” to the meeting? Was it to prove once again that he is not as intolerant as his predecessor? Francis had already established that before the first use of the slur, and yet the Pope was very willing to cross that line again.

And granted, the first time around, during the May 20th meeting with the Italian bishops it could have been a mistake, an honest mistake, from a male who grew up in Latin America in the 1930s and 1940s, when dismissing gay males was not only expected but even rewarded from Buenos Aires to Mexico City.

But then, why do it again? The second instance of the frociaggine slur is harder to understand when one takes into consideration that when he used for the second time he had been forced to issue, through an intermediary, an apology, and more so when considering that when he attended the meeting the Roman clergy, he already knew he was going to meet on Thursday, June 13th  with comedians who have come out of the closet.

What lies behind

The issue gets harder to understand when one also takes into consideration how the Holy See’s media dealt with the second instance of the frociaggine slur. If on the first case it was up to La Repubblica and La Stampa, the Italian newspapers, to let the world know about the pontifical use of the slur, by Tuesday 11th the Vatican media had decided to let the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French worlds know about the new instance of use of the slur not as such, but as part of a broader message about religious life.

However, it decided to pretend that nothing happened in its English- and German-speaking websites, as can be see in the image immediately after this paragraph for English.

 
Vatican News story about Pope Francis’s meeting with Roman priests.

In the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian editions, Vatican media excused the Pope’s use of the word as something private. Not part of a public or official address, something related to the internal discipline of the seminaries, as if in doing so the relevance of the slur, was somehow diminished.

In the French edition of Vatican News, the reference is as minimal as possible, only a subordinate phrase of a paragraph, while on Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian the reference shapes a full paragraph of the story, as can be see in the case of the Spanish edition immediately after this paragraph.

 
The story about Pope Francis’s meeting with priest of the diocese of Rome in Vatican News in Spanish.

Of the Italian major newspapers, only Il Fatto Quotidiano published a story with detailes of the new use of the slur on their June 12th, 2024 edition.

 
Il Fatto Quotidiano, an Italian newspaper. Tuesday, June 12th, 2024. Front page and page 15.

Main problem with this approach is that it reveals more about the Church’s understanding of the role of LGTBQ persons in the Church than the Church is willing to admit. It proves that the overall idea is that LGTBQ persons are fine if they do not attempt to become clergy or religious.

More specifically, it reveals that the hierarchy keeps blaming gay clergy for the troubles in the Church.

If that is the case, then the Church has learnt nothing from the more than 40 years of clergy sexual abuse crisis. In that regard, the second, most recent use of the frociaggine slur on June 10th, puts the Roman Catholic Church back in 2005, because it validates, once again, the ideas behind the document issued by Benedict XVI that year.

 
Pope Francis sports the basketball jersey of Fordham University team.

The so-called Instruction concerning the criteria for the discernment of vocations with regard to persons with homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to the seminary and to Holy Orders, indirectly blame gay clergy for the sexual abuse crisis (available here).

The overall assumption, the working hypothesis of that document, and Benedict XVI’s policies and attitudes towards the LGTBQ communities, was that gay clergymen were the culprit for the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

Not a homophobe and yet…

If that is what the second use of the frociaggine slur reveals, then the last twenty years or so of research, probes, debates, commissions, and arguments about the clergy sexual crisis have been nothing but an exercise in spin and public relations.

His use of the slur, the apologies offered, are harder to understand when one takes into account how almost immediately, U.S. Jesuit priest James Martin, the odd American priest with a consistent track of respect for the LGTBQ communities, published a picture of him, on his knees, before Francis, who appears to be blessing Martin.

 
A post from James Martin SJ at Facebook, June 12th, 2024.

And, once again, it is not as if Pope Francis has a record of attacking LGTBQ persons. Quite the opposite, as the piece linked immediately after this paragraph proves. He has confronted the bishops and priests supporting the criminalization of gay behavior in Africa.

Complete Article HERE!

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