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!

For Gay Catholics and Supporters

— A ‘Sense of Whiplash’ Over Pope’s Reported Use of Slur

Pope Francis announced last year that he would allow priests to bless same-sex couples.

Pope Francis, noted for his outreach to gay Catholics, has been described as using an offensive Italian expression for gay men twice in recent weeks.

By Amy Harmon

This was the pope who asked, “Who am I to judge?” in response to a question about gay priests in 2013. He announced last year that he would allow priests to bless same-sex couples, defying conservative critics in the Roman Catholic Church. And he apologized only weeks ago, in a statement from the Vatican, for using an offensive Italian term for gay men at a conference of bishops.

So reports that Pope Francis had repeated the slur during a meeting with priests in Rome this week set off a wave of confusion and hurt among some gay Catholics who have carefully parsed his comments over the years for signs of greater acceptance from the church.

In interviews and public statements, some supporters of more acceptance for L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics by the church said his remarks, made in reference to the presence of gay men in seminaries and the clergy, showed the limits of his tolerance. And some said they believed the pope may not have intended to convey bigotry, but that his pejorative language was jarring and unacceptable.

“I was experiencing a sense of whiplash,” said Michael O’Loughlin, the executive director of an L.G.B.T.Q. Catholic ministry based in New York, who, like many gay Catholics, has struggled with his relationship to the church. “Because I’ve been so used to covering some of these positive developments, and then when something like this happens, it’s like, ‘Whoa, what is this?’”

The Rev. James Martin, a high-profile supporter of making the church more welcoming to gay Catholics, said he met with the pope after the latest remarks at Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where the pope lives. “With his permission to share this, the Holy Father said he has known many good, holy and celibate seminarians and priests with homosexual tendencies,” Father Martin wrote on social media.

The pope had signaled support for reaching out to estranged gay Catholics, in part by meeting with Father Martin in 2019 after the priest’s book, “Building a Bridge,” had elicited criticism from conservative clergy members. Their recent meeting, which Father Martin said lasted for an hour on Wednesday, had been previously scheduled and, by coincidence, took place on the 25th anniversary of Father Martin’s ordination to the priesthood.

In an interview, Father Martin suggested that the pope, who is 87, had not fully understood the offensiveness of the slur, which he reportedly used jokingly. “To me, it’s clear that he understands now how much that word offended people,” Father Martin said. “And let me say, there is not an ounce of homophobia in Pope Francis. None.”

The Rev. James Martin stands with his arms crossed next to a wall of posters.
The Rev. James Martin supports making the church more welcoming to gay Catholics.

But the Rev. Bryan Massingale, an openly gay priest and theology professor at Fordham University in New York, said he was “shocked and saddened” by the pope’s words. The pope, Father Massingale said, bears responsibility for their far-reaching impact, regardless of his intent.

“Many gay people grow up all of our lives hearing various slurs and insults, and to say that you didn’t mean it maliciously doesn’t diminish it,” Father Massingale said in an interview. “Whether the pope intended it or not, the use of a derogatory slur, especially a second time, sends a message.”

Pope Francis was reported to have first used the anti-gay slur during a meeting of 250 Italian bishops late last month, when asked whether openly gay men should be admitted into seminaries. The bishops recently adopted new admission standards, which are awaiting Vatican approval. According to Italian news outlets, the pope replied that seminaries were already too full of “frociaggine,” an Italian slang term that translates to “faggotness,” and carries connotations of campiness and frivolous behavior.

The Italian news outlet Corriere della Sera reported on Wednesday that he used the term once again on Tuesday, when recounting the words of a bishop to a group of Italian priests. “A bishop came to see me and told me: ‘Here in the Vatican there is too much frociaggine,’” the news outlet reported the pope as saying.

Some observers of the pope interpreted his remarks as allusions to priests whose traditionalist approach to both liturgical style and church teaching had been criticized by the pope before — some of whom are themselves gay, yet who may be among the most openly critical of gay sexuality. Others said he could have been suggesting that a large number of gay seminarians might inadvertently alienate heterosexual applicants to the seminary.

Some who have pushed for more acceptance of L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics saw in the pope’s remarks a reference to a concern he had shared before: that some clergy members were taking vows of chastity for which they were unprepared and ended up leading “double lives.” Others said the comments indicated the pope’s unwillingness to acknowledge the contributions of gay priests to the church, even as he has sought to be more welcoming of gay congregants.

All Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy. But in 2005, as the scope of revelations about the church’s sexual abuse crisis emerged, the church issued a document formally excluding most gay men from the priesthood, barring candidates “who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture.” Research commissioned by the church has shown that priests who have sexual experiences with same-sex partners are no more likely to abuse minors than others, yet L.G.B.T.Q. advocates say gay priests continue to be scapegoated and stigmatized.

Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a group based in Maryland that supports gay Catholics, said that one interpretation of the pope’s reported remarks was that he was making “an erroneous assumption that gay men are the priests that are going to be more sexually active than heterosexual men.”

“I wish he would use more precise language to say exactly what he means, because his recent words are puzzling to many,” said Mr. DeBernardo, who said he viewed acceptance of L.G.B.T.Q. people in the church as a matter of justice that sprung from his Catholic identity.

Mark D. Jordan, a professor at Harvard Divinity School who studies gender and sexuality in the church, said the ongoing efforts to interpret the pope’s remarks might be the result of a strategy of “deliberate ambiguity” on the pope’s part as he tries to balance the church’s political factions.

“Sometimes it seems as if the Vatican is saying, ‘It doesn’t matter what your orientation is, as long as you agree to be celibate,’” Dr. Jordan said. “Other times they seem to be saying: ‘No, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a celibate gay or not. If you’re gay, you shouldn’t be studying the priesthood.’”

He added: “I always liken it to reading ‘Pravda’ in the old days, where you had to read between the lines because what you were reading was a series of coded messages involving internal struggles in rooms that you could never reach.”

For Father Massingale, at Fordham, the pope’s remarks raised what he described in a recent essay as “the deepest question” facing the Catholic Church: “Are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer people fully equal members of the body of Christ?”

He said the remarks offered a more nuanced portrait of Francis, the Church’s 266th pope.

“People want to see him as either A or B,” he said. “He’s either a champion for the gay community or he’s a representative of a homophobic church. And what I’m trying to understand is that both things can be true.’’

Complete Article HERE!

Support For Same-Sex Marriage Stalls Among Protestant Pastors

By Aaron Earls

Almost a decade after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the country, most pastors remain opposed, and the supporting percentage isn’t growing any larger.

One in 5 U.S. Protestant pastors (21%) say they see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married, according to a Lifeway Research study. Three in 4 (75%) are opposed, including 69% who strongly disagree with same-sex marriage. Another 4% say they aren’t sure.

Previous Lifeway Research studies found growing support among pastors. In 2010, 15% of U.S. Protestant pastors had no moral issues with the practice. The percentage in favor grew to 24% in 2019. Today, support is statistically unchanged at 21%.

“Debates continue within denominations at national and judicatory levels on the morality of same-sex marriage, yet the overall number of Protestant pastors who support same-sex marriage is not growing,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “The previous growth was seen most clearly among mainline pastors, and that level did not rise in our latest survey.”

Pastors are slightly more supportive of legal civil unions between two people of the same gender, but most still disagree. Currently, 28% back such arrangements, statistically unchanged from the 32% in 2019 and 28% in 2018.

For most pastors, this remains a somewhat theoretical issue. Almost 9 in 10 say they’ve never been asked to perform a same-sex ceremony, according to a 2022 Lifeway Research study.

Mainline versus evangelical

The previous growth in clergy support of same-sex marriages was driven by U.S. mainline Protestant pastors. In 2010, a third (32%) were in favor. By 2019, almost half (47%) saw nothing wrong. Current support among self-identified mainline pastors remains at similar levels (46%).

Evangelical pastors have been consistently opposed to same-sex marriage. Fewer than 1 in 10 have expressed support for the practice since 2010. Today, 7% of self-identified U.S. evangelical Protestant pastors say they see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married.

A similar divide exists regarding civil unions between two people of the same gender. Most mainline pastors (54%) are supportive, while only 14% of evangelical pastors agree.

Methodists (53%), Presbyterian/Reformed (36%) and Lutherans (34%) are more likely to be supportive of same-sex marriage than Restorationist Movement (8%), non-denominational (5%), Baptist (4%) or Pentecostal (1%) pastors.

Additionally, female pastors (42%), who are more common among mainline denominations, are far more likely than their male counterparts (16%) to back same-sex marriage.

Other demographic groups also have varying degrees of support, though none as drastic as the denominational differences.

Other differences

Younger pastors are more likely to be supportive than the oldest pastors. Protestant pastors 18 to 44 (27%) and 55 to 64 (22%) are more likely than pastors 65 and older (15%) to see nothing wrong with same-sex marriage.

“The moral and doctrinal beliefs of individuals do not tend to move very often or very far, so we wouldn’t expect pastors’ positions to change much,” said McConnell. “However, the differences we see by age make it noteworthy that the higher numbers of young pastors seeing nothing wrong with same-sex marriage is not yet having much of an impact on overall numbers.”

Those with more education are more supportive. Pastors with a master’s (30%) or doctoral degree (26%) are more likely than those with no college degree (9%) or a bachelor’s degree (7%) to say they’re OK with same-sex marriage.

Pastors in the Northeast (27%), where same-sex marriage was first legalized in the U.S., and the Midwest (25%), are more likely than those in the South (18%) to be supportive.

Those leading smaller churches are more likely to see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married. Pastors at churches with fewer than 50 in attendance (27%) and those at congregations of 50 to 99 (25%) are more likely than those at churches with attendance between 100 and 249 (11%) and 250 or more (8%) to be in favor of same-sex marriage.

“Because fewer pastors in mid- and large-size churches are open to same-sex marriage morally, an even larger majority of Protestant churchgoers are in churches in which their pastor does not support same-sex marriages or civil unions,” said McConnell.

Many of the differences between various types of pastors exist for civil unions as well. Younger pastors are more likely to be supportive than older pastors. Pastors with more formal education are more likely to back civil unions.

Those in the Northeast and Midwest tend to be more in favor than those in the South. Pastors at the smallest churches are more likely to see nothing wrong with civil unions between two people of the same gender than those at larger churches.

Complete Article HERE!

Sex-related blunders, the never ending story at the Catholic Church

— Pope Francis’s homophobic slur helped distract the attention from other sex-related blunders affecting the Catholic Church all over Latin America.

By Rodolfo Soriano-Núñez

As with Pope Francis’s homophobic slur, Argentine archbishop Mestre’s sudden resignation reveals the many contradictions affecting the Catholic Church.

On top of the Roman and Argentine sex-related blunders, new details about clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church emerged in Ecuador and Bolivia in the first week of June.

News of Pope Francis’s using a homophobic slur during a meeting with Italian bishops, back on May 20th, stressed the contradictions in Roman Catholic doctrine and practice about sexuality.

Oddly enough, it also played well to hide another blunder made by two of the closest allies of the Pontiff both in Rome and back in Argentina, while hiding from view other attempts of the Church’s hierarchy in Argentina at making themselves relevant in the public sphere.

A few hours before the Italian newspaper La Repubblica’s social media accounts turned the internet into a burning prairie of sorts, news about the sudden resignation of archbishop Gabriel Antonio Mestre, shocked those of us who follow what happens in the Latin American Catholic leadership with news about his resignation.

At first, it was hard to understand what could force the resignation of a recent appointee to the Archdiocese of La Plata, the third or fourth most relevant see of the Catholic Church in the Pope’s country of origin.

Hard, but not unheard, as Los Ángeles Press proved a year ago when we published a full data base with the names of 110 early or unexpected resignations of bishops, a proxy of sorts for the depth of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the countries where those resignations happen. Here you can download an updated version of the Data Base with the most recent resignations.

Although few noticed Mestre’s resignation outside of Argentina in the mess that Catholic Internet was on the last week of May, his case confirms, for the 111th time, how unwilling is the Church to provide information as to why its leaders resign their office. It also proves how unwilling are the global Catholic leaders to address the crisis of confidence undermining the foundations of Catholicism.

As it happened with the Pope’s slur, Mestre’s sudden resignation stresses how opacity makes harder to take the Church’s words at face value; it deepens the crisis of confidence in an institution already facing the deepest crisis of trust in its history.

It is not as if Mestre was only one more bishop forced out of office in his prime due to bad choices or poor decision making. He was close to both Pope Francis and to the current chair of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith who was his predecessor at the archdiocese of La Plata, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández.

Perverse dynamics

Although it is clear that he had not been named a sexual predator, when looking at the silence, and the remains of his much-hyped appointment, it was clear that behind his sudden disappearance from the Catholic firmament is the reenactment of the perverse dynamics fueling the clergy sexual abuse crisis at a global scale.

 
Front page and page 14 of La Nación, a leading Argentine newspaper’s edition of Sunday May 26th, 2024.

What is worse. The toxic combination of the news about Mestre’s exit and the Pope’s slur scandal emerging in Rome the very same day made impossible to pay attention to the Argentine bishops’ attempt at confronting the deep political and economic crisis at their country.

On Saturday May 25th, less than 36 hours before the news of both Mestre’s resignation and the scandal regarding Pope Francis’s slur emerged, the current archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge García Cuerva, used his chance as the leading figure of the Te Deum at the cathedral in his country’s capital to stress the many contradictions of the current Argentine government.

 
Javier Milei and the archbishop Jorge García Cuerva at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Buenos Aires, Argentina. May 2024.

Him and the rest of Argentine bishops had been preparing for their performance in the rituals around the so-called Fiesta de Mayo (May 25th), a precursor of their Independence from Spain. García Cuerva and his fellow bishops aimed at using the Te Deum and other associated public activities to make the Church’s position clear on the current crisis.

On top of García Cuerva’s message on May 25th’s Te Deum, the chair of the Argentine Conference of Catholic Bishops, Óscar Vicente Ojea, the bishop of San Isidro, also issued a message.

Ojea addressed one of Argentina’s hot topics, the destiny, uncertain for many reasons, of tons of foodstuffs that were supposed to be delivered by the government but, somehow, in a fashion that would only happen in Latin America, ended up “lost” in the shelves of governmental entities, unable or unwilling to deliver them.

 
Clarín, a leading Argentine newspaper, from May 28th, 2024.

The political situation in Argentina was so bad that on Monday May 27th, when Mestre resigned and news about the Pontifical slur emerged in Rome, the Nation’s Chief of Cabinet, Nicolás Posse, resigned his office after weeks of rumors about the bad relation he already had with Javier Milei.

On the afternoon of Tuesday June 4th. Cáritas Argentina, the equivalent of Catholic Charities USA, used the same cathedral where archbishop García Cuerva called for a restoration of political sanity to organize a massive meal (see, in Spanish here, here and here), as to send a clear, undeniable message about the depth of the crisis there and the non-partisan nature of the Church’s involvement.

Mothers of the Fatherland

The communal meal was the first of a series of activities linking the current crisis in Argentina with Cáritas Argentina yearly campaign seeking donations to fund the so-called “communal pots”, offering meals to families in need all over Argentina.

The bishops were even promoting the figures of the females running those “communal pots”, most of them lay persons, with families of their own, calling them in Argentine Catholic media and social media “Mothers of the Fatherland” (Madres de la Patria).

The activities around the so-called Mothers of the Fatherland will continue up until June 19th, with a mass at the municipality of La Matanza, as can the picture posted immediately after this paragraph shows.

 
The ad promoting a mass for the “Mothers of the Fatherland”, the women behing the communal pots in Argentina.

La Matanza is a stronghold of Peronismo. The former minister of Finance, Sergio Massa, the Peronista presidential candidate won 61.2 percent of the more than 781 thousand votes casted there in the ballotage of November 2023.

Even the top Catholic think-tank in the country, the Observatorio de la Deuda Social Argentina, a non-for-profit, originally launched by Jorge Mario Bergoglio during his tenure as archbishop of Buenos Aires and chancellor of the Universidad Católica Argentina back in the aughts, published new data about the extent of the current crisis in that country.

The report can be read in the box immediately below or can be downloaded here.

Had the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Argentina been able to keep itself together, without any of the two scandals, the one at La Plata or the one in Rome, they would have come out with an advantage in giving some sense of order, of direction, in their country.

The multiple fiasco that has been Catholic communications over the last couple of weeks made that impossible. Despite García Cuerva’s best efforts to deliver a powerful yet respectful critique of President Javier Milei’s policies, the mess created by Mestre’s sudden resignation and Francis’s own mistake blurred García Cuerva’s Te Deum message.

Damaging policies

Even if some of the old Argentine media used García Cuerva’s message on their editions of May 26th to highlight their own angst with the uncertain future of the national government there, the Church’s critique of the damaging policies pursued by the Milei administration, had no chance to trump the combined effects of the slur and Mestre’s sudden and unexplained exit.

Mestre was not a minor figure in the Argentine Roman Catholic hierarchy. The archdiocese of La Plata is, on its own a very powerful position, held up until 2018 by conservative Héctor Rubén Aguer, the main rival of Jorge Mario Bergoglio when both were auxiliary bishops at Buenos Aires, and a key supporter of sexual predator Carlos Miguel Buela, as the story available only in Spanish linked after this paragraph describes.

If I was asked to rank the top archdioceses in Argentina, La Plata would come fourth, only behind Buenos Aires, Córdoba, and Rosario. The city of La Plata, whose downtown is more French inspired than the city of Buenos Aires. It is the capital of the province or state of Buenos Aires (not to be confused with the eponymous city, the national capital). Mestre got the job when Pope Francis made Víctor Manuel Fernández a Cardinal and head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

To think that Mestre’s choice to become Tucho Fernández’s heir could be an improvised decision would be preposterous.

Before taking over Fernández’s see, he was bishop in the suffragan diocese of Mar del Plata, a city and port on the Argentine Atlantic coast, 330 kilometers or 200 miles South of La Plata and 375 kilometers or 234 miles South of Buenos Aires, as can be seen in the map immediately after.

 
A map of the City and Province of Buenos Aires, with the cities of La Plata and Mar del Plata, in Argentina.

Pope Francis appointed him back in 2017 and remained for little more than six years, until Fernández got his own promotion, so there is no way to claim that there were not enough chances to vet Mestre’s appointments as bishop of Mar del Plata and later as archbishop of La Plata.

Hermetic silence

To make matters worse, Mestre’s own heir at Mar del Plata, from November 21st, through December 13th of 2023, bishop José María Baliña, a former auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, also resigned in the middle of the most hermetic silence.

Despite the silence regarding Baliña, Argentine local media published reports where his successor was supposed to be Gustavo Manuel Larrazábal. Catholic Hierarchy, the website this series uses as the base for these reports on the Catholic Church at a global scale, actually has Larrazábal as bishop of Mar del Plata for little over a month, from December 13th, 2023 through January 17th, 2024, when he resigned that position and went back to act as auxiliary bishop of San Juan de Cuyo.

 
La Nación from May 28th, 2024. On the front page and page 13 provides some details about Mestre’s resignation.

He went back to the position he was appointed back on June 2022, despite news published in local newspapers at Mar del Plata that were confirming on January 9th, 2024 that Larrazábal was about to take over as local bishop (see here in Spanish and here also in Spanish), although it was clear by January 11th, that Larrazábal new appointment was not going to come through (see in Spanish here).

Larrazábal’s appointment fell apart because of accusations of sexual abuse. It is not possible to say the same of either Mestre’s or Baliña’s, but the Church itself, either in Rome or at the offices of the Argentine Conference of Catholic Bishops in Buenos Aires, is unwilling to provide information on any of the three bishops involved in this fiasco.

As far as it is possible to know, Mestre’s fate was cast after a group showed up during mass to protest for his handling of the case of a priest under his care who left Mar del Plata for the diocese of Jujuy.

The group asked archbishop to stop the transfer of priest Luis Damián Albóndiga to Jujuy, a province or state in the Argentina Northern, on the other side of the country, near the border with Chile, more than 1,700 kilometers or more than 1,050 miles Northwest from Mar del Plata.

It is not clear what are the reasons behind the mobilization to reject Albóndiga’s transfer to the other extreme of Argentina, what is clear is that something damaging had to be at stake for Rome to react as it did.

What Mestre’s sudden resignation and the effects it had on the chances of the Catholic hierarchy to deliver a consistent message in the middle of the political and economic crisis in Argentina is that there is no cure for the propensity to sexual-scandal related blunders, as this was one of many during the month of May in the Catholic Church at a global scale.

May opened at a global scale with the faux pas of the Mexican Catholic hierarchy that first talked about the disappearance of Salvador Rangel, the emeritus bishop of Chilpancingo, Mexico, the story linked immediately after this paragraph that reveals how frail is the position of the Catholic Church in Mexico.

More geographic “solutions”

If that was not enough, in Ecuador, the local hierarchy there and their peers at Colombia got themselves into a mess of their own making when news erupted about how priests with credible accusations of sexual abuse move from one country into the other.

Previously on this series Los Ángeles Press has dealt with the use of the so-called geographic solution to clergy sexual abuse; that is to say, to move around predator priests from one country to other.

Unlike what happened with priest from Paraguay who was about to resume his career in Oaxaca, Mexico, neither the Ecuadoran nor the Colombian bishops seem to be interested in preventing the Ecuadoran priest from going to Colombia to “reinvent” himself as a priest there.

And, as the Spanish website Religión Digital  stresses, archbishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus, originally a priest of the Salesian order, offered his priests as advice that if they were going to do “something stupid” they should do it in such a fashion that they would not bring about scandal.

The archbishop words are somehow troubling in Latin America where “pendejadas”, here translated neutrally as something stupid or something done by a child, could turn into an even worse scandal in Mexico and Central America where “pendejadas” has a ruder meaning, similar to “dumb shit” or something along those lines.

To make matters worse, in the early days of June, out of Bolivia further details emerged of the scale of clergy sexual abuse happening at the flagship institution of the Jesuits there in the last decades of the 20th century at the Colegio (school) Juan XXIII. Now the number of victims could be of at least four hundred males who were then minors.

Adding insult to injury, there is no indication as to whether the Spanish or the Bolivian provinces of Pope Francis’s religious order of origin, the Jesuits, will be willing to face the consequences of the behavior of members of that congregation, as can be read in this story from Bolivian media or, if you are willing to pay for a subscription, on this one from El Periódico de Aragón, a newspaper from Spain, whose most recent story on the issue appears as an image next.

 
Pages 28 and 29 from El Periódico de Aragón, Spain, June 7th, 2024.

What all these stories have in common is the perverse confluence of a religion that pretends to be rigid about sexuality, living a civil war of sorts because of the conflicting views about sexuality hold by their leaders, but that is unable to figure out a consistent, livable, solution to its own theology of sexuality.

The very archdiocese of La Plata offers various perfect examples of the contradictions marring the fruits of Catholic theology of sexuality. Back in 2023, in a story only published in Spanish, we offered an account of how a predator cleric in that district of the Argentine Roman Catholic Church ended up committing suicide after a judge issued an arrest warrant.

Although the abuse happened before Víctor Manuel Fernández’s time there, during Aguer’s tenure as archbishop Fernández was already there when parents of Catholic schools in the archdiocese asked him to avoid giving him a new assignment. What is worse, Fernández, publicly expressed support for the predator priest and even after his suicide, he had few words to offer to his victims.

And yes, Fernández’s writings on sexuality are not as affected by contradictions as the behavior of many predator priests, and there are no claims about Fernández abusing people under his care, but the very reactions Fernández faces because of his old writings about sexuality prove how marginal he is within the context of contemporary Roman Catholicism and its theological understanding of sexuality.

Two of those books are available here at Los Ángeles Press, in Spanish in the entries linked immediately before and immediately after this paragraph. Moreover, it is hard to say if current Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández would be willing to issue the Nihil Obstat for the publication of what priest Víctor Manuel Fernández wrote back in the 1990s.

The Catholic hierarchy, Argentine and global, would do itself a favor were they willing to accept how damaging the sudden resignation of archbishop Mestre and bishops Baliña and Larrazábal were, even in the absence of the pontifical slur.

Finally, it must be noted that to replace, at least for the time being archbishop Mestre, Pope Francis appointed auxiliary bishop of La Plata Alberto G. Bochatey.

Originally an Augustianian Friar, Bochatey has been an auxiliary since the days of Archbishop Aguer as head of the Archdiocese. As such, he was involved in Aguer’s faulty probes of sexual abuses cases in that diocese, including the one that ended in the 2019 suicide of predator priest Eduardo Lorenzo.

On his own, back in 2017, he was appointed by Pope Francis in charge of the probe regarding one of worst scandals in the history of clergy sexual abuse in Argentina and Latin America at large: the so-called Próvolo case.

As such, that case would require a full entry and perhaps a full book. Suffice to say at this point that it was a school for deaf boys and girls, and at least two priests, two nuns, and several employees of the Instituto Próvolo were originally charged with various forms of sexual abuse.

Sadly, the Argentine system of justifce found a way to exonerate some of those accused of sexually abusing students attending that school, originally located in the city of Luján de Cuyo, province of Mendoza.

In that regard, even if temporary, Bochatey’s appointment as head of the archdiocese of La Plata exacerbates the negative perception of how the Catholic Church deals globally with the effects of the sexual abuse crisis.

 
Bishop Bochatey, now in charge of La Plata, Bishop Ojea and the ambassador of Israel in Argentina,

Finally, there is a link to last week’s story, where I trace the origins and effects of the Pope’s homophobic slur during a private meeting with the Italian Roman Catholic Bishops.

Complete Article HERE!

‘Denigration of my humanity’

— Gay priests reflect on pope’s use of homophobic slur

Fr. Bryan Massingale, left, and Fr. Greg Greiten are pictured in 2017 photos.

by Katie Collins Scott

Fr. Bryan Massingale first admitted to himself he was gay at age 22 but came out many years later as a priest after hearing stories of LGBTQ Catholics from regions of the world where people face imprisonment, torture and death because of their sexuality.

He’d listened to delegates living in fear of such realities while attending a 2019 meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, a coalition of organizations from multiple continents.

“I knew I couldn’t ask them to continue to do their difficult, courageous and heroic work without taking a risk myself,” Massingale, a theologian at Fordham University in New York, told NCR. “I was moved to make a public declaration on my sexuality as a way of saying I need to also be willing to take a risk for a better church.”

The priest said the work needed to build up a better church was on his mind following the news that Pope Francis reportedly used a derogatory term when referring to gay men.

“I was shocked and saddened that a pope would speak this way,” said Massingale. “Because if what he said was true, this went beyond simply reaffirming traditional beliefs about sexuality and was an insult. Sexual slurs dehumanize people and are a denigration of my humanity and of the humanity of other sexual minorities.”

Pope Francis prays with Italian bishops in the Vatican synod hall during the general assembly of the Italian bishops' conference on May 20. (CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope Francis prays with Italian bishops in the Vatican synod hall during the general assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference on May 20.

Italian media quoted unnamed bishops who claimed that amid a closed-door meeting with the Italian bishops’ conference May 20, the pope, as he strongly reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s prohibition on gay men entering seminaries or being ordained priests, jokingly said, “there is already an air of faggotness” in seminaries. After a flurry of news and negative reactions, the Vatican issued an apology May 28.

“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,” said Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni, who did not confirm or deny that Francis had used the term.

The alleged slur was most personal for gay priests, and in the days following the media firestorm, Massingale and Fr. Greg Greiten, a pastor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, described their thoughts and emotions about it — and about the gifts and pain of being an openly gay priest.

There is research that indicates around 30-40% of U.S. clergy are gay. Some say it’s a much higher percentage, with the majority choosing not to share their sexual orientation publicly.

Greiten came out to parishioners in 2017 during a homily, saying at the time he no longer wanted to live “in the shadow of secrecy.”

“I wanted and needed to be honest and authentic about who I am,” he told NCR in an interview May 29.

The immediate reaction to Greiten’s disclosure was a standing ovation, with one parishioner saying after Mass she “could care less” and loved him “for the person he is.”

Gregory Greiten
Fr. Gregory Greiten distributes Communion at his 25th anniversary celebration May 20, 2017.

For Massingale, too, responses from “those in the pews were absolutely, overwhelmingly supportive.”

The negative repercussions came from church officials, including bishops, the priests said.

Massingale recalled at least two occasions where, on account of being openly gay, a bishop told him he could not give a talk in his diocese and said several times he’d been disinvited from delivering an address. In one case he was not allowed to speak at a local seminary.

“How it was reported to me was the bishop was concerned that it would be giving a bad example to seminarians,” said Massingale.

‘I was shocked and saddened that a pope would speak this way. Because if what he said was true, this went beyond simply reaffirming traditional beliefs about sexuality and was an insult.’
—Fr. Bryan Massingale

Greiten said the biggest fear for him was always local church leadership. “In other places people have been removed for being public about their sexual identity, and I know gay priests who’ve gone into deep depression because a bishop was so horrible to them,” he said. “I was worried but I was ready because I wasn’t lying anymore.”

Greiten said he has not felt accepted or supported by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki — who in 2022 issued a sweeping policy on so-called gender theory — but the priest declined to share specifics on record so as not to jeopardize his ministry position.

“Speaking up and being open in the context of the church has its consequences,” he said.

In 2016, Fr. Warren Hall was banned from ministry by then-Archbishop John Myers of Newark, New Jersey. The archbishop claimed it was due to the priest’s advocacy work; Hall said it was because he was gay.

Massingale and Greiten both told NCR they appreciated the pope’s apology following his reported slur.

“I accept the fact that he did not intend to speak maliciously,” but it is important to draw a distinction between “the intent of this word and the impact of this word,” said Massingale. “And the impact of this word can only be negative.”

‘Speaking up and being open in the context of the church has its consequences.’
—Fr. Greg Greiten

The vice president of the Italian bishops’ conference said the pope’s comments were taken out of context and that Francis “is not homophobic and never was.” Vatican reporters also noted Italian is not the Argentine pope’s first language and that he regularly uses slang and speaks informally.

Greiten said the pope “is a very smart individual” and thinks it’s unlikely he didn’t understand the word fully or how he used it in a particular context.

It is language that ultimately reinforces “the horrific attitudes, stereotypes and discrimination directed toward the LGBTQ community from the hierarchy in the Catholic Church,” he said. “It is never OK. It is never a joke.”

Greiten added that it is “extremely painful and hurtful” for LGBTQ individuals like himself, “who have been on the receiving end of these offensive comments and attitudes for years while growing up.”

The pope previously has affirmed the church’s ban on gay men in seminaries, although the head of the bishops’ conference denied that in the May meeting Francis gave an absolute “no” on gay men entering seminary.

Pope Francis speaks to visitors in St. Peter's Square during his general audience May 29 at the Vatican. (CNS/Lola Gomez)
Pope Francis speaks to visitors in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience May 29 at the Vatican.

Early in his papacy Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” statement was in regard to the sexual orientation of priests and marked a decided shift in the Vatican’s discussion of LGBTQ individuals.

Massingale told NCR the recent episode with the pope shows the need for a frank discussion about gay men in the priesthood.

“It is a fact there are now and have always been many, many gay men who have served the church as priests and bishops faithfully, generously and well,” he said. “So I think we need to have an honest conversation about where this fear and suspicion of homosexuality in the priesthood is coming from.”

The bans on gay individuals in the seminary and in the priesthood are not working, “they are not effective,” said Massingale. “The only thing it’s doing is driving people to be dishonest in the process of seminary formation. That is not healthy for the young men in formation or healthy for the church.”

Fr. Bryan Massingale speaks during a June 8, 2022, online dialogue on "After Buffalo, After Uvalde, After Tulsa: Broken Hearts, Broken Nation, Faithful Action." The panel was sponsored by Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. (CNS/YouTube)
Fr. Bryan Massingale speaks during a June 8, 2022, online dialogue on “After Buffalo, After Uvalde, After Tulsa: Broken Hearts, Broken Nation, Faithful Action.” The panel was sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.

Greiten agreed. The emphasis on silence around sexuality means seminarians “are not fostering integrity in their formation,” he said, adding that in his own life the secrecy was destructive.

Both Greiten and Massingale said they believe there is a fear and a mistaken belief that gay men are less capable of honoring the vow of celibacy than straight men.

“Show me the studies that are going to back up that belief,” said Greiten. “It’s not true.”

“Of course gay men and straight men can be a cause of scandal in the church when they fail to live up to their obligations,” Massingale said. “But that’s not about sexual orientation.”

If there’s a need to speak about priests leading holy, authentic lives versus those leading double lives, “that’s great, let’s have that conversation,” said Greiten. “But that’s a different issue than someone just being a gay candidate.”

In terms of the lasting impact of the pope’s word choice, a lot will depend on what occurs going forward, according to Massingale, who hopes the pope, “who has demonstrated a historic openness to the LGBTQ community,” will meet with gay men who are priests.

“So in that way the pope can know our trials and our joy, our struggles, and our hopes and dreams,” he said. “I think in that way we can move from this very unfortunate incident and make it an occasion of grace and an occasion of healing.”

Massingale also affirmed the ongoing work of the church.

“My belief is that this is all part of the birth pain of a new church coming to be,” he said. “Every church body that is moved to a more accepting or more open attitude for sexual minorities has gone through a messy and confusing period of turmoil.”

Massingale listed the Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist churches as examples.

“In all those churches, gay clergy have been at times attacked and maligned,” he said. “Yet that was also part of the process by which the church came to a deeper understanding of human sexuality and of the truth of the Gospel.”

Complete Article HERE!