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!

Pope Francis

— A Reformist with a Salty Tongue Faces His Biggest PR Challenge

Pope Francis, known for his many firsts, recently faced a PR crisis after using offensive language during private meetings. Despite his progressive stance on LGBT issues, his comments shocked many. Friends and analysts argue that while his language may be regrettable, it should not overshadow his reformist legacy.

Francis is a pope of many firsts: the first to use that name, the first from Latin America, the first from the Jesuit religious order. Since last week, he’s also the first pope to apologise for using foul language.

Francis was quoted by Italian media as using the Italian term “frociaggine”, roughly translating as “faggotness” or “faggotry”, in a closed-door May 20 meeting with Italian bishops. The Vatican issued an apology, but after that, other Italian reports attributed more gay slurs to the pope, as well as chauvinist language associating women with gossip, in a separate meeting with Roman priests.

Friends of the pontiff and top Vatican watchers insist that what has possibly been the biggest PR disaster of his 11-year papacy should not obscure his record as a reforming, LGBT-friendly pope. However, some say the 87-year-old’s gaffe fits into a pattern of papal missteps that undermine his authority and raise questions about his convictions and the reform path he has in mind for the Church.

“Anyone who has been online… has seen the pope reduced to a meme, a social media tool for anyone to make jokes about, some very funny, some in very poor taste,” said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University. “The word of a pope should carry some weight, some credibility. Whether or not you agree with him, you’d normally think that what he says is thought through… Now it is a bit more difficult (to think that),” he said.

SALTY TONGUE Francis has a reputation for having a salty tongue, especially in private, so while the reported anti-gay slurs shocked many, they did not seem out of character to people who know him.

“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 who has known him for more than 30 years and asked not to be named – said that Francis knows he has a problem with foul language.

“He calls himself a ‘bocon’, which kind of translates (from Spanish) into someone who can’t keep his mouth shut,” the man told Reuters. “He has never been diplomatic. I am actually surprised something like this didn’t happen earlier.” When Francis went to Ireland in the 1980s to try to learn English, the friend recalled, “his teachers were horrified by the way in the classroom he would use English swear words he had picked up”.

The same source said Francis had come “a long way in terms of openness towards LGBT rights” for a man of his generation, noting he grew up in a very conservative family that considered divorcees – let alone gay people – social pariahs. Early in his papacy, Francis famously said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”. Last year he allowed priests to bless members of same-sex couples, triggering a substantial conservative backlash.

He has also sat down for lunch at the Vatican with transgender sex workers and formed a close relationship with Father James Martin, a prominent American Jesuit priest who ministers to the LGBT community. “The idea that he would be homophobic makes no sense to me,” Martin said in emailed comments. “His record on LGBTQ people speaks for itself. No pope has been a greater friend to the LGBTQ community.”

Francis’ Argentine friend also praised the pope’s support for civil partnerships – though Francis remains opposed to same-sex marriages – and his quiet efforts to help victims of homophobic crimes in Argentina in the 1990s, “when being gay was tough”. GAY ‘SUBCULTURE’

Nevertheless, the pope’s profanity has 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,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, head of LGBT Catholic rights group DignityUSA, said in a statement.

For Andrea Rubera, spokesperson for Italian Catholic LGBT group Paths of Hope, the first reaction was disbelief. “At the beginning we were really thinking it was not true, that it was something like a piece of gossip,” he said. According to reports, Francis’ gaffe came as he discussed with bishops the question of gay candidates for priesthood. The official Church position is that they should be barred from ministry if they are sexually active.

Both Faggioli and Ivereigh said the issue is particularly sensitive for the Italian Catholic Church, given what they said was an 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,” Father Martin said.

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!

The conflicted history of Pope Francis’ LGBTQ+ comments

— From ‘who am I to judge’ to ‘frociaggine’

What does Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, really think about the LGBTQ+ community?

By Emily Maskell

The Vatican is in hot water after Pope Francis is alleged to have recently used a homophobic slur during a meeting with bishops about allowing celibate gay men to train as priests.

In the behind-closed-doors meeting, the pontiff is believed to have said there was already too much “frociaggine” in seminaries, an Italian word which roughly translates as f****t.

The Vatican released an apology, insisting that the pope is a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.

A woman dressed as a clergywomen with rainbow umbrella
Are LGBTQ+ people accepted in the Catholic Church?

“As he stated on several occasions: ‘In the Church, there is room for everyone. Nobody is useless, nobody is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, all of us’,” a spokesperson said.

“The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he apologises to those who felt offended by the use of a term reported by others.”

This recent controversy has reignited discussion about the religious leader’s tenure and his relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. So, what has Francis actually said about LGBTQ+ people in the past?


Who am I to judge them?

Pope Francis waves to faithful gathered St.Peter’s Square for a Mass
Pope Francis’ has voiced both pro and anti comments on LGBTQ+ issues.

In 2013, the pope opened up a dialogue surrounding gay priests in what was a radical statement.

“If [gay priests] accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalised. The tendency [same-sex attraction] is not the problem… they’re our brothers.”

However, he reiterated his support for Catholic Church’s universal catechism, which states that while being gay is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

“The catechism explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalised because of this, but that they must be integrated into society,” Francis said.


Trans people can be godparents

Pope Francis
Pope Francis has confirmed that trans people can be baptised.

While 2013 marked a watershed moment for LGBTQ+ relations with the Catholic Church, a decade later the pope still vacillates between pro and anti-queer comments.

Just last year, Francis said trans people can take part in Catholic practices such as being baptised and acting as godparents or witnesses to marriage, under the same conditions as any other adult.

There was “nothing in current universal canonical legislation that prohibits” a transgender person, or any LGBTQ+ person, from serving as a witness at a Catholic marriage, he explained. However, a Vatican document, signed by the pope, highlights that for trans people, this is an honour not a right and should be avoided “if there is a risk of scandal, of undue legitimation or disorientation in the educational field of the ecclesial community”.

Nonetheless, this still marked a major stepping stone in the Church’s acceptance of transgender people.


Blessing same-sex unions

Pope Francis
Gay rights groups celebrated Pope Francis’s declaration that the Catholic church is open to blessing same-sex unions.

Late last year, in a reversal of the Church’s traditional stance, the pontiff – also known as the Bishop of Rome – announced that same-sex couples could have their unions blessed under certain circumstances.

But the Vatican also said that while same-sex couples could be blessed, such ceremonies should not be part of regular Church rituals or related to civil unions or weddings, and the Church continued to view marriage as between a man and a woman.

However, this message of acceptance marked a turning point for many LGBTQ+ Catholics.

In a letter explaining his stance, Francis said the clergy must use “pastoral prudence” and “pastoral charity” to guide their responses to same-sex couples who request a blessing.

GLAAD president and chief executive Sarah Kate Ellis hailed the decision as “both unprecedented and compassionate”.


Pope Francis will bless LGBTQ+ people but not their unions

Pope Francis presides over the meeting ‘Arena of Peace’ at the Verona's Arena on May 18, 2024 in Verona, Italy
Pope Francis clarified that he supports blessings for LGBTQ+ people despite being against same-sex marriage

A few months on from the news of the pope’s acceptance of same-sex union blessing, he clarified that he supported blessing LGBTQ+ people, but not their unions.

“That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament,” he explained. “To bless a homosexual-type union goes against the given right, against the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not? Some people were scandalised by this. But why?”


Same-sex critics are hypocritical 

Pope Francis wears his white cassock while he sits on a white and gold chair during mass
Pope Francis said homosexuality is “not a crime” and stressed that “criminalisation is neither good nor just”.

The pope has denounced the criticism of same-sex blessings. Commenting on the backlash from conservative bishops and dioceses, Francis believed those who disagree with the decision [were] showing “hypocrisy.”

According to Vatican News, the pope said: “I do not bless a ‘homosexual marriage’, I bless two people who care for each other, and I also ask them to pray for me.

He went on to say that the “gravest of sins” one could commit was not homosexuality, but being someone who “disguises themselves with a more ‘angelic’ appearance.


‘Gender ideology’ is ‘dangerous’

Pope Francis in Rome
Pope Francis has labelled “gender ideology” as “dangerous”.

His stance on gender is somewhat different.

The pontiff has described so-called gender ideology as one of the “most dangerous colonisations.”

Little more than a year ago, he said it “goes beyond the sexual” and “the question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike”, adding: “Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women, [it] is contrary to the human vocation.

“[Gender ideology] eliminates differences, and that erases humanity, the richness of humanity, personal, cultural and social.”


Banning surrogate pregnancies 

Pope Francis delivers a speech in Rome on June 13, 2016.

In 2008, the pope called for a blanket ban on surrogate pregnancies, describing them as “exploitation” and a “violation” of dignity.

“I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs,” he said.

“Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”


Welcoming trans people to the Vatican 

The Pope dines with trans women
The Pope dined with a group of trans women during lunch with the poor for the 2023 World Day of the Poor.

Last year, Francis welcomed trans women, along with 1,000 poor and homeless guests, to a Vatican lunch to mark the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor.

Trans former sex worker Claudia Vittoria Salas was seated at the same table as the pope.

He also met with a trans group in the Vatican in 2022. Sister Genevieve Jeanningros and local priest Andrea Conocchia reportedly said the meetings had given the group hope.


Sacking a conservative bishop over LGBTQ+ inclusion

LGBTQ+ advocates rally together in support of trans rights as Republican lawmakers in Texas try to push back on the trans community and access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth in the state
In 2023, human rights group teamed up to complain to the UN about Texas’s anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

Last year, in a move seen as aligning the pope as an LGBTQ+ ally, he “relieved” Bishop Joseph Strickland, from eastern Texas, of his position as head of the Diocese of Tyler.

The decision came after Strickland said Francis was “undermining the deposit of faith” and was a “diabolically disordered clown”.

Strickland had also criticised the pope’s moves to make the Church more welcoming for LGBTQ+ Catholics, describing the plan as a “travesty.”< Complete Article HERE!

Vatican apologises after Pope Francis uses derogatory term for gay men

— Pope Francis allegedly used offensive slur during discussion about gay men

One bishop said the Pope might not have been aware that the term was offensive while others said he meant the term as a ‘joke’.

Bishops say pontiff made remark during closed-door debate on admitting homosexual men into seminaries

Pope Francis allegedly used an offensive slur during a discussion with bishops over admitting homosexual men into seminaries, several Italian newspapers have reported.

The pontiff, 87, is alleged to have made the remark during a closed-door meeting with bishops in Rome last week, where they were reportedly discussing whether out gay men should be admitted to Catholic seminaries, where priests are trained, a topic that the Italian bishops conference (CEI) is said to have been pondering for some time.

During the discussion, when one of the bishops asked Francis what he should do, the pope reportedly reiterated his objection to admitting gay men, saying that while it was important to embrace everyone, it was likely that a gay person could risk leading a double life. He is then alleged to have added that there was already too much “frociaggine”, a vulgar Italian word that roughly translates at “faggotness”, in some seminaries.

The story was first reported by the political gossip website Dagospia, before being covered by the Italian dailies La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, and the news agency Adnkronos.

La Repubblica, Corriere and Adnkronos quoted unnamed bishops, who said that the pontiff meant the derogatory term as a “joke”, and that those around him were surprised and perplexed by the alleged slur. One bishop told Corriere della Sera that the pontiff might not have been aware that the term was offensive.

La Repubblica and Corriere reported that there was a meeting among bishops in November during which it was decided that homosexual men could be admitted to seminaries, so long as they did not practise their sexuality, but that the move was ultimately stopped by the pope.

Since he was elected pope in 2013, Francis has sought to adopt a more inclusive tone towards the LGBTQ+ community in his public statements, much to the disdain of conservative cardinals.

Soon after becoming pope, he famously said in response to a question about gay priests: “Who am I to judge?”

He approved a ruling in December allowing priests to bless unmarried and same-sex couples in what was a significant change of position for the Catholic church.

However, he has been clear about not allowing gay people to join the clergy. In an interview in 2018 he said he was “concerned” about what he describes as the “serious issue” of homosexuality and that being gay is a “fashion” to which the clergy is susceptible.

“In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable, and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the church,” he said at the time.

The Roman Catholic church’s position is that homosexual acts are sinful. A decree on training for priests in 2016 stressed the obligation of sexual abstinence, as well as barring gay men and those who support “gay culture” from holy orders.

The Vatican has apologised after the Pope used a highly offensive word towards gay men.

In a statement, it said: “Pope Francis is aware of the articles recently published about a conversation, behind closed doors, with the bishops of the CEI.

“As he stated on several occasions, ‘In the Church there is room for everyone, for everyone! Nobody is useless, nobody is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, all of us.’

“The Pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he apologises to those who felt offended by the use of a term reported by others.”

Francis made the remark in a closed-door meeting with bishops, when describing priesthood colleges as already too full of “frociaggine” – a highly offensive Italian slur.

He is said to have reiterated that gay men should not be allowed to become priests.

The incident reportedly happened on 20 May, as first reported by political gossip website Dagospia, when the Italian Bishops Conference held a private meeting with the Pope.

“It’s all the fault of some bishop who broke his mandate of silence to report the gaffe that occurred last week,” reported Il Messaggero, a national paper based in Rome.

According to the paper, the Pope’s comments came during an informal Q&A session at the annual bishops’ meeting which was attended by over 200 members of the clergy.

The Pope, 87, has been credited with leading the Roman Catholic Church into taking a more welcoming approach towards the LGBT+ community.

At the start of his papacy in 2013, he said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Last year, he allowed priests to bless same-sex couples, triggering significant conservative backlash.

But in 2018, he told Italian bishops to carefully vet priesthood applicants and reject anyone suspected of being gay.

In a 2005 document, during Benedict XVI’s papacy, the Vatican said the church could admit into the priesthood those who had overcome gay tendencies for at least three years.

The document said those with “deep-seated” gay tendencies and those who “support the so-called gay culture” should be barred.