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Home Articles Commentary Pope Francis f-word exposes Catholic Church

Pope Francis f-word exposes Catholic Church

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Pope Francis riding inside the Pope mobile and waving.
Pope Francis (2019)
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Pope Francis sent global shock waves when the news broke that he used the highly offensive f-word “frociaggine,” meaning “faggotness” in Italian. In a closed-door conversation at the Italian Bishops’ Conference, a discussion about whether to admit gay seminarians in preparation for the priesthood, the pontiff replied, “There is too much frociaggine in seminaries.”

The news of Francis using this particular homophobic and eyebrow-raising epithet deeply hurt many out and proud Catholic LGBTQ’s hoping for full inclusion and acceptance by Pope Francis. “I imagine people like me are eating their optimistic words,” Nina Girgenti of Boston told me. But Nina’s optimism was not unfounded. 

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2023 looked optimistic 

For example, during the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor, in Torvaianica, a run-down seaside town just 20 miles south of Rome, a community of transwomen, many of who are sex workers, received VIP seats as Pope Francis’s guests at the monthly lunch gatherings.   Francis called for the decriminalization of homosexuality and was lauded by LGBTQ advocates as a milestone that would help end harassment and violence against us, albeit the pontiff publicly stated that homosexual acts are a sin and not a crime. During World Youth Day, Francis announced that the Church was for everyone. “There is space for everyone, and when there isn’t, please, let’s work so that there is.” Also, the Vatican agreed to baptize transgender Catholics and allow them to be godparents.

“The pope’s PR machine has come out with many incredulous excuses and tepid apologies for his gaffe. However, this faux pas suggests” even if intended as a joke, the Pope’s comment reveals the depth of anti-gay bias and institutional discrimination that still exist in our church,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of Dignity USA stated in her press release titled ” Queer Catholic Group in Stands in Solidarity with Gay Priests, Those Seeking Ordination after Pope’s Hurtful Use of Slur.” 

The Catholic Church needs its gay priests

“The truth is that the Church simply could not function without those countless gay priests, bishops, and maybe even popes who currently serve and have served over the centuries,” said Duddy-Burke. And I agree with Duddy-Burke. 

The reality here is that the Catholic Church is a gay institution. And that is not a bad thing! 

The homosocial and homosexual milieux of gay priests have always been part and parcel of the life and operations of the Vatican as well as the Catholic Church for centuries. Their strength to come out now as a formidable force within the hallowed walls of the Vatican is laudable on the one hand and a liability on the other hand — especially in terms of casting a gay suspicion on all priests as well as the potential to expose those priests who want to remain in the closet.

“If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do damage to the church’s operation,” said the late Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who has been studying the sexuality of priests for decades. Sipe also points out that to do away with gay priests “would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world.”

The problem in the Catholic Church is not its gay priests and its solution to the problem is not the removal of them. Years of homophobic church doctrine have made the Church unsafe for us all and have created a down-low culture.

Eugene Kennedy, a specialist on sexuality and the priesthood and a former priest, wrote in his book, The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality, that the Catholic Church “had always had gay priests, and they have often been models of what priests should be. To say that these men should be kept from the priesthood is in itself a challenge to the grace of God and an insult to them and the people they serve.”

Can the LGBTQ community trust Pope Francis?

Once again, Pope Francis is rocking the world and continuing to command attention with his liberal-leaning pronouncements. However, the pontiff is a complicated, if not confusing, figure to many LGBTQ people. On the surface, Francis displays a pastoral countenance to his papacy that seemingly extends to the LGBTQ community, too. 

In 2013, responding to a question about a possible “gay lobby” in the Vatican, Francis said, “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?” Supporters and activists of the “gay lobby” in the Curia emphatically state that this brave and visible group is essential to the running of the Vatican as well as protecting themselves from the Church’s hypocrisy in scapegoating them for many of the social ills of the Church.

But Pope Francis is the consummate flip-flopper of our time. He double-speaks on issues. He embraces the LGBTQ community, and then he doesn’t. His pastoral demeanor cloaks the iron-fisted church bureaucrat that he is. It’s not enough for Francis to say he embraces our community — privately or publicly. He must also do it.

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