Vatican apologizes for Pope Francis allegedly saying homophobic slur

The pope has a record of liberal LGBTQ+ views, including allowing the blessing of individuals in gay marriages

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published May 28, 2024 4:13PM (EDT)

Pope Francis leaves a mass on World Children's Day at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on May 26, 2024. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)
Pope Francis leaves a mass on World Children's Day at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on May 26, 2024. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Pope Francis is in hot water after reportedly using a derogatory term for gay men when discussing and reaffirming the Vatican's long-standing ban on gay priests behind closed doors to Italian bishops.

While there may not be an official transcript or confirmation of Pope Francis' comments, on Tuesday, the Pope apologized for his use of the term, allegedly targeting gay men. The Vatican's spokesperson issued a statement acknowledging the backlash and media frenzy that has followed the comments made on May 20. 

“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,” the spokesperson said. However, they avoided outright confirming that the pope had used the term, in line with the Vatican's tradition of keeping conversations that happen behind closed doors secret. However, the spokesperson did not deny that Francis used the term, The Associated Press reported.

Italian media like gossip website Dagospia and then mainstream outlets were the first to report on the incident, citing that Francis, a native Spanish speaker, who is also fluent in the Vatican's official language, Italian, had said "f*****ness" in Italian.

According to reporting done by NBC News, sources in the room said that the conversation was about the acceptance of gay men into seminaries when Francis said that the seminaries were already too full of an Italian slang term "that represents a vulgar way to refer to a gay person." After the use of the slur, the audience of bishops was surprised given that the pope has openly been accepting of the LGBTQ+ community in the church and at large, NBC News said.

The reception of Francis' comments has not been received kindly by Italian media. The controversy comes as a shock as Francis has been widely regarded as one of the most liberal popes in history. He has recently allowed priests to bless individuals in gay marriages, opened the Vatican to transgender sex workers, instilled more women in the church and even called an end to anti-gay legislation.

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In an interview with The Associated Press last year, the pope said, “Being homosexual is not a crime.” During another interview with "60 Minutes" reporter Norah O’Donnell last week, she asked the pope about his comment that “Homosexuality is not a crime,” to which he responded, “No, it is a human fact.”

Vatican reporter Gerry O’Connell, a non-native Italian speaker, said in America Magazine that the pope’s remark was “a gaffe on the part of the pope, rather than a slur."

“As he has had the opportunity to state on several occasions, 'In the Church there is room for everyone, for everyone! No one is useless, no one is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, everyone,'” the Vatican spokesperson said. 

Despite Francis' liberal views, in April, the Vatican blasted gender-affirming surgery and surrogacy as a violation of human dignity. The church similarly sees gender-affirming care as on par with abortion and euthanasia, saying it rejects God's plan for human life, The Associated Press reported. In his interview with O’Donnell, Francis also clarified that the church has not allowed priests to bless the union of gay marriages, "That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. I cannot . . . To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the given right, against the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not?"


By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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Aggregate Catholicism Homophobia Lgbtq Pope Francis Religion The Vatican