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Pope’s Reported Use of Slur Causes “Whiplash” for Gay Catholics and Supporters

U.S.Pope’s Reported Use of Slur Causes “Whiplash” for Gay Catholics and Supporters

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.


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