Pope Francis has apologized for slapping the hand of a woman who grabbed him as he walked away from a crowd, drawing criticism from some who said it was inappropriate behavior for the Catholic leader.
The pope has been selective about his apologies when it comes to matters of abuse within the Church, but he was quick to say he’s sorry after this incident.
Francis lost his cool when the woman abruptly grabbed his hand and yanked him towards her just after he reached out to greet a child during a visit to the Vatican’s nativity scene on Tuesday night.
The woman would not let go and in a gesture that appeared to cause him pain, he slapped at her hand before pulling his hand free.
During his Angelus address to a packed St Peter’s Square on New Year’s Day, the pontiff referred to his actions. “I apologise for the bad example yesterday … sometimes even I lose patience,” he said.
CNN pointed out that Francis spoke about violence against women just hours after the viral incident.
Pope Francis has used his New Year message to denounce violence against women, hours after slapping a woman’s hand to free himself from her grip.
“Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb,” the Pontiff told worshipers gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Wednesday. “Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman.”
There are plenty of things the pope has done to warrant criticism, but this shouldn’t be on the list. Yes, he could’ve found a more patient way to deal with the woman, but he’s human (and hardly a conduit to God), he was possibly in pain, and he had no way to know why someone was hanging on to his hand beyond what he wanted. (Consent applies even when you’re the pope!) I suspect many of us would’ve done the same thing in his position.
Apologizing for failing to represent a higher morality is more than appropriate here. Those suggesting the pope’s actions were malicious, violent, or hypocritical seem to be looking for any reason to condemn him. There are plenty of valid reasons to be critical of the pope. This isn’t one of them.
Of all the controversies the Church has been embroiled in over the years, this may be the least offensive of them all.