Pope Francis has garnered praise from many liberals for supposedly softening the Catholic Church's position -- or at least its rhetoric -- on homosexuality, but the more time goes by, the more we see how illusory that is. His rejection of the appointment of a gay envoy to the Vatican is yet more proof of that.
In what was simultaneously an act of defiance and an fine exemplification of French humor, France appointed gay diplomat Laurent Stefanini to be its ambassador to the Vatican back in January. Officially, Stefanini's sexual orientation goes against the Catholic Church's teaching. Unofficially, Stefanini would be in good gay company considering the purported presence of a number of gay clergy at the Vatican.
Although the Holy See usually approves such diplomatic appointments within six weeks, it has yet to respond to Stefanini's selection, and French media is reporting that this inaction is tantamount to a rejection -- one that is due to the fact he's gay. But President Francois Hollande is steadfast, and said he's waiting for an actual response from the See. A source in the Vatican called the appointment a "provocation" given Stefanini's homosexuality. It's also been reported that the rejection was "a decision taken by the pope himself."
The rejection of Stefanini over his sexual orientation is just the latest wrench in the narrative that Pope Francis represents a significant departure from his predecessors on homosexuality. In 2013, the newly minted pope stunned many when he rhetorically said of gay clergy, "If a person is gay and is seeking the Lord and is of good will, then who am I to judge him?"
As it turns out, though, Francis has been doing a lot of judging, including giving the opening speech at an anti-gay conference and urging bans not only on same-sex marriage, but on gay adoptions as well.
The Daily Beastnoted this is the third time the Vatican has rejected a French envoy appointment since 2007. Under Pope Benedict VXI, the Church previously rebuffed a divorced Catholic who had remarried, and then rejected a gay man in a civil relationship with his husband. Stefanini isn't married and is hardly a gay activist. According Global Pulse Magazine,
"Mr. Stefanini keeps his sexuality private. He is not in a gay marriage or civil partnership.... And he does not publicly support any gay groups or 'lobbies.'"
Thus, Stefanini isn't exactly one of those "in your face" gay people that conservatives are forever complaining about. He's also a devout Catholic.
Which raises the question, who is Pope Francis to judge?