A few months back, the French government sent an application to the Vatican, okay Vatican City, for an openly gay man, Laurent Stéfanini, to be appointed ambassador. According to a number of reports and statements, the application itself is frozen at the highest levels of Vatican City government. The reason has not been given, and overseas, where nuance is a way of life unlike American straight-shooting, the non-acceptance of the application is considered a rejection. Why? That’s where it gets interesting.
One Vatican official said that a host country can reject any ambassador it wants on any grounds it wants. This is true, and the Vatican has taken advantage of that multiple times. Rejections in recent decades have included people who are divorced and remarried without an annulment, openly gay individuals living in monogamous homosexual relationships, and those who are protestants. (The last one is a little on the subjective side. The other two are downright scandalous. In Catholic terms, of course.)
Given the reality that Church Dogma and Canon Law does not change, let alone on a whim or just because any one pope wants it to, actually nominating people unapologetically living in abject sin to serve as ambassadors is a plain and simple provocation. Americans may not see it that way, but it is. In Europe, France’s move to nominate Laurent Stéfanini was considered just that. A provocation. Because for all of Pope Francis’ love the sinner talk, he still preaches we should hate the sin.
In Catholic teaching, being homosexual itself is not a sin. Acting on it is. Following in Jesus’ footsteps, Francis breaks bread with sinners, and reminds us that they are made in God’s image just the same as the rest of us for all our righteousness whether or not it is humble. Francis is putting the command of “go forth and sin no more” in front of us to follow, just as every priest says to any person in Confession. Someone living openly in sin is not simply a scandal, but a provocation in a way, a dare.
The French government dared the Vatican to reject their openly gay applicant, and that has the liberals and the gay lobby puzzled. Why would Pope Francis, a Jesuit, a man for others and someone who cares less about ceremony than the poor, and who said “who am I to judge” in an off the cuff remark about gay priests that was misconstrued – why would he reject a gay man for ambassador? Because that man is living in sin.
Buried in the REAL translations of Pope Francis’ statements is the same message every pope since St. Peter has preached. Sex outside of a sacramental marriage – a covenant between a man and woman, not a contract between two random consenting adults – is a sin. Nothing has changed in that regard, nor will it, because it can’t. “Get with the times” and “move into the 21st century” means nothing to the popes. For the last 150 years, each has written encyclicals condemning the concept of “modernism” on sex and society as the Church’s teaching on these issues is timeless. That is what her critics and those who would have Her change do not want to accept. (Communism and socialism are also soundly condemned contrary to popular belief, but that’s another essay.)
An adoring media latched onto the modifier “Jesuit” and sought to make Pope Francis into a sort of reformer. To an extent, he is. Of the Curia and cleaning out the career diplomats, yes. Of the Jesuits themselves, the order that was all but destroyed by the lavender mafia, yes. (Catholics see it happening even if the world doesn’t.) Of taking us back to basics, yes. Of actual Church teaching, no.
That is what makes the notion put forth by a French publication that it was Francis himself who froze the application from France for Laurent Stéfanini to be their ambassador to the Vatican so intriguing. Far from being an elitist liberal live and let live sort, Pope Francis is really a pretty orthodox, old school, no nonsense, intellectual Jesuit. It took a lot of liberals quite a while to figure that out. The rest of us got it when he said Mass in Latin ad orientum and led a congregation in the Rosary. Catholic liberals don’t do that.
As for the non-acceptance and silence from the Vatican: nothing done right is done quickly. That is the way it is with the Vatican. Well, except for accepting the resignations of certain American bishops who were the worst offenders in the Scandal a few years back. (Rembert Weakland…can you say heads spun?) And if no word is coming from inside, no comment, no statements, yes, assume overstepping occurred. No one with any sort of integrity at the Vatican is going to dignify an obvious provocation with response. That’s just the way it is.
France dared Pope Francis to bend on Church teaching when it comes to homosexuality. Francis isn’t blinking, and watching the liberals wonder why is quite entertaining.
Jazz Shaw of HotAir has some interesting commentary on the same topic.