Vatican standoff with France tests pope’s ‘Who am I to judge?’ stance

Laurent Stefanini is seen at the Elysee Palace in Paris April 22, 2015.
Laurent Stefanini is seen at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer. *Editors: This photo can only be used with RNS-STEFANINI-VATICAN.
Laurent Stefanini is seen at the Elysee Palace in Paris April 22, 2015.

Laurent Stefanini is seen at the Elysee Palace in Paris April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer. *Editors: This photo can only be used with RNS-STEFANINI-VATICAN and RNS-FRANCE-VATICAN, transmitted April 24, 2015.

PARIS (RNS) Pope Francis has been hailed for his forward thinking, but — at least according to French news reports — the pontiff has put on the brakes when it comes to a gay French ambassador at the Vatican.

In January, French President Francois Hollande nominated his protocol chief Laurent Stefanini as Vatican envoy to replace outgoing ambassador Bruno Joubert. The pick seemed ideal: 55-year-old Stefanini is described as brilliant and a devout Roman Catholic, who secured support for his candidacy from Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris. He is also a known quantity at the Vatican, having served as a top official at the French embassy to the Holy See a decade ago.

But so far, his nomination has gone nowhere. On Wednesday (April 22), France’s investigative weekly “Le Canard Enchaine” reported Pope Francis met with Stefanini last weekend. The message: The pontiff did not appreciate France’s 2013 same-sex marriage law, nor being pressured into accepting Stefanini’s candidacy.

French media report the standoff is due to Stefanini’s sexual orientation; France’s foreign ministry has only said his private life should be respected.

The pope’s reaction, as reported in the media, appears to contrast starkly with his remarks two years ago in which he said, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Another French media report said that the unusual meeting between Stefanini and Francis — a pope rarely gets directly involved in the appointment of an ambassador — was friendly and lasted 40 minutes, and ended with the two men praying together.

The French government has said little about the matter, except to confirm the meeting between the pope and the Vatican nominee took place.

“Nothing has changed,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters. “France has proposed a candidate and for the time being we are waiting for the Vatican’s reply, after the usual discussions and review of his candidacy.”

Bernard Kouchner, France’s former foreign minister, has been more outspoken.

“The Vatican seems badly placed to refuse homosexuals,” Kouchner told RTL Radio this week, adding, “but apart from that, I adore Pope Francis.”


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  • The pick seemed ideal: 55-year-old Stefanini is described as brilliant and a devout Roman Catholic,


    If he merely met his obligation to attend Mass, he would be characteristic of about 3% of France’s population. If he actually were ‘devout’, I doubt anyone would know about his sexual problems other than his confessor. This whole article is humbug.

  • The Pope’s judgement remark does not contrast his unwillingness to accept Steffanini as the French Ambassador at all. Jesus warns us all with the same words, but He will judge us perfectly upon our death.
    France, obviously, is deliberately placing the Vatican in a position worthy of Satan’s design. Steffanini is always identified as a Gay government official. Why this emphasis on his sexuality? Has it anything to do with his diplomatic qualifications? No. So then France is guilty of baiting the Vatican to make a choice…either one a source of misinterpretation.
    Mr. Steffanini should turn down the offer, good Catholic that he is, in order to squash the media frenzy that is growing daily.

  • One should assume there are quite a mess of sketchy characters in the Vatican diplomatic corps and in the foreign legations. There’s a tenth planet with this issue.

  • Art Deco is quite right–the article is nothing but humbug. It is just more media hooey to get the Church to ratify what has been considered sinful behavior since the earliest times of Judaism and Christianity.

  • Yes, the French Government is deliberately provoking the Vatican. Why not?

    Let the Pope put his money where his mouth is when he said, “Who am I to judge?”. If anything it just exposes the hypocrisy one expects from the mouthpiece of the Church.

  • The Pope’s “who am I to judge?” comment was referring to a priest, celibate, with same-sex attraction — a context very different from this diplomatic stand-off.

  • God will judge the pope and the Catholic religion for what they did and didn’t do, as well as other religions that claim to be Christian, or following Jesus and worshiping his Father, God.

    God knows their record better than we do since He sees all things.


  • Judaism has changed and evolved. All the non-Orthodox denominations now accept gay rabbis and cantors and perform same sex marriages. The Torah is capable of multiple interpretations and the meaning of the text is always capable of growing and evolving. It is not static.

  • Yes, I agree, Larry, there is definitely clever maneuvering going on here, but where the Fr. Gov. may be provoking the Vatican is the part having to do with RC Doctrine, where the pope says: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will … ” It’s the “seeking” and the “good will” that puts the pope and all his cardinals, bishops, priests … into question—challenging them to be honest about their affairs (in ALL areas).
    It feels as if this incident just burned down “the place” where the pope had positioned himself. Let’s see what comes next.

  • Fran, when this life is over, we will ALL be judged: you, me, the pope, everyone on this site, and everyone who has ever lived. And those who were given much, much will be expected, and those who were given little, little will be expected (Lk. 12:48). But all of us must pursue God to the best of our “ability.” In the end we might all be surprised at who made it, and who did not.

  • Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 preclude any “evolution” of that aspect of the Jewish Faith. Those rabbis you mentioned would simply have to “ignore” the Torah.

  • Fix your caps lock key.

    France already has marriage equality. The Church’s objection to it there means nothing. Its already a given for the country. Of course if the Pope really meant what he said, it would not have been an issue. But it was obvious to the president of France that any pretension of progressive intents is merely a lampshade on business as usual from the Vatican. It was so much more honest when the former Hitler Youth (yes, he was a member) was officially pope.

  • @Greg,

    since you are citing Lev. 20:13, that means you support the death penalty for gay men. Right?


  • No Greg, Jews don’t interpret the Torah the same way Christians do.

    Why are so many Christians arrogant enough to presume (and in this case dictate) there is only their way to interpret scripture? In this case the interpretations of people who completely reject the primary belief Christians take as a given.Typical fundy attitude. No respect for the beliefs of anyone but themselves.

  • The division of Jewish sects in America is more or less unique to there. The rest of the world has a more hazy definition. The orthodox as you know it are a larger percentage but still very much in the minority.

  • Anytime you want to start seriously discussing specific Bible interpretations, Larry, jump right in. Some of us will be, umm, waiting.

  • Ben, the way Christians are to read the Sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, is to determine the moral principles being stated. The punishments are insignificant; those were the prescriptions for a certain people, living in a certain time. Now, however, all punishment will occur after this life is over (Matt 25:31-46).

  • Doc

    Speaking of the interpretation of scripture, have you been following the latest Bart Ehrman uproar – his latest book being released at the same time as a refutation book by conservatives? My goodness, I cannot remember anything like that in the past.

    Please forgive this interruption if you have ignored the hoopla.

  • There are non-Orthodox denominations in Britain. Conservative and Reform Judaism both were created in Germany. It is true that most Israeli Jews are either secular or Orthodox, but there are small groups of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel.

    Greg, I can give you an example that I know more about. the Torah says, “an eye for an eye and a life for a life.” This was almost immediately interpreted to mean monetary compensation for an eye. The rabbis in the Talmud made it virtually impossible to ever execute anyone, because the requirements were nearly impossible to meet. For example, you needed two witnesses who actually saw the murder for a person to be executed. They never changed the words of the Torah, but they made it impossible to actually carry them out.

  • Yes, I did read about that one Dmj76. That is unprecedented stuff for sure.

    The publisher HarperCollins decided to walk both sides of the street and simul-publish BOTH the skeptical Ehrman’s 2014 book “Was Jesus Divine?”, and an opposing rebuttal-book by Craig Evans and other evangelical scholars.

    The publisher was cashing in on both sides of the street, but there’s no complaints from me. I’m just glad SOMEBODY jumped in the ring quickly to take on Ehrman.

    The fact is that, in the Age of Online & Social Media, you can’t be waiting years to respond in print to opposing viewpoints. People are checking out the action NOW, so somebody needs to step in the ring and start swinging NOW, in prime-time.

    Another good example was Albert Mohler and his friends immediately doing an E-book to counter gay activist Matthew Vine’s 2014 book.

  • Doc, you always think you have a monopoly on the Bible. Its silly narcissistic bullcrap. But that sort of silly narcissistic bullcrap is one of the appeals of fundamentalist christianity. The feeling you are the sole interpreter of the word of God and everyone else is doing it wrong. It part and parcel with the complete lack of respect for anyone who believes differently than yourself.

    It is supreme chutzpah for a Christian fundie like Greg to tell a well versed Jew like Susan, how she should interpret her own scripture and beliefs of her faith. What kind of arrogance is that?

  • I am glad that the Pope has finally answered his own question. “Who am I to judge? I’m the POPE, that’s who!” Right on, Pope! No diplomatic posts for sinners!

  • Fine, Larry, then Jews should interpret the Sacred Writings according to the Torah: the Lord says, “Vengeance and payback are mine for the time when their foot slips; for the day of their calamity is coming soon, their doom is rushing upon them.’” Deuteronomy 32:35 (Complete Jewish Bible). In other words, God will handle the punishments.

  • … and by this I mean things like priests waving their “magic wands” over couples (any couples) without the ‘sworn’ Sacrament of Marriage. Yes, I know of these going on as someone shared this with me not long ago. These men go against their pope, their doctrine, and all else that you read from Greg and James C. It’s fake, and either the priests have a scam going that will get them in trouble with the law, or they are just full of themselves. Just be honest, I say … but will they? Will their church crack down on these frauds pretending at one thing but doing another? Or are they too busy cracking down on their nuns … and ignoring the clergy sex abuse, failing and abusive marriages, drug overuse and abuse … and all else that needs their attention.

  • Greg, that’s just another fairy tale of that (entirely fictional) sky fairy being a vengeful jerk, as usual. Not a creature worthy of worship, but one that should be incarcerate, except that it doesn’t exist.

  • What “monopoly on the Bible”, Larry? All I do is offer my evil homophobic (translation: Bible-believing) interpretations. You have the same right to offer your pro-gay Bible interpretations in the same RNS forum. Equal opportunity for all.

    But let’s be honest already. Even if I was an atheist or a gay activist, there just ISN’T any rational way of re-writing a raw sentence like “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Lev. 18:20) to make it somehow “affirming” of homosexual behavior or gay marriage. The Hebrew Bible totally opposes homosexual behavior.

    Even the Talmud says — no joke on this — “Do not write marriage documents for male couples.” (Source: Wikipedia). Maimonides said that man marrying man, and woman marrying woman, was “forbidden.” Imagine that!

    So what do we do Larry? Pretend that the Hebrew Bible doesn’t say what it says? Pretend that the Christian New Testament doesn’t say what it says?

  • Doc, you have a fundamentalist Christian telling a Jew how to read her own scripture as her own religion sees fit. That is nothing but pure fundie arrogance in its purest form.

    You guys don’t read the Bible the same way. You can’t even cite the Talmud in its proper context. You simply think that everyone has to have the same level of selective reading and interpretation as yourself. There is no such thing as “Biblically correct” you guys all select which areas to emphasiz and which ones to ignore or minimize. But it feeds your ego to pretend otherwise.

  • Greg, Christians only refer to the Old Testament when they want to sound tough and avoid the less judgmental and socially redeeming teachings of Jesus himself. They don’t read it the same way as Jews do. It is pure arrogant nonsense for you to pretend your take on it has any bearing as to how Jews read their own scripture. But then again fundies don’t even respect the beliefs of fellow Christians. Why would they show respect to other faiths?

  • Larry, you say>Christians only refer to the Old Testament when they want to sound tough and avoid the less judgmental and socially redeeming teachings of Jesus himself. They don’t read it the same way as Jews do.

    Leviticus reads arbitrary to me. It sounds ‘prescribed’ and I do not believe it to be of the same Spiritual course as other books. Not that I shy away from what sounds tough or harsh, or even commanding—not all at. As each has “versions”—translations—the books RENDER individuals, from one place to the next, or from here to there. I wrote on another comment what I understand and believe of passages that many Christians refer to regarding the homosexual, and I referenced the Book of Enoch, Chapter 7. The language is different, and not of contemporary man. “In the beginning was the word … ” is telling in itself … which is not speaking of arbitrary choices. The language is of an imagery not seen by man. It is heard and exercised, but certainly not by using…

  • … force and demanding allegiance through dogmatic streams. This is not saying Religion cannot be used for self-edification … just not to marry systematically for religious gain.

  • If you look at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus is saying … what has this to do with me (us). IOW, what do the traditions of marriage celebrations have to do with me … He speaks of the ‘wine’ not like the traditions there, and His ‘hour’. The same is seen in the Samaritan Woman at the Well. He speaks of the marriages of the “woman” (woman is symbolic of an “agreement” and marriages are life choices) … and again, He tells of an everlasting drink. So, you see, this is an imagery unlike the words of contemporary man.

  • Yes, that very convenient line of thinking that draws lines in such a way as to enable you to do whatever you wish, while at the same time prohibiting the people that you don’t like.

    Jesus said “not one jot or tittle will change until all is fulfilled.” The language used to enable that shrimp cocktail and bacon sandwich, abominations both just as surely as homosexuality is, according to your book. One man’s abomination is another man’s lunch or life. The lines that say “slay all the unbelievers in your midst.” Now there’s morality for you.

  • There is no hellfire or place of eternal torment from a loving God (1 John 4:8). There is only the common grave where the dead are asleep, not aware of anything at all (Ecclesiastes 9:5,6,10).

  • your Purgatory, and your Annulments, and your Absolutions, and your … and your … the list goes on depending on who wanted what when, and oh, almost forgot … there’s that IMMACULATE Conception …
    So, tell us James C … why did Mary need to be Immaculate?

    … and Original Sin Verses non-original sin? 😉

  • “All I do is offer my evil homophobic (translation: Bible-believing) interpretations.”

    There are all kinds of ways to read that passage. try the literal translation: “sleep the sleep of a woman”. Do you know what that means?

    Or the very learned argument– which unfortunately I cannot find at the moment– that the passage refers to the defiling of the marriage bed of the priest’s wife by bringing a man to it. Mishkap something or other.

    Or the other learned argument that Leviticus is just that– instructions to the levite priests, and no one else.

    Or the other learned argument that it refers to anal sex, and anal sex only, not a general proscription.

    Or the false distinctions between the abomination of eating shrimp and that of two men together– with no mention of women except incidentally. Hardly a proscription of homosexuality if you leave out half the practitioners.

    That’s hermeneutics– the exquisitely fine art of getting your holy book to say exactly what…

  • According to Christian theology, WE ARE ALL SINNERS.

    Even the pope.

    “There is none righteous. No, not one!”

  • Leviticus was a book of instructions to the levirate priests. It has been argued by Jewish biblical scholars that it has no relevance outside of Israel– whatever that might have been 3000 years ago.

  • The Wedding at Cana: literally,”Woman, what to me and to thee? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). What is going on here is Jesus is referring to his mother as “Woman,” or “the” Woman. In Genesis 3:15, the Father proclaimed a time when the “seed” of the “woman” would crush the head of the serpent (the Devil). In this event at Cana, we see Mary, the Woman of Genesis, conducting her son, Jesus (her seed), to begin his ministry. In other words, once he performs the miracle, his ministry would begin, and his mother would no longer be that intimate mom, but rather that “Woman” proclaimed in Genesis, effectively initiating the beginning of his end, and changing the relationship he had with his mother up to that point. And of course she knew what God the Father expected of her, so she said to the waiters, “whatever he says, you do.” So we can thank Mary for beginning Our Lord’s ministry. And of course the wine must have been excellent!

  • Why did Mary need to be Immaculate? In the beginning, Adam & Eve were filled with the Life of God, which we call “Sanctifying Grace”; in other words, their souls were like 1000 Watt light bulbs, illumined with God. However, once they sinned, they lost that life, the brilliance of their souls was extinguished, the lights went out, and they became void of the Presence of God. And once Adam & Eve lost that Grace, they could not pass on what they did not have. And so the human race continued, waiting on the Promise (Gen. 3:15). Then there came a woman, who was born in the state of “sanctifying grace” name Mary, whom the Angel addressed, “Hail full of Grace” (Gk, Kecharitomene) Luke 1:28. The Greek there literally means “Hail the embodiment of Grace.” So here we see Mary possessing Grace of Adam & Eve. And the reason is simple: she would receive God in her womb, and where God is, sin is not. So “Immaculate” means Mary was in the state of origianl grace, not origianl sin.

  • Christians read this stuff as if they are followed under pain of death and that it must be followed in a draconian manner (when they want to act tough). Sometimes they opt out and say “Jesus says we don’t have to follow those rules anymore” (when called out on their selective use of the Old Testament).

    Judaism was formed by things other than simply the Old Testament. There is also its formation as part of diaspora. Interpretations are based on trying to turn this scripture from “rules of the priestly class for the people of Judea” to “guidebook for life in a hostile world”. Rules go “follow or we stone you to death” to “follow or you will incur God’s wrath” to “follow because it helps the group maintain its identity”. Christians are still stuck in the first two stages and pretend the third doesn’t really exist.

  • Larry, God is God, but the Old Covenant is the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant is the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). The expressions of the Old, have passed away (2Cor 5:17). The new Covenant, however, is here until He returns; it is sealed with His blood. But even though we are in the New Covenant, certain things do not change. God’s nature is his nature; when it comes to the moral law, he does not change. Of course He realizes that we are in a time of great depravity, and that affects his outlook on sin. I mentioned above, that Mary’s soul was filled with grace from her birth, well, for the Christian, this now happens to us when we are baptized. And we remain in his grace until we sin grievously. Only sin can extinguish the grace in our souls. And once extinguished, all is not lost; we have the sacrament of Confession (John 20:23) to restore a soul to the state of baptismal grace. It is all very sensible.

  • Spoken like someone with absolutely no regard to sects and beliefs besides your own. Again, you are under the delusion that your version of Christianity has a monopoly on interpretations of texts and all others are just wrong. Nothing but a self-righteous ego speaking here.

    Christians always play a two-step when it comes to the Old Testament. They cite it under the pretension that violation means pain of death or damnation when they want to sound tough. They disavow it when those pretensions lead to ridiculous results which are warranted by the same type of reading. Its all essentially a rhetorical means to an end in a given situation. Just like their excuses to avoid, “love thy neighbor”. Christians like yourself can’t even hold yourselves to fairly unambiguous rules.

    Your God is not the same one Jews or Muslims pray to even though there is some overlap with scriptures. You interpret them in your own self-serving fashions for the given situations.

  • Of course the God of Christianity is one and the same as the God of the Jews. How could it be otherwise? If that weren’t the case, then God wouldn’t be God. Imagine, Larry, that God is like the Sun in our solar system, and those of the True Faith are the ones circling closely around the Sun, kind of like Mercury. Then we have the various sects, which have been systematically tossing out doctrine over the years; those are ones that have drifted farther out from the Sun, like Mars. Then of course there are those that are hanging on by a thread, with a slim amount of Truth left in their teachings; those are out there with Pluto. So it is not about which God we are worshiping, but rather how much of God’s eternal Truth each religion contains. But to be fair we must complete the thought and discuss the Devil worshipers: now those people are indeed worshiping another god, out on another planet, in another solar system altogether.

  • Jews believe that God gave us the Torah and stepped back to let us interpret it. There is a Rabbinic story where a Rabbi invokes God to show that he back this rabbi’s view, even though the other rabbis disagree. God does give a sign that he agrees with this one rabbi, but the other rabbis say back off you gave the Torah to us and its our’s now. God says like a proud father, “My children, my children, they have beaten me.” ( This is a paraphrase of the story)

  • Fran, the Bible is replete with hell, but just to mention a few:
    It is a place of fire (Mt 5:22;18:9; Jas 3;6). The fire
    is unquenchable (Mk 9:43). Hell is a pit into which people are cast (Mt
    5;29; 18:9; Mk 9:45,47; Lk 12:5). Mt 10:28 even speaks of God destroying
    both soul and body in hell. Of course this does not mean annihilation, for
    in Mt 25:46 Jesus speaks of both heaven and hell as eternal, unending.

  • It’s hilarious that your claimed all-powerful creature is unable to just get rid of that “Devil”.

  • Yes, Greg. Your god designates hell according to your bible as his prime place of murderous vengeance with torture too. He deserves substantial time in prison.

  • Ken, You and I will both be Judged by Jesus upon our death. And for those who strove to Love him, abiding by his ways, will enjoy death, but those who ridicule him, will end up with the Devil, and be tormented forever. Excellent YouTube video of a man who ended up in hell; check it out: