Stories were blowing up the Internet last week saying that France was sending Laurent Stefanini — an “openly gay” ambassador — to the Vatican. More turmoil and surprise when the Vatican refused his appointment. We didn’t cover the story, though we did link to it in this piece.
The first interesting point is that Stefanini, before the press took hold of this affair, was not publicly known as a homosexual: reliable sources say he never touched the subject. He is 54, unmarried, without children; he also has no known companion. He is not known ever to have lobbied for gay rights or same-sex “marriage.” And he has continued not to express himself on the subject.
On the other hand he is known to be a practicing and even devout Catholic, having converted when in his thirties: he was confirmed by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois in 1998. Stefanini is one of the few remaining French people who still go to Mass every Sunday – 5 percent of the population – and has a profound interest for all things Catholic. He is also the official representative of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Order of Malta.
So many questions remain unanswered – and should probably have stayed that way: is Stefanini really “gay”? Is he a practicing homosexual? Those questions regard his private life and he has not taken the initiative of making the answers public. He was in any case 1st counselor of the French Embassy to the Holy See from 2001 to 2005, a post in which he earned the appreciation of the Curia, and occupied the post of special counselor for religious affairs at the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs on his return.
So what gives? Nobody who knows is coming forward:
A self-affirmed practicing Catholic, apparently supported by the Church’s hierarchy, is probably losing any chance of becoming French ambassador to the Holy See over media rumors concerning his real or supposed homosexuality. A mixture of true and false information has been spread whose consequences are embarrassing for all concerned, but which at the end of the day appear to be especially detrimental to the Church and to the French pro-traditional marriage movement. No one can say for certain whether he has been rejected by the Holy See or not, and if so, by whom – the Pope? – nor for what reason, if any. Apparently, a change of personnel at the Secretariat of State of the Holy See could explain the delay for Stefanini’s acceptance but that, again, is a conjecture.
Also: who had an interest in creating this public “scandal”? Is it a case of personal jealousy or resentment, or a move to put the Holy See in an uncomfortable position?
This is very, very odd.
People appear to be playing expectation games with Pope Francis. His now-infamous “Who am I to judge?” is quoted by homosexual activists everywhere. He is alleged to have met with a transsexual at the Vatican last December, he was reported to have met with homosexuals and transsexuals in a prison visit last month, and he also washed the feet of a transgender person on Holy Thursday. He has been seen in public with high-profile homosexual activist clergy, and has been praised in magazines like The Advocate, which ran a cover story featuring his face decorated with the “No H8” slogan. This led many to expect he wouldn’t blink at the appointment. Many were shocked — and even outraged — when the appointment was reported to have been rejected by the Vatican.
But pope Francis’s position on these issues has been complex, to say the least. He attacked gender theory just this week. In February, he was widely criticized for mentioning nuclear weapons and gender theory in the same list of evils. When it comes to this topic, he’s a moving target.
So one can’t help but wonder what is to be gained by gaming this story. Is it to tarnish the pope’s “gay-friendly” reputation? Is it to throw a curve-ball at Synod expectations? Does it have nothing to do with the Vatican and everything to do with French politics?
I don’t know. I don’t even care to speculate.
What I do know is that a man, who by this most recent accounting sounds to be a convert and a faithful Catholic, has had his name tarnished in the international media in apparent violation of the 8th Commandment. It’s still possible that there are things we don’t know, but if the available evidence discredits reports of him being “openly gay”, then his silence also speaks volumes about his character.
We may not have been very involved in spreading the misinformation here, but I wanted to play a role in correcting it.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.