THE VATICAN AND FRANCOIS HOLLANDE: A COMMENT
"In the two years that he has occupied the throne of St Peter, Pope Francis has been an inspirational figure for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Following the conservative reigns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he has been hailed for trying to make the church more open, inclusive and accountable. At a time of global economic uncertainty, his personal humility sets him apart from many world leaders. Yet a diplomatic impasse between France and the Vatican over the nomination of a gay French diplomat as envoy to the Holy See risks damaging his reputation. In January, France announced that it would send Laurent Stefanini, the head of protocol for President François Hollande, to be its new ambassador to the Vatican. Mr Stefanini is well qualified for the post. He is a practising Catholic and served in the French embassy to the Holy See between 2001 and 2005. The Vatican normally approves such applications within six weeks of the request being made. Its failure to do so after three months has prompted growing speculation that it is dragging its feet because the nominee is homosexual. To many Vatican watchers, this diplomatic stand-off is somewhat unexpected. In the past two years, Pope Francis has relaxed some of the church’s anathemas on matters of sexuality and faith, making conciliatory remarks about gays and atheists. A comment early on in his pontificate — “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” — struck an unusual new tone on homosexuality. The slowness in approving Mr Stefanini may reflect little more than the creakiness of the Vatican’s centuries-old bureaucracy. But further delay can only confirm that the Holy See is blocking the envoy on grounds of his sexuality. This would greatly damage both the pontiff and the Church".Leader, "A diplomatic test for the Vatican on gay rights". The Financial Times. 17 April 2015, in www.ft.com.
"I come now to the actual procedure which governs the appointment of a diplomatic envoy from one State to another. I shall take as my example of the usual practice the system adopted in the British Foreign Service. The head of some mission retires, or is transferred elsewhere, and it becomes necessary to choose his successor....Having decided on a suitable person, the Secretary of State then writes him a private letter offering the post. It is possible that the incumbent may plead ill-health or domestic reasons and may asked to be excused. The British Foreign Office is considerate in such cases. If he accepts, the next step is to obtain the agrement of the country to which he is to be sent. It is customary to make private enquiries before asking officially whether a given individual is likely to prove persona grata. The government to which the enquiry is addressed will, if in any doubt, consult their own embassy as to the character and the antecedents of the person suggested. If the agrement is refused, some mortification will result, and the rejected envoy will be glad if he has had sufficient discretion not to inform his friends of the offer which had been made to him".Harold Nicolson. Diplomacy. (1939), pp. 185-186. The idiocy of the comments in the ultra-bien pensant Financial Times speaks for itself. It is readily self-evident from the simplest knowledge of diplomatic protocol that the authorities in Paris knew quite well that the nomination of a full-fledged and public pederast as Ambassador to the Vatican was a complete non possumus. Pur et simple. Instead of dealing with the matter in the time honoured method of diplomacy as outlined above by Harold Nicolson, the Hollande regime, the most unpopular government in France since the 1950's has decided for purely domestic political purposes to make the matter a cause célèbre. What is truly noxious however is the complete and unmitigated hypocrisy and gall of the Hollande government in the entire matter. As the likelihood that Paris would (to take a few readily available examples): nominate the same individual to head the embassy in say Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Turkey among other places, is absolutely nil. Or for that matter nominate someone who was a practicing Jew or for that matter an openly practicing Christian to Saudi Arabia or other Arab / Muslim countries? The question answers itself. Unlike in those other cases, Paris knows quite well that the Vatican serves as a convenient and harmless punching bag. Putting paid to any validity of the charges formulated by the dull and rather sluggish minds of the Financial Times.