In January this year, the French government under François Holland sent in their nomination of Ambassador to the Vatican - Laurent Stéfanini. The Vatican has yet to accept this nomination, and many will consider this a sign of rejection. The reason for the cold front towards Stéfanini, as many believe, is due to his sexual orientation.
François Holland and Laurent Stéfanini | Source: The Guardian
Stéfanini is a 55-year-old practising Catholic, he has been described as an exemplary candidate and a man of exceptional culture. He is a senior diplomat under the Holland government and chief of protocol, he also happens to be gay.
The Vatican, which is clinging to its conservative view of the world, believes homosexuality is a sin and therefore homosexuals have no place in the Holy See.
This controversy could tarnish Pope Francis's image of being more tolerant than his predecessors. When asked of his opinions about the "gay lobby" in his church, Francis replied saying, "who am I to judge". His words gave people the hope that his church might become a little more accepting of gay people.
This would not be the first time the Vatican has rejected an ambassador for controversial reasons. In 2009 the Catholic church rejected three nominations from the Obama administration because they supported abortion. It rejected a nomination from Argentina because the candidate was divorced and lived with his new partner and another from France who was gay and had a civil union with his partner.
A Vatican source told the Catholic news service in 2009, "for Catholic ambassadors, there is the question of the matrimonial situation. But outside of that, I don't think there are other criteria".
If Stéfanini has been rejected because he is gay, it is another massive blow to the LGBT community. It is also a stain in the well varnished image of the more tolerant and liberal Catholic church under Pope Francis.
On the other hand
In another part of the world, the leader of what some may consider a different kind of church - the World Bank - has gone out of his way to support the LGBT community. World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim along with his board of directors blocked a $90 million loan to Uganda in response to anti-homosexuality laws passed by their government.
Jim Yong Kim told Buzzfeed that the loan which was delayed last February, has now been officially dumped, and the Ugandan government has withdrawn their request for funding.
Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay bill that strengthens already existing strict laws against homosexuality by imposing a life sentence for certain violations and making it a crime to not report anyone breaking the law.
Kim referred to the Bank's interest in updating safeguards for human rights and the environment to guide the Bank's lending system. Kim said, "we have to do an assessment of how much new safeguards will cost, and we have to find the money to support that". The proposed safeguards include evaluating the impact on the LGBT community, this is the first time the Bank has identified them has a vulnerable minority.
The World Bank's board unanimously agreed upon all these safeguards despite having members that belong to countries with similar anti-homosexuality laws as Uganda. However, Kim insisted that these members have ensured him they will not let the same situation occur in their country as it does in Uganda.
The World Bank which is in actuality a poverty-fighting institution, does not usually get involved in countries' internal politics or in issues such as gay rights, in order to avoid antagonising its 188 member countries. It is therefore all the more important that they involved themselves in such a prominent manner with Uganda.
There are over 83 countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality, out of which India happens to be one. India's Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement in December 2011, ruled Homosexuality to be a criminal offence, resulting in extreme backlash from the LGBT community, NGOs as well as some politicians .
Today, when religion and money go hand in hand, you can't get away from a temple fast enough before having to pay a "donation" to the priests. Yet in this case, religion and money could not be further apart. The Catholic church has once again shown the world where it stands on homosexuality and its insistence on remaining the beacon of intolerance. The World Bank on the other hand has committed itself to safeguarding the rights of individuals and persecuted minorities. It has gone out of its way and for that it should be commended.
Feature image source: stpetersf.com