Who Am I to Judge You Degenerates? – Leonardo Tondelli

For all those falling over themselves to kiss Pope Francis’s … ring, here’s an Italian writer’s comment on the “clemency” of Papa Francesco. From the pages of the Italian newspaper, L’Unità.


Francis and his carry on

1 August 2013

There’s no rule that says you have to play the cynic all the time, even if that’s the sort of thing that works so well in blogs. If everybody loves Pope Francis, he must be doing something right. In fact, being likable is hardly a minor virtue, especially when you’re the head of an enterprise whose mission statement is universal. If the poverty theme is working out for everyone, if it gets the public’s attention better than the war against relativism that Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, got bogged down in, then hats off to a guy who knew how to gauge the winds of change.

Meanwhile, of course, the Church is still an ultra-rich and ultra-secretive organization, but we all just need a little patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s not as though Pope Francis can tidy up the entire Vatican in a few months.

And in the meantime, the Pope talks – what else is he supposed to do? – and he hardly needs more than a “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” to be able to cash in on the support of irreproachable intellectuals and lay people alike. Is that really all it takes to get a metaphysical pessimist philosopher and academic like Massimo Cacciari to fawn over you? A nice, friendly smile and an “I’ll carry my own luggage, thanks”?

A Pope beloved by the people is hardly a novelty. We had one for more than twenty years, and we know that achieving international superstar status doesn’t necessarily make you more progressive. Not even close. John Paul II organized rallies and concerts all over the place, and yet on the questions of contraception or divorce or any other topic, he didn’t shift a single millimeter.

There’s no question that there’s a great – an enormous – desire in the air for a revolutionary Pope and for revolution in general. That a lot of lay people are willing to give a new pontiff the benefit of the doubt is no surprise; especially in a time of overall crisis, hope is a rare commodity. That there are some gay men and women out there who want to believe in the possibility of change is also more than understandable. No one says gay people have all got to be secular militants.

But when even intellectuals and scholars fall for this stuff, well, that’s just sad. Because what good are they, when all is said and done, if they fail to provide counterpoint, if they don’t dismantle the rhetoric that transforms every trivial word and gesture into some sort of epiphany?

A Pope who proves he’s capable of beating around the central concept in such a way as to turn a condemnation of homosexuality into a kind word for the gays is not entirely a shock. He’s a bishop, a priest, and a communications professional; we can admire the technical skill involved, just like when soccer fans applaud a player on the opposing team who dribbles the ball with unusual daring.

But how it possible that not one single journalist, Vatican expert, or philosopher, faced with Pope Francis’s rhetorical question, “Who am I to judge?” failed to respond in the only sensible way possible?

Who are you to judge? You’re the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the one of whom the Bible says “whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). You’ve got the emblem of the Vatican with the keys to Paradise at your back, which means that it’s your job, you and the organization over which you preside, to establish who gets to go there and who doesn’t and, it logically follows, who is going to hell and who isn’t.

And since one of your predecessors made sure the Catechism of the Catholic Church was modified to read that homosexual relations are a “grave depravity” and that “tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (Section 2357) … well, dear Pope Francis, this is no time for the old duck-and-shuffle. If you aren’t going to judge them, who is?

I know. Technically, that judgment belongs to Christ himself. You’re more like a lawyer than a judge anyway. But it’s worth remembering that the fallback position of your defensive line is the requirement that all gay Catholics in the entire world remain celibate (“Homosexual persons are called to chastity,” Section 2359). That’s how it’s been, and absolutely nothing has changed.

Ratzinger could have told us exactly the same thing. But if the German Pope had said so, with the very same words, doubtless the newspaper headlines would have been entirely different. That’s the way the economy of popularity works, as we are all now aware.

Perhaps instead each of us, in his or her own way, could undertake at least some small act of opposition. Not for the pleasure of being one of those people who feel they have to play the cynic all the time but because, otherwise, what good are we?


Leonardo Tondelli was born in Modena. For more than ten years, he has written one of Italy’s most long-winded blogs (http://leonardo.blogspot.com).

English translation by ProvenWrite.


Posted on 2 August 2013, in Queer ... Plus All Those Acronyms, Translation ... sometimes it is a beautiful thing...., You Can Always Count on a Little Homophobia and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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