In a story that threatened to undo much of the goodwill earned by Pope Francis during his recent trip to the U.S., we found out this week that he had a private meeting with Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis before he left.
But what does that mean?
We don’t know. Not that we’re going to stop speculating because of it.
Was the Pope supporting Kim Davis? Did he know who she was and what she did?
For a lot of atheists, this was confirmation that the Pope — who opposes marriage equality and believes homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” — and Kim Davis had far more in common than the media would have you believe.
For the Vatican, this was yet another papal error requiring some backtracking.
Just look at the statements from Vatican officials:
“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement released on Friday morning.
At the Vatican on Friday, a spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, said the invitation had been extended by the office of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the nuncio, or envoy, in Washington, not from Rome.
Father Rosica said of the controversy: “I would simply say: Her case is a very complex case. It’s got all kinds of intricacies. Was there an opportunity to brief the pope on this beforehand? I don’t think so. A list is given — these are the people you are going to meet.”
There’s the Vatican spin for you: Someone else arranged the meeting. The Pope probably didn’t know much about Davis before meeting her, other than she’s a “persecuted Christian.” He told her to “stay strong.” That’s it.
But for someone of the Pope’s stature to meet — in private, no less — with someone like Davis without getting a more detailed debrief of who she is? That seems unlikely. If President Obama met privately with someone who refused to sell guns to Christians, and offered her words of encouragement, you’d never hear the end of it from conservatives. Do you think they’d believe for a second that Obama had no clue who this person was?
For the Vatican’s story to make sense, how many people close to the Pope had to drop the ball? Surely enough of them knew exactly what was happening.
Yet the Vatican is standing firm on the ignorance claim:
Asked on Friday if the Vatican press office had been unaware that Ms. Davis had met the pope, Father Rosica said: “No, but I think we may not have been aware of the full impact of the meeting. It is very difficult sometimes when you are looking at things in America from here.”
Are you kidding me? Kim Davis, a government employee, denied legal marriage licenses to gay couples because Jesus told her to. That’s it. That’s the whole story. You don’t need a translator to explain the nuance in that one.
It’s not the first time Vatican officials have had to backtrack on the Pope’s actions. But usually, it’s because he said something progressive that the Church wanted to walk back.
This is the first time I can think of when the Vatican had to do damage control because Pope Francis veered too far to the right.