The Pope’s spokesman is trying to put some distance between Francis and the controversy surrounding his Washington, D.C. meeting with Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis.
In a statement issued in Rome, Jesuit Federico Lombardi said, “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 statement is further affirmation from the Vatican that Francis did indeed meet with Davis. All reports have confirmed that the meeting was approximately 15 minutes in length, rather than a handshake in the long line as Reuters is reporting this morning.
ABC News and other outlets are reporting that the meeting should not be considered support for her refusal to issue license to gay couples. This is not what Lombardi said.
The Vatican spokesman chose his words carefully. By stating that the meeting should not be considered support for her position “in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Lombardi is allowing the notion that the meeting can be understood as general support for Davis’ cause, but not necessarily papal support for every detailed aspect of the legal case.
While progressives are attempting to make much of this clarification, legal analysts observe that a public figure who is outside of the case (and indeed, the country) cannot be expected to know or endorse every detail of a legal case that has evolved and changed and is still evolving today. It is worth noting that Kim Davis’ attorneys never claimed such a blanket endorsement; rather, they have simply made public that the meeting happened, that she received two Rosaries, and that the Pope encouraged her and told her to “stay strong.”
The particulars in the case are complicated, even for U.S. legal analysts not involved in the case. How were the marriage licenses signed when Davis was in jail and how are they being signed now? Media reports have not made this clear. Equally fuzzy were media reports of Davis’ conduct before jail – did she refuse to allow even willing staff members to issue licenses or was it just that she requested that her name not be given as authorization on the papers? These are the minute issues that Pope Francis could not be well apprised of.
“Progressive” Catholics inside and outside of the institutional Church are furious that Pope Francis scheduled a meeting with Kim Davis and gave her encouragement in her stand. Since news of the meeting broke have been attempting to spin the story to downplay the meeting.
Michael Sean Winters of the far left National Catholic Reporter postulated that Pope had been tricked into meeting a stranger and giving her a blessing.
Jesuit priest James Martin of the lefty America Magazine said the Pope had a lot of meaningless meetings and this was simply another one that he likely knew nothing about. In one of his witty quips for which he has become famous Martin said the Pope met actor Mark Wahlberg but that doesn’t mean he endorsed the movie “Ted.”
Charles Pierce of Esquire Magazine, one of Winters’ and Martin’s allies in the campaign to undermine the visit, said the Pope was “swindled” into meeting Davis by a cabal of cardinals from the John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI era. He charges that Cardinals in the “Clan of the Red Beanies” engineered the whole thing right down to planting a question in the mouth of ABC’s Terry Moran about whether the Pope endorses conscientious objection even for government employees, to which the Pope answered strongly in the affirmative.
Progressives were working very hard to deliver what one observer described as “head shot” to the Pope-Davis story. Progressives have charged Davis supporters with using the meeting to press their agenda of consciences objection to same-sex marriage though it appears that in their attempts to undermine the meeting they could fairly be described as advancing their own agenda in opposition to such conscientious objection.
For their part, the Davis team has been fairly circumspect about the meeting with the Pope, emphasizing the pastoral aspect to the meeting. He gave her rosaries that she passed along to her parents. They hugged and prayed and he encouraged her. They have not said much more than that. Her team has never said the meeting with the Pope constituted an endorsement of her legal action “in all its particular and complex aspects.”
It should be noted that neither Kim Davis nor her team asked for the meeting with Francis. They were invited out of the blue by the Pope’s representative in the United States and were led to believe this came directly from Pope Francis himself, and now she is seemingly thrown under the bus. One observer said that’s an odd way to have treated a guest who did nothing wrong except accept an invitation.
Whether or not the pope intended to step into the American culture wars, that’s exactly what has happened.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse