I must admit to enjoying the general discomfiture being felt over the claims that Pope Francis had a private meeting Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk now notorious for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Almost as soon as the Pope left America after a visit saturated in softly stated pieties, it was reported that Davis and and her husband Joe had a private audience with the Vicar of Christ. The implications of a private audience in the context of a figure like the pope are considerable for those who have been granted it. Such an audience is fraught with interpretations.
The fact that the so-called meeting was spun in the US media as if the Pope’s convictions seamlessly coincided with those of Davis, particularly in the context of her extreme rejection of gay marriage, clearly had the potential to dilute the enormous success of the maiden papal visit to America.
In an extraordinary statement News.VA, the official Vatican network, quoted Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the head of the Holy See Press Office, as saying the following:
“The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:
Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.
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.”
In an terrific instance of someone being kind to be cruel, Father Lombardi says, “Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability.”
To be told that someone is meeting you as an act of kindness and availability along with several dozen others cannot be even remotely interpreted as a private audience where the Pope might have praised Davis for her stand.
It was necessary that the Holy See Press Office clarified the meeting as nothing more than the Pope being polite to those who seek to meet him. To be clear the Vatican’s position on gay marriage is not that different from Davis’s except that the incumbent Pope has successfully struck a tone, helped in no small measure by his cuddly charisma and dulcet voice, that sounds gentle.
Davis’s 15 minutes should have been long over but having tasted the heady potion that is fame one sympathizes with her if she wants to continue to take a few more sips.