Search form

Scroll To Top
News & Opinion

Op-Ed: Sorry, Vatican: Kim Davis Won (Round 1 at Least)

Pope Francis and Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi
AP Photo

The Vatican now says the Kentucky clerk was not provided special treatment, but my faith in the pope has already been questioned.

Pictured: Pope Francis and Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi

Le sigh. Y'all, this week has been an emotional and a spiritual rollercoaster for me, and I have the (papal mass) ticket to prove that I was strapped to the front of the ride.

Just a few days ago, I was among the millions of American Catholics (and non-Catholics) who not only rejoiced in Pope Francis's historic U.S. visit, but I, along with other LGBT parishioners, was fortunate enough to attend his Madison Square Garden Mass. That Mass, if you remember, featured openly gay TV personality Mo Rocca as a lector, which was seen as an implicit acknowledgment of the existence of LGBT Catholics within the Church.

RELATED | My Weekend With Francis

Well, fast forward to Tuesday night, where I sat gathered with other members of my parish's LGBT ministry leadership team. We had just spent a good half-hour dissecting Francis's visit when my buddy's phone vibrated with a news alert: Kim Davis's lawyers were claiming that the rogue Kentucky county clerk who, to this day, refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of a religious objection, met with the pontiff during the D.C. leg of his trip. Uh, come again?

First there was a feeling of skepticism. Nah, this couldn't be true. How the hell could she have had a private moment with Francis? ("She doesn't even go here!") Either this was another bold-faced lie from her legal team, or it was a complete exaggeration of actual events. Plus, the pope had just told reporters aboard his papal plane on Sunday that he didn't know the specifics of Davis's case, though he did say we should honor the rights of conscientious objectors. And honestly, what other answer would we have expected from him, especially since he leads one of the world's oldest religious institutions?

But that being said, was Francis lying about his relationship with Davis, who's viewed by many as the embodiment of anti-gay hate, to appease the very progressives who cheered his arrival? Or was he the victim of a blitz PR move made by an evangelical darling thirsty for press and continued relevance? I immediately stuffed my face with a homemade chocolate chip cookie because, clearly, I eat my feelings.

Soon after, each of us at the meeting seemingly became overwhelmed by sadness. Wow--most of us had just spent the entire weekend following this man around because we thought inclusion was central to his underlying message of love. Yes, we knew it'd be impossible to change Church doctrine through mere presence alone, but we at least felt comforted knowing that we were driving a necessary conversation about who worships and why. The idea that our efforts may have been fruitless was pretty crushing. Ugh, can someone please pass me the cookies again--I'm going through some stuff!

I tried my best not to think much about it for the remainder of the night since there was no official word from the Vatican, itself, about the alleged encounter. But then Kim Davis appeared on ABC's Good Morning America the next day to say that, during a 15-minute one-on-one, the pope had told her to "stay strong." She was apparently urged to remain silent about the rendezvous so as to not interfere with the then-glowing coverage surrounding Francis's visit. Before we knew it, the Vatican released an initial statement that said it would neither confirm nor deny the meeting, only to later say that, with no additional comment, it wouldn't deny its occurrence.

Now, the Holy See's blatant refusal to address the situation on Wednesday, in my opinion, completely changed the narrative of Pope Francis's visit. The joy I received just days earlier from hearing people shout, "Que viva el Papa!" was quickly replaced with the anger I felt upon watching my Christian brothers and sisters, led by Kim Davis, call me and my friends abominations to society. Church officials practically gave her the keys to the pope's Fiat and allowed her to drive away with his otherwise-bulletproof likeability quotient. That Kim Davis wielded that kind of power against the Vatican and its leader is both hysterical and terrifying. I understand that the Catholic Church's hierarchy doesn't quite live in the same world as we do, meaning one dominated by hashtags and click-bait articles, but it needs to recognize that the immediacy in which news spreads nowadays can be damaging to absolutely anyone, including Pope Francis.

And the Vatican let that feeling linger for two whole days with "Eye of the Tiger" playing on loop in the background. It wasn't until this morning that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi finally clarified what was speculated upon this entire week, saying that Kim Davis was not provided special treatment whatsoever, but instead benefited from Francis's "characteristic kindness and availability." This means that she was among dozens of people who had a brief meet-and-greet with the pontiff that's routine for all papal visits. Lombardi ended his statement by noting that 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." Pope Francis, meet Olivia Pope.

For their part, Davis's team is now disputing the Vatican's account, saying that the Holy See contacted the elected official first because Francis wanted to meet her. Davis's lawyer claims Vatican security even picked her up and brought her to the Vatican embassy where she then supposedly met with Francis in a separate room.

At this point, I don't know what to think. My faith is pulling me in one direction, while my pragmatism is taking me elsewhere. While I now believe that Pope Francis and the Vatican were both blindsided by what happened, it doesn't negate the fact that their silence forced devout LGBT Catholics, like me, to question their positioning within the Church. It does help, though, that the Holy See explicitly said today that the pope doesn't necessarily endorse Davis's actions. That, and we now know that the pope's sole audience while in D.C. was with a gay former student and his longtime partner--a meeting that was reportedly three weeks in the making so that Francis could personally give his ex-pupil a hug. Your move, Kim.

Follow Xorje Olivares on Twitter.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Xorje Olivares