Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pope Francis and Kim Davis

I recently did a post entitled, "Why Kim Davis is Wrong."  In my post, I stated that as a Christian, I absolutely agreed with Kim Davis in her refusal as Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk of Courts to sign marriage licenses for same sex marriage.  However, as exemplified by St. Thomas More, I contended that she needed to resign her governmental position.  Just as St. Thomas More resigned because he was not morally able to fulfill his duties as chancellor of England because he could not support the immoral actions of Kings Henry VIII, so Kim Davis should resign because of her moral inability to fulfill her duties as Clerk of Courts.

It would now seem that Pope Francis has weighed in on this matter, and many have interpreted his words and alleged actions as full support of Kim Davis.  In an interview on the plane returning from Philadelphia to Rome, Terry Moran of ABC News asked Pope Francis:
Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples? Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?
There can be no doubt that this was a question about Kim Davis. Pope Francis answered this question by stating that conscientious objection is a fundamental right:
I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection. But, yes, I can say conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying 'this right that has merit, this one does not.' It (conscientious objection) is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the Chancon Roland, when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font – the baptismal font or the sword. And, they had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.
It is no accident that the Holy Father frames this issue in terms of "conscientious objection."   Normally this term is applied to those who refuse military service because they are morally opposed to war.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "conscientious objector" as "a person who refuses to serve in the armed forces or bear arms on moral or religious grounds." Conscientious objectors do not serve in the military.  Such persons are allowed to serve in another capacity in order to fulfill their military obligation.  You will never find a conscientious objector in the military.

The editor of the interview explained the reference made by Pope Francis in his statement:
Editor’s note: He’s referring to provencal poem: Song of Roland in which Crusaders forced Muslims to choose between being baptized or being killed by the sword. The Pope says they were not allowed to choose conscientious objection.      

So Pope Francis is telling us that all people have a fundamental right to live according to their beliefs and they should not be punished for doing so. (Side note; many of those who are applauding Pope Francis for his "support" of Kim Davis go ballistic at this definition of religious liberty. Many conservative/traditional Catholics refuse to support religious liberty for those who do not believe as they do and, in fact, this is a major reason why the SSPX split from the Church.)  However, by framing this issue in terms of "conscientious objection", Pope Francis makes it quite clear that living by our beliefs would exclude us from participating in any role in society that would force us to violate our beliefs. As I have just stated, you will never find a conscientious objector in the military.

We are now told that Pope Francis secretly met with Kim Davis while he was here in the United States.  There was no interpreter at the meeting, and no official record of the meeting was made.  It was a very short meeting according to Kim Davis, less than 15 minutes.  Given the Pope's limited knowledge of English, it would seem that the conversation would also be very limited.

We are not told how this meeting came about.  It seems fairly obvious that it was Kim Davis and her supporters who set up the meeting.  How else to explain the lack of an interpreter or any official acknowledgment of the meeting?  Supposedly, according to Davis's lawyer, Matt Staver, the only photos of the meeting, if they actually do exist, are in the possession of the Vatican, who is not releasing the photos.  It is interesting to note that Pope Francis, who never refuses selfies, did not allow Kim Davis this opportunity.

[UPDATE:  I see now that Kim Davis is alleging that Pope Francis requested the meeting.  I really have a hard time believing that since the Holy Father did not even have an interpreter at the meeting and the Vatican refuses to even discuss it.  However, if Pope Francis did request the meeting, he obviously wanted to keep it just very private, and not exploit the meeting, which Kim Davis and her supporters have done.]

Further, the fact that the Vatican refuses to confirm or deny the meeting strongly indicates that while Pope Francis does not want to discredit Kim Davis in any way, neither will he personally give public support to her.  His many public statements against same sex marriage make it abundantly clear that he is in moral agreement with her position, and his statement on the plane makes it clear that he feels she should not be punished for her moral beliefs.

Kim Davis described the meeting as follows:
“Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable,” her statement continued. “He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong’.”
But does this mean Pope Francis feels Kim Davis should keep her position as Clerk of Courts when she refuses to fulfill her duties in that position?  The Holy Father's statement about conscientious objection makes it plain that he feels she should be allowed to serve in a way that will not force her to violate her conscience.  That would exclude her from the Clerk of Courts positions, just as a CO is excluded from serving in the military.

I find it fascinating that the same people who are so quick to judge and condemn Pope Francis when he acts in ways they don't like, are now the ones who are applauding him because of what they interpret as his support for Kim Davis. They never actually hear what the Pope says because they filter everything through their own viewpoint. They are always right, so if the pope agrees with them, then he is right. But when he says something they don't agree with, then he is wrong. They never step back and evaluate their own positions and beliefs. They never question themselves in any way. As a result, they never really hear the Pope, or anyone else with whom they disagree.  And this is just as true for liberal extremists.  

It's just the same old same old.


  1. Nicely said. Just because Pope Francis defends conscientious objection does not mean that he agrees with Davis. The fact that Francis gave a rosary to an evangelical Protestant indicates that he was far from being briefed on her situation. Like you, I found it very interesting that Francis mentioned the Song of Roland during his response to the journalist's question. Of course, now that the Vatican has become aware of the media reports, it has sought to distance itself from the pro-Kim Davis camp.(

    Besides, it would also appear that Francis also met with a former student of his in no less a place than the Vatican embassy. Big deal? Well yes, because this student is gay, and was accompanied by his boyfriend ( This does not mean that Francis supports same-sex acts or marriage, any more that meeting with Davis means he agrees that government officials should remain in office and yet refuse to carry out the task for which they were appointed.

    Pope Francis is first, and foremost, a pastor. In imitation of Christ, effective pastors reach out to embrace all people, regardless of who they might be, or where they are in life; they draw people to Christ Himself. Such pastors know that it is this meeting with Christ (not condemnations or lists of rules) which brings about any needed conversion.

    1. Exactly. Like his boss, Jesus Christ, the Holy Father will never turn away anyone, and will always offer words of encouragement. We also know that in the case of Kim Davis, there is a certain agreement because of his many statements in the past about the dangers of same sex marriage. However, that certainly does not mean he agrees with all of her actions, which has been made abundantly clear in official statements made by the Vatican.

      We all need to learn that following Christ does not mean "taking sides" and make statements. To follow Christ means allowing the love of Christ flow through us to others in order to bring people to the saving truth of the Gospel. That is exactly what Pope Francis does, and that is what people respond to. As you state so well, it is not condemnations, lists or rules that will bring about conversion, but only Christ Himself, who then enables us to follow the rules.


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