The dust has settled on Popeapalooza ’15, and in the wake of Papa’s American Popeathon, some big questions linger about the secret, not secret, public/private meeting between Pope Francis and Kentucky’s own Kim Davis that did or did not but actually did occur.
Like all good mysteries, there are many conflicting accounts, with the Vatican’s official stance remaining fairly tight-lipped. The Catholic Church hiding behind secrets? We’re just as surprised as you.
Earlier in the week Davis gave an interview to ABC News describing a private meeting she and her husband had with Francis at the Vatican’s nunciature in Washington, saying, “Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we’re doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything.”
Now days after Davis’ account raised eyebrows on the left and the right, the Vatican has released its “official” version of what happened.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis met with “several dozen” people, Davis among them, at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington just before leaving for New York.
Lombardi claims, in contrast to Davis’ account, that Francis never held a private or even semi-private audience with her — that it was more of a lineup-style, “Hey, how ya doin’? Looking great — have a rosary. Stay strong. Ciao,” sort of set-up.
“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,” Lombardi said.
But as evidenced by the millions who crowded the streets of the pope’s various stateside pitstops, you don’t just casually wander into the Vatican’s D.C. embassy to meet the Father of Fathers.
According to Davis’ lawyer, Mat Staver (never trust a Mat with one “t”), an unnamed Vatican official made contact with Davis on Sept. 14, the day she returned to work from her stint in jail, to invite her to the event, saying the pope wanted to meet her.
Staver also adds a bit of cloak-and-dagger intrigue befitting the Catholic Church — he says Vatican security told Davis to change her hairstyle so she wouldn’t be recognized, as the church wanted to keep the meeting a secret. Either that or the Vatican was just looking for any excuse to get Davis to do something with that hair.
In Staver’s account, Davis met with Francis in a separate room at the embassy apart from the lineup, which would make sense if the Vatican really was trying to keep the meeting hush-hush.
But whichever story sounds more plausible — and we aren’t exactly brimming with trust for either the Vatican or Davis — Davis was given an audience (however brief) with the leader of one of the oldest religious institutions in the world. So, how did that happen?
Don’t expect much more out of the Vatican. Lombardi declined to say who invited Davis or how much Francis knew about her story before meeting her. And when the Vatican declines to share something it clearly knows, it’s a safe assumption they aren’t comfortable with the truth.
The Associated Press points to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican nuncio in Washington, as a likely contender for who did the actual reaching out to Davis on Francis’ behalf.
Vigano, a former top Vatican administrator who was transferred to the United States after he exposed corruption that cost the Holy See millions, has since taken up the so-called “religious freedom” torch.
According to the AP, “In a 2012 speech to the University of Notre Dame, Vigano denounced threats to religious liberty in the U.S. and abroad, citing a public school curriculum presenting same-sex relations as ‘natural and wholesome.'”
Best case scenario? Antigay factions within the American church arranged for Davis to receive face-time with their supreme leader, who was mostly clueless about the details.
That’s a pretty uninspiring best case. If the debate is over how much the Catholic Church opposes gay marriage, we don’t expect any endorsements from this or any other pope.
The only pope we’re interested in is named Olivia and she gets things DONE.