This morning the Vatican formally distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis in a statement which declares that his meeting with her “should not be considered a form of support.” The Associated Press reports:
After days of confusion, the Vatican issued a statement Friday clarifying Francis’ Sept. 24 encounter with Davis, an Apostolic Christian who has become a focal point in the gay marriage debate in the U.S. In a statement, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis met with “several dozen” people at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington just before leaving for New York. Lombardi said such meetings are par for the course of any Vatican trip and are due to the pope’s “kindness and availability.” He said the pope only really had one “audience” in Washington: with former students and his family members. “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.
Davis said earlier this week that she and her husband met briefly with the pope at the Vatican’s nunciature in Washington and that he encouraged her to “stay strong.” She later told ABC: “Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we’re doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything.” The Vatican statement made clear the pope intended no such validation. News of the audience sent shockwaves through the U.S. church, with Davis’ supporters saying it showed the pope backed her cause and opponents questioning whether the pope had been duped into meeting with her and truly knew the details of her case. Initially the Vatican only reluctantly confirmed the meeting but offered no comment. On Friday, Lombardi issued a fuller statement to “contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired.
Last night CBS News reported that a Vatican insider says the Pope was “blindsided” by the meeting.
A highly placed source inside the Vatican claims the Pope was blindsided. It is a meeting some charge was orchestrated by the man who lived there, the Pope’s representative here, Carlo Maria Vigano. Not even the Papal Spokesman Federico Lombardi knew about it ahead of time. Nor did the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which would have opposed it. Others claim the Pope knew about the meeting and had ordered Vatican diplomats, perhaps even Vigano, to set it up. CBS 2’s Vatican source doesn’t think so. A close advisor to Pope Francis tweeted that the Pope was, in his words, “exploited” by those who set up what the CBS 2 source says was a “meeting that never should have taken place.” Some call it an attempt by highly placed church leaders in the U.S. to diminish the impact of the Pope’s visit.
Also yesterday Esquire Magazine speculated that Pope Francis was “swindled” into the meeting by his own enemies within the Vatican. That story also blames Vigano and notes that he participated in NOM’s hate march earlier this year.
The man is a real player within the institutional church. He first came to prominence as a whistleblower during one of the several investigations of the Vatican Bank, which may be what got him exiled to this godless Republic in the first place. Despite that fact, Vigano is well-known to be a Ratzinger loyalist and he always has been a cultural conservative, particularly on the issue of marriage equality. In April, in a move that was unprecedented, Vigano got involved with an anti-marriage equality march in Washington sponsored by the National Association For Marriage. (And, mirabile dictu, as we say around Castel Gandolfo at happy hour, one of the speakers at this rally was Mat Staver, who happens now to be Kim Davis’s lawyer.) In short, Vigano, a Ratzinger loyalist, who has been conspicuous and publicly involved in the same cause as Kim Davis and her legal team, arranges a meeting with Davis that the legal team uses to its great public advantage.
It will be VERY enjoyable to watch the Liberty Counsel attempt to spin today’s bombshell from the Vatican, which will surely set off a firestorm of inquires about who actually set up the meeting.
NOTE: Also complicit here, in my mind, is ABC News. It was their reporter who lobbed that “conscientious objector” question on the papal plane as the Pope departed Philadelphia. And then the next day it was ABC News who somehow had the exclusive interview with Kim Davis. This was probably not a coincidence.
UPDATE: Here is Reuters’ take on today’s bombshell.
Pope Francis did not ask to meet a Kentucky county clerk who had been jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and did not offer her unconditional support, the Vatican said on Friday. Looking to limit controversy after last week’s meeting in Washington between the pope and Kim Davis, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said she was one of “several dozen” people who had been invited by the Vatican ambassador to see Francis. A senior Vatican official, who declined to be named, said there was a “sense of regret” within the Holy See over the encounter, which sparked widespread debate in the United States, overshadowing almost all other aspects of the pope’s visit. He added that Davis had been in a line of people the pope had met at the Vatican embassy in Washington before he left for New York. “The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature (Vatican embassy) was with one of his former students and his family,” the statement said.