I have been openly irreverent and disrespectful regarding Pope Francis’s “secret meeting” with Kim Davis. It fosters the impression that I give the meeting as much consideration as it takes to flick from one website to another to find the latest, most interesting topic of the moment. That perception is wrong.
It offends me deeply that there was a meeting between Pope Francis and Kim Davis. This Pope, on his first visit to America, brought hope, inspiration, compassion, humility and humanity to the Roman Catholic church, to its following and to millions who have had nothing but contempt and criticism for how the Church has conducted its affairs in the past.
I am a Roman Catholic. I was raised following the precepts of the church and was able to follow them until I reached young adulthood. I am no longer a practicing Catholic because parts of the life I live now is in conflict with the teachings of the church. I feel sorrow and loss because of this, but I can not reconcile how I live and the people who are most important to me with what is asked of me in order to fully observe.
Let me be clear: I have no anger or resentment toward the church, I have deep faith due to how I was raised, and I have no regret that I was raised as Catholic. I respect and love my parents, my family, my friends who are devout. I love that I can attend mass anywhere in the world and I would know what was happening during the service. It gives me great comfort.
Pope Francis has, from the start of his leadership, taken the church in a more open, compassionate and inclusive direction. The highlights of his priorities of his papacy are caring for the poor, caring for the planet, world peace and creating a church that is more welcoming to those who have felt abandoned, disillusioned, disenfranchised. As the world Catholic leader, he has begun to change the perception of the Catholic church from closed, greedy, limited, damaging, and an institution that protects child molesters while turning its back on millions of people it damaged. That is a huge accomplishment.
Pope Francis has not changed any of the laws of the church. It is still operates under the same precepts that stood for centuries before he stepped in. This isn’t a tutorial on Catholicism, so feel free to google it now if you need more information.
What I am writing about here is my outrage that the final note of his visit to America is filled with this “secret” meeting with the loathsome Kim Davis. The story is still evolving, and probably will for days, and we may never fully know the details of how the meeting happened, who arranged it, how long she was with him and what was really said. Both camps are changing the details and circumstances with each report of what happened.
This meeting, however it happened, galls me because it tainted the messages of his visit: care for the poor, care for the planet, world peace. There were dialogues regarding punishment of the abusers and molesters, of truly giving voice to the victims of rape and abuse, and of providing more humane and rehabilitative treatment of prisoners. There was no dialogue, despite great hope, despite Pope Francis responding, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about homosexuality, about recognizing gay marriage in the Catholic Church. Therefore, Pope Francis’s meeting with Kim Davis appears to be the blanket statement. If he did tell her to “stay strong”, there’s the stance.
Here are a few more things that gall me about Kim Davis meeting Pope Francis: she is divisive. She is mean. She has a position of power and wielded that power to deny American citizens a fundamental right according to her personal religious belief. She works as a county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky and she decided, based on her religious beliefs, that she can’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Her stance directly conflicted with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015), holding that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution . Ms. Davis spent 5 days in jail because of her defiance of the law due to her belief that gay marriage is against her religion.
Say what you will about how she stands by her faith, but here is the bottom line: she works in a government job and gets paid in federal tax dollars, which, to my knowledge and after a lot of searching, it doesn’t appear she refused to pocket any of her pay checks. If her faith guides her and rules her actions, than she should step down from her position. Instead, she used her position of power to deny a civil right bestowed on all Americans: the right to marry.
I think it is a travesty that she got the media attention she did. I think she should have been moved to a different position, or fired because she would not do her job, and the only thing you hear when anyone says her name is the sound of crickets chirping.
I do not think she should be punished for her beliefs. She has every right to believe what she wants, as strongly as she wants, with as much fervor as she can muster, but there’s no way on earth I believe she should impose her faith to deny anyone who seeks to rightfully marry in the United States of America. This is who we are, this is the country we live in, with all the freedom, rights, and liberties it entails.
It’s been over two days since this story broke. Details differ between the church and the Davis camp with each clarification of the meeting. In looking back on his visit, the thing that surprises almost as much a the actual meeting is that it took so long to surface. I mean, Pope Francis had media coverage of every single moment he was here! How did no one carrying a camera not see her 15 minutes of Pope audience? And I’d like to point out that Ms. Davis is notoriously recognizable. She’s also not exactly a package of peanuts either–not like she could slip into under the coffee cart to get close to the Pope unnoticed. There are serious gaps in the details (and you know who lives there, right?) and I don’t think we’re going to get much of the truth from either side.
The arc of Pope Francis’s time as the leader of the Catholic church will be, I hope and pray, for years. I don’t have any expectations that the sacrament of marriage will change under his leadership but I do hope that he will continue to reach out to the poor, the marginalized, the suffering, the victims.
I also hope Kim Davis falls off the face of the earth–or at lease the media map. Her fifteen minutes, however she spent them, are up. I’ve seen enough of her and all she stands for, thank you.