Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed in early September for refusing to sign the marriage licenses of homosexual couples, met secretly with Pope Francis at his request in Washington D.C.
The stunning clandestine meeting was first revealed by Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican. “It was, arguably, the most significant meeting, symbolically, of the entire trip,” Moynihan noted. “It should, therefore, be brought to the attention of the public, both in the Church, and in the secular world.”
Vatican officials recognized the meeting might spark controversy or risk politicizing a pastoral trip, and that is why it was kept secret, according to Moynihan.
But Francis also had a desire to meet with a person who has taken a controversial stand due to her conscience — even at her risk of jail – and vilification by a broad swath of the political landscape.
On Thursday afternoon, September 24, following his historic address to Congress, Davis and her husband, Joe, were sneaked into the Vatican Embassy by car.
When Pope Francis entered the room, Davis greeted him and the two embraced, according to Moynihan.
“The Pope spoke in English,” she told Moynihan. “There was no interpreter.
“Thank you for your courage,” Pope Francis said to her.
“Thank you, Holy Father,” she replied.
“I hugged him, and he hugged me back,” she told Moynihan. “It was an extraordinary moment.”
“Stay strong,” the Pontiff told her. He gave Davis a rosary as a gift.
“I broke into tears. I was deeply moved,” she told Moynihan. “Then he said to me, ‘Please pray for me.’ And I said to him, ‘Please pray for me also, Holy Father.’ And he assured me that he would pray for me.”
Davis said she would give her rosary to her father, who is a Catholic.
The meeting lasted about 15 minutes. Pope Francis was accompanied by security guards, aides and photographers. Matthew D. Staver, an attorney for Davis, said he expected to receive photographs of the meeting from the Vatican soon, according to the New York Times.
Human law vs Natural law
At the Pope’s departure from the U.S. on September 27, Terry Moran of ABC News, asked, “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?
“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection,” Pope Francis replied. “But, yes, I can say the 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.”
“Would that include government officials as well?” Moran asked.
“It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right,” Pope Francis said.
“The meeting with the Holy Father was a moment of consolation to Kim,” Moynihan notes. “It strengthened her conviction, she told me, to obey the law of God, before the law of man.”
“It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that, when the human law contradicts the natural law, it is not a valid law,” Moynihan continued. “This encounter between Pope Francis and Kim Davis takes on new importance since the ACLU (the American Civil Liberties Union) has asked that Kim be held in contempt of court.”
“This means that, should the judge agree with the ACLU, Kim could again in coming days be ordered to be held in prison.”
“In this sense, the Pope on September 24 clearly “wrapped his protective mantle” around Kim Davis, discreetly, in private, in a way completely hidden from the world, but in a way that was deeply moving for her personally, as a person of conscience.”
Gay activists outraged
The meeting with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, and comments by the pope on Monday, may spur action by local officials across the United States who have refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Mat Staver, an attorney for Davis and founder of Liberty Counsel, a law firm that champions conservative Christian causes, told Reuters the meeting was not about sending a message to other clerks or judges who have been unwilling to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. “It was really a meeting between the Pope and Kim Davis and her husband Joe to encourage her,” he said. “It was an amazing opportunity for her to meet the Pope, and for him to be able to stand beside another Christian and to encourage another person who exercised her faith and went to jail for it.”
Staver would not say whether the Vatican or Davis’s representatives had initiated contact about a meeting. But the meeting angered gay activists and came as a frustrating letdown for gay and other liberal American Catholics, many of whom had been encouraged by an earlier remark by Pope Francis that “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
“The news that Pope Francis met privately … with Kim Davis throws a wet blanket on the good will that the pontiff had garnered during his U.S. visit,” Francis DeBernardo, executive director of gay and lesbian Catholic advocacy group New Ways Ministry, said in an emailed statement. “Pope Francis needs to state clearly where he stands in regard to the inclusion of LGBT people in the church and society.”
Religious leaders applaud Popes actions
Reverend Franklin Graham said this meeting only goes to show how much Pope Francis values religious freedom
“I’m thrilled the Pope had this meeting and it sends a very strong signal that he supports religious freedom,” he told Newsmax TV. “Christians need to be protected from these new laws that are coming out that are discriminating against… and forcing Christians to do things against their conscience and go against the teaching of the Bible.”
Graham stressed that homosexuality is “a sin against God,” but clarified that Christians should not go about criticising people from the LGBTQ community.
“I’m not here to bash you or anything like that. I’m just here to tell you the truth — that this is what the Bible teaches and all of us are sinners and I’m a sinner,” he said. “But we have to turn from our sins, repent, and believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and God will forgive our sins and he will heal our hearts.
“And for the Pope to meet with Kim Davis sends a very strong signal that he supports Kim Davis and what she was standing for and I’m glad he did that,” he added.