While Pope Francis was here for his whirlwind visit to the United States, my Facebook newsfeed was bombarded by positive responses to his words and actions. People applauded his time with Catholic Charities. They approved of his words on human dignity and his love for both humanity and the environment. They appreciated his dedication to the poor, and his cheap little Fiat. And as for those who had the chance to see him in person, even if it was from several hundred feet away, they yelled and swooned as if the pope was a celebrity. Which he is.
Some of the comments didn’t surprise me. They came from devout Catholics who surely followed the papal visit from beginning to end, watching live-streaming videos, reading transcripts from his many addresses and talks, and possibly even snagging a ticket to the Masses celebrated here in the nation’s capital, Philly, or New York. Then there were some comments that did surprise me. Some of the most notable ones were from friends and acquaintances who were more liberal in their philosophy, and in some cases, who were even anti-Catholic. Apparently, even an anti-Catholic can love the pope.
Throughout his visit, articles entitled, “I’m Not Even Catholic, But…” and “Why Even Atheists Should Be Praying for Pope Francis” (though I’m not sure who they would be praying to) would randomly show up on my newsfeed throughout the day. Granted, they were vastly outnumbered by my more conservative friends’ status updates and articles, but they definitely formed a decent chuck of my Facebook newsfeed during Pope Francis’ short U.S. visit. The gist of these articles? Pope Francis is a liberal. He does not condemn gay marriage. He spends more time talking about the poor and the environment than the unborn. He even chided some of the American bishops’ responses to the recent Supreme Court decision (though it should be noted that Pope Francis spent a good amount of time stressing the importance of religious freedom and the right to follow one’s conscience while he was here). In the eyes of liberal America, Pope Francis was “their pope.” The world finally had a pope who was ready to “get with the times,” bringing the barbaric Catholic Church into the progressive 21st century.
And then Pope Francis did what he is best at: he shocked everyone. After concluding his U.S. visit and returning home, rumors began to surface regarding one of the pope’s interactions with an American. Though he spent his time meeting hundreds of people, some with whom he only shared a word or two, one particular meeting caught everyone’s attention. Within an hour of the first article, the liberal media went wild: Pope Francis betrayed the good nature of his entire visit by meeting with Kim Davis. Suddenly the pope was back on America’s liberal hit list, and all the pope-loving articles disappeared. In the blink of an eye, he became the enemy.
The articles and comments all followed the same lines. Pope Francis was just a hypocrite. He tricked all of us by making us think that he was “on our side.” He made himself appear as though he supported our cause, with his non-judgmental comments and his focus on the environment. We mistook his silence on certain issues for his support, when really he was just hiding the fact that he’s just as evil and bigoted as the rest of those traditional-marriage lovers. If he ever was on our side, he has now proven himself to be a traitor. Because he met with the enemy. Expressed his approval of her actions. Encouraged that devil Kim Davis to “stay strong.” We thought he was smarter than the rest of them. Apparently, he was just better at hiding his stupidity.
Many of the comments were cruel and childish. Faced with the prospects that their super-liberal pope wasn’t so liberal after all, many people resorted to rude remarks and nasty names. How could this beloved pope, who reportedly chided Catholics for being so judgmental of gays (a comment that has been taken out of context time and again), support a monster like Kim Davis? How could he tell her to “stay strong?” Doesn’t he realize that his meeting with her could make it seem as though he wasn’t truly pro-gay marriage? Doesn’t he realize what this could do for his reputation?
The liberal world was in an uproar. They were frustrated and angry, feeling betrayed and abandoned by “their pope.” But the pope is Catholic after all, despite the liberal media’s hopes. For some reason, the vicar of Christ, the head of the Catholic Church, actually supports Church teaching. Who would have thought?
Suddenly, Pope Francis’ entire visit was thrown into question. It wasn’t the good-willed visit that everyone had presumed it to be. There had been an ulterior motive, a dark side to the pope that had been kept under wraps. Apparently, between his meetings with the the President, the Senate, and the U.N., Pope Francis was holding clandestine meetings with known bigots. The nerve.
The articles were all very emotion-driven, and it did not take long before I realized that they were largely devoid of actual facts. The media knew that a meeting had taken place between Kim Davis and Pope Francis, but that seemed to be about it. They didn’t know how long it had lasted, or the context in which it took place. They knew that Pope Francis told Mrs. Davis to “stay strong,” and later that he gave the woman a set of rosary beads, but they did not know if any other words were exchanged. The media knew very little about the details about the meeting, but that did not stop them from assuming that this prearranged conversation was the ultimate betrayal.
Presumably in response to the fiery responses to this revelation, the Vatican issued several press releases on the meeting. There were also several articles written by more moderate and conservative bloggers that pointed out the gaps in the media’s knowledge. It was eventually confirmed that the only private audience that Pope Francis had with an individual was with a former pupil and his family. Most likely, Pope Francis would have been introduced to Kim Davis at the same time that he met many other people who had been invited to meet the pope. Yes, he told her to “stay strong,” and later he affirmed that a person should never be required to act against their conscience, but no, Pope Francis did not have an extensive conversation with this woman. The Vatican was not looking to keep his meeting a secret; it was simply one of many, and therefore did not need to appear on his public itinerary.
In addition to the response articles, there was also the Vatican press release, which the liberal media embraced as a means to redeem their liberal image of Pope Francis. Most likely in an attempt to recover the media’s positive response to the papal visit, Vatican spokesperson Fr. Lombardi asserted that the pope’s meeting with Mrs. Davis was not an endorsement of all of her choices. The liberal interpretation of that statement? Pope Francis was tricked into meeting Kim Davis, or he was not aware of the details of her case, or he was not aware of her stance on gay marriage, or finally he was aware of her position, but endorsed the right to obey one’s conscience, even if her particular view on gay marriage was wrong. The liberal media embraced the statement, thrilled to have their open-minded pope back.
The reality of the message? It was incredibly vague, and most likely was issued as a way to ease negative emotions about the meeting and its impact on the entire papal visit. In truth, the statement does not confirm anything about the pope’s stance on gay marriage (but some of his other statements, though they are largely ignored by the liberal media, tell us just what he thinks on the matter). As the varied explanations provided by the media affirms, there are many ways to interpret that short statement. Granted, if you read anything else that Pope Francis has said about gay marriage in the past (including his days as bishop in Argentina), you can automatically eliminate most of the explanations provided by the liberal media. We can’t be sure how much Pope Francis knew about Davis’ case, but we can be sure that he knew that she was punished for her religious beliefs. To think that Kim Davis would be invited to meet the pope, but that the pope would not be notified of at least the most basic facts about her case, is absurd. Of course Pope Francis knew what she believed. And based off of countless other comments he has made, it seems highly likely that he agreed with her.
But it is plausible that he didn’t know the specifics of her case. Or maybe he did, and that was why Fr. Lombardi asserted that the pope’s meeting was an endorsement. Maybe the pope didn’t approve of her decision to withhold marriage licenses from both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Maybe he believed that there was an alternative way to respond to the situation. Or more likely, maybe the Vatican wanted to be clear that the pope did not support all of her decisions, most notably her multiple divorces (though it should be noted that all of her divorces took place before her conversion, so divorce is not necessarily something that she now supports). It seems possible, especially considering the recent debates on divorce and remarriage.
If you take all the information together, including his past statements on gay marriage, it seems much more likely that the pope was not tricked into meeting with Kim Davis. It also seems likely that he told her to “stay strong,” not simply because he believes the right to obey one’s conscience should not be eliminated, but also because he believes that marriage is a gift from God intended to exist only between a man and a woman.
And just one final thing. I am well aware of that fact that the one former student with whom Pope Francis chose to meet while here in the U.S. was a gay man and his boyfriend (among other loved ones). I am also aware of the fact that this student, Yayo Grassi, believes that Pope Francis was misled into meeting with Kim Davis. Considering the words of Pope Francis himself, I find that highly improbable. I also think it’s absurd to assume that Pope Francis is pro-gay marriage, or pro-homosexual acts in general, simply because he has remained friends with a past pupil who also happens to be gay. Mr. Grassi is also a self-identified atheist, but I highly doubt that Pope Francis agrees with his belief that there is no God. If your average Christian can have gay and atheist friends, and yet still remain a Christian, I think the same can be said of the pope. The fact that he invited Mr. Grassi to meet with him does not at all imply that Pope Francis supports all of his decisions. The pope can obviously love his former student without condoning his every behavior. Or maybe it’s not so obvious. The modern world still seems to accept that you can love your child even when he makes choices that cause harm to himself- as long as those choices involve drugs, alcohol, or risky behavior of the non-sexual variety. But the same does not seem to apply for homosexual acts and gay marriage. Apparently, you can love your drug-addicted son, but you can’t love your gay son and at the same time disapprove of his relationships without being a bigot. The hypocrisy is astounding.
So does Pope Francis’ meeting with Yayo Grassi mean that he supports homosexual actions and unions? Of course not. Does his meeting with Kim Davis mean that he supported all of her actions? Not necessarily. Does it mean that he supported her in her right to follow her conscience and her conviction that marriage is intended by God to exist between a man and a woman? In all probability, yes. Should that ruin everyone’s opinion of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States? Of course not, but it does mean that the liberal media- and everyone who identifies the pope as a liberal- should probably learn a little bit more about our Holy Father. They might not like him as much as they now do, but at least they’ll know the truth about him.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!