kim davis and the pope

The news that Pope Francis had a secret meeting with Kim Davis on September 24th sent some hearts sinking, while others soared with joy. The possible political ramifications are undeniable. Kim Davis, whom David Gibson described as an “icon of the culture wars”, is the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses for gay couples. A conservative Christian, she believes that the new law of the land conflicts with God’s law. Her supporters are already using the event as a papal affirmation of their cause.

My heart was one of the sinking ones when I read this news. I keep telling myself that Pope Francis is only human. It is impossible to address all the issues, and please all people all the time. I need to focus on the good news that he is spreading. But, the elephants in the room seem to be growing each day, threatening to squash the good news with that nasty stuff that make elephants a poor house pet.

There were two other groaner moments for many Catholics during the papal visit. The first was the clumsy and insensitive addresses by Francis to priests and bishops regarding the sexual abuse crisis. (Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, a psychologist who has been working with sexual abuse survivors for 30 years, wrote an insightful article for NCR on this issue.)

The second moment was on the plane trip back to Rome, when Pope Francis reiterated that women’s ordination would never take place because John Paul II said so. Many theologians have discounted the reasoning used by both John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger for declaring all discussion on the topic closed for all time.

And, now we hear of a private meeting with a woman whose very public actions have deepened the ideological divisions surrounding the legalizing of same sex marriage.

Many of us would have loved a private meeting with Pope Francis, so there is perhaps more than a little envy and anger. Why her? Why now? How about all the women and men in the USA who have tirelessly promoted social justice for decades? Wouldn’t they be more deserving of a papal audience? OK, so Jesus hung around folks that infuriated his followers too.

In his address to the American bishops, Francis stressed the need for dialogue.

Dialogue is our method…dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyterates, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society.

Perhaps this meeting was simply about dialogue? Perhaps the pope was curious to find out more about this person who was making headlines in the USA as a conscientious objector?

I try to promote dialogue through this blog. And, yet, I admit that there are many people in this world that I would avoid talking to at all cost. Talking dialogue is much easier than doing dialogue.

Kim Davis and I do not share the same views on same sex marriage. I admit to having preconceived notions of her as a right-wing Christian who views the world through the black and white prism of religious fundamentalism. Would I willingly sit in a room with her to discuss the issue? Would I willingly send her an invitation, or accept an invitation if it was given to me? This is the challenge for me.

Pope Francis does not shy away from challenging dialogue. He knows that there will be many a battle in the upcoming Synod on the Family. The concept of dialogue is foreign to those bishops used to an autocratic style of leadership in their dioceses. Steering them to seek common ground and consensus will not be an easy task. And, yet, dialogue they must.

The details surrounding the meeting between the pope and Kim Davis are still vague. The Vatican has declined to comment. James Martin, SJ wrote a rational and reasonable article titled The Pope and Kim Davis: Seven Points to Keep in Mind. He reminds us that the pope visits with many people each day. Francis gives rosaries to many. He gives encouraging words and blessings to many. But, a papal blessing does not connote affirmation or validation of the work of that person. In classic Fr. Martin style, he concludes,

Meeting with the pope is a great honor, but it does not betoken a blanket blessing on “everything” one does. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Pope Francis also met Mark Wahlberg, and that does not mean that he liked “Ted.”

13 thoughts on “kim davis and the pope

  1. Correct. as far as i am concerned, on all points. Re. Ms. Davis first. Pope Francis’ addresses to the US Congress and the United Nations demonstrate a pretty thorough knowledge of political and social thought. Francis knows the distinction between the public common good, i.e., the will of the people debated and concluded by legitimate representative authority. He also knows, even more succinctly, the power of the moment. His minions know the implications of those moments, that moment.
    I reread his words to the Bishops re the sexual abuse scandal and he did not qualify in any way as far as I could tell. Honestly that was/is a travesty. He did say elsewhere thought that Bishops who protected will be held accountable. My issue extends to those who knew what their brothers were about and did nothing.
    The only “maybe” of the three is on women’s ordination. Though off the cuff and maybe unguarded, he attributed the exclusion to Pope John Paul’s say so. This is not ringing endorsement. It is a reference to a non-infallible (though intended to be taken as if).
    Personally I tend to see Pope Francis as a “bits and pieces” type. His words seem to be “proportional” and “relative” (how Popes John Paul and Benedict must writhe)

    1. The Kim Davis story continues to unfold in the media. Dignity USA (LGBT Catholics) issued the following statement:

      “The news that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis while failing to respond to repeated requests for dialogue with LGBT Catholics and their families will be deeply disappointing to many Catholics, gay, trans, and straight alike,” said DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke. “It may be seen as putting the weight of the Vatican behind the US Catholic bishops’ claims of victimization, and to support those who want to make it more difficult for same-sex couples to exercise their civil right to marriage. This encounter could, in many people’s minds, transform the Pope’s US trip from a largely successful pastoral visit to the endorsement of an exclusionary political agenda. – See more at:

  2. As a gay Catholic planning to marry my partner in the coming months, hearing that Pope Francis met privately with Kim Davis did deflate the optimistic feeling I had after experiencing the papal visit to the United States. My partner and I live and work in Philadelphia, PA. We volunteered with the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) to assist visitors/pilgrims in getting around our great city. We were on duty for the Saturday evening Festivals of Families–where we got to see Pope Francis!–and the Papal Mass on Sunday attended by so many people that not everyone was able to get through security in time for Mass.
    During the week that the WMOF met in Philadelphia, my partner and I also helped to plan and coordinate evening events addressing the needs of LGBTQ Catholics and their allies. The evening events were sponsored by a coalition of organizations that support and affirm the rights of LGBTQ Catholics in their relationship to our Church. After such a week of tremendous highs, I’m now experiencing the low of being reminded of how the Catholic Church views someone like me who has integrated my sexuality with my spirituality and who seeks marriage equality, which I believe is a human right and a civil right.
    Regarding the meeting of Ms. Davis with the pope, you ask the question “Why Her?”. I thought the same thing. Couldn’t the pope had found a better means of expressing his views on same-sex marriage or at least said nothing? Ms. Davis’ Apostolic Christian religion probably is very much opposed to the practices of the Catholic Church and may even be anti-Catholic. Notice, Ms. Davis said she and her husband will present the gifts of the rosaries, given to them by Pope Francis to her parents rather than keep them. Could it be that her religion teaches that things such as rosary beads are akin to idolatry and therefore the work of the Devil? To be fair, I don’t know very little of Ms. Davis’ religion other than she is not supposed to cut her hair. However, I’m not sure that Ms. Davis would choose to pay any attention to the pope if she and her lawyers didn’t see this as a way of furthering her cause.
    But the work continues! And I will continue to work to educate the pope and anyone else who still believes that I am “intrinsically evil” and “disordered”. And I will pray that Pope Francis and Kim Davis can one day accept me for the person that God intended me to be and not condemn me for not acquiescing to their interpretation of the scriptures.
    Thanks for listening!

  3. Hi Brian,

    No need for thanks….it’s an honour to hear your story. Welcome to the dialogue, and thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    We’re still unsure of the truth behind the meeting of Pope Francis and Ms. Davis, and I do hope that more transparency will be forth coming. Your honest reaction is shared by many, myself included. While trying to give Francis the benefit of the doubt until we find out more, the reality is that this meeting (as was reported) sends a terrible message – exemplified by the claim of Ms. Davis and her supporters that the visit was an affirmation of her religious stance against same sex marriage.

    I have many good friends who are actively working for a more inclusive church – a church where being gay and Catholic isn’t considered an oxymoron. They have my love, prayers and support. And, so do you!

    Here’s to keeping the faith and keeping the good work going in the midst of disappointments. And, mega blessings on you and your partner as you prepare for your marriage. May your love and commitment to each other grow with the years!



    1. Thanks for your kind words, Isabella! I’m a 65 year-old cradle Catholic who has been involved, since the late 1960s, in the struggle for acceptance of LGBTQ folk in the Church and in society in general. They have not gotten rid of me yet. I do plan on keeping the faith and continuing the work for many years to come. Best wishes to you in your work. Keep dialoguing!

    2. Impressive story Mr. Fagan. Sad lesson. Evidently the Vatican spokes-
      ‘man’ declared no endorsement of her view – no way really can that be taken seriously. There is so much that is good, lovable and loving about Francis. These make the obvous lacuae(s) all the more visible and distressing. This was a serious misstep.

      1. Seems that this story is not ended. Kim Davis’s lawyer is rebutting the Vatican statement, insisting that it was a private meeting and she was there at the invitation of the Vatican. Sigh. Misstep or not, it’s a PR mess. The next step is to be open about the process behind this unfortunate meeting….who orchestrated it and why?

      2. The great ongoing struggle of the church seems to be between the pastoral and the dogmatic. Which one takes precedence: to minister to a person first or to enforce the letter of Catholic law? I tend to listen to Christ when he says in Mark that the Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, not for people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.
        Enjoy the weekend! Shabbat shalom! Peaceful Sabbath!

  4. Hi Isabella… You took the thoughts right out of my mind. I agree with you 100 percent!!!

  5. Surprises never end – with Pope Francis. Maybe I am a bit ahead – being in the UK at the moment. Just read in CNN on line that Pope Francis also met with an old friend of his from Argentina and his same sex husband and a few friends.
    If as i believe this is true, it makes it all the more impressive after our dismay and the glee of the gloaters. Blessings.

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