I haven’t quite figured this Pope out yet, and that’s probably a good thing. You’re supposed to feel that way about a religious leader who challenges you to think differently about the way you operate. And this Pope in particular, in turns surprises and shocks me.
For instance, you can’t take Pope Francis at face value – ever. Although the Pope has met with criticism over things like, say, his voyage to Cuba, the Pope took the opportunity to meet with Fidel Castro and gift him with a book by Fr. Armando Llorente, a Jesuit priest who was one of Fidel’s teachers as a boy, but who Fidel exiled from Cuba shortly after he took power in the 1960s. And while the Pope spoke in only general terms about the right to religious freedom to both the President and to Congress, he not only met with the Little Sisters of the Poor, currently waging a battle for conscience rights against the Obama Administration, but it’s now being reported (and confirmed by the Vatican), that the Pope met with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was jailed after she refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex unions.
Pope Francis met a Kentucky county clerk, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, during his visit to the United States last week, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
“I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no comment to add,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her husband met the pope during the Washington leg of his U.S. visit, she and her lawyer told American media.
The Davis couple traveled to Washington and met the pope at the Vatican embassy last Thursday, ABC News and CBS News reported.
“It was really very humbling to even think that he would want to, you know, meet me or know me,” Davis told ABC. “I put my hand out, and he grabbed it, and I hugged him, and he hugged me and he said, ‘Thank you for your courage’.”
This is the Pope sending a strong message. Regardless of his beliefs on other issues, the Pope is strongly committed to traditional marriage, and knows that while countries may pass laws allowing for same-sex unions, but that many on the other side of the issue aren’t satisfied with having equal rights – they wish to take away freedoms from others who they deem “culturally backward,” or in disagreement. A strong set of natural rights, especially the right of conscience, is as important to the Pope as it is to the survival of a Constitutional republic as a whole.
I had my qualms about Kim Davis – and they still persist, mostly from a reticense to make people into folk heroes – but the overarching issue of religious freedom is one of utmost importance and I can understand and very much appreciate the Pope’s willingness to meet with her and to send this message to the American people. Courage is necessary.