The Vatican has distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, the focal point in the gay marriage debate in the US, saying she was one of dozens of people the Pope greeted in Washington and that their encounter “should not be considered a form of support of her position”.
After days of confusion, the Vatican issued a statement clarifying the circumstances of Francis’ September 24 encounter with Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licences.
In a statement, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said Francis met with “several dozen” people at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington just before leaving for New York. Fr Lombardi said that such meetings are normal on any Vatican trip and are due to the pope’s “kindness and availability.” He said Francis really had only one “audience” in Washington — with one of his former students and his family.
“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Fr Lombardi said.
Davis, who claims to be an Apostolic Christian, spent five days in jail for defying federal court orders to issue same-sex marriage licences after the US Supreme Court legalised gay marriage nationwide.
A judge ultimately freed Davis on the condition that she does not interfere with her deputies issuing the licences. When she returned to work, she replaced the licences with new ones, saying they were issued “pursuant to federal court order”.
Davis said this week that she and her husband met with the pope at the Vatican’s nunciature in Washington and that he encouraged her to “stay strong”.
“Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we’re doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything,” she told ABC.
The Vatican statement made clear that the pope intended no such validation.
However, Davis’ lawyer Mat Staver said the Vatican initiated the meeting as an affirmation of her right to be a conscientious objector.
“We wouldn’t expect the pope to weigh in on the particulars of any case,” said Staver. He said Vatican personnel initiated the meeting on September 14, the day she returned to work, saying the Pope wanted to meet her.
He said Vatican security picked her and her husband up from their hotel and told her to change her hairdo so she would not be recognised as the Vatican wanted the meeting kept secret.Staver disputed a Vatican spokesman’s claims that the pope only met Davis in a receiving line. He said the couple was in a separate room with Francis and Vatican personnel.News of the meeting sent shockwaves through the US church, with Davis’ supporters saying it showed the pope backed her cause and opponents questioning whether the pope had been duped into meeting with her.Initially the Vatican only reluctantly confirmed the meeting but offered no comment.
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