Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis not to ‘support her position’

Davis spent five days in jail after refusing to sign marriage licences for gay couples

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis celebrates her release from the Carter County Detention centre in Grayson, Kentucky in September. Photograph: Chris Tilley/Reuters

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis celebrates her release from the Carter County Detention centre in Grayson, Kentucky in September. Photograph: Chris Tilley/Reuters

 

In a highly unusual move, the Holy See has appeared to distance itself from Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who was briefly jailed last month following her refusal to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.

Earlier this week, Ms Davis told conservative Catholic group Liberty Counsel that she had met with the pope in Washington, during his visit to the US, adding that he had thanked her for her “courage” and had told her to “stay strong”.

US religious affairs magazine Inside the Vatican also reported on this “secret” meeting at the papal nunciature in Washington, arguing that the pope had been motivated by “a desire to meet with a person who has taken a controversial stand out of conscience”.

When the pope, during his press conference on the papal flight home to Italy, then defended the right to conscientious objection, many saw this as a reference to Ms Davis. In a statement on Friday, however, the Holy See contradicted this interpretation of events, calling the encounter “brief” and adding:

Pope Francis met with several persons who had been invited by the nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Ms 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”.

Private meeting

Speaking to reporters in the Vatican on Friday, English language papal spokesman Father Tom Rosica said that, while Ms Davis met briefly with the pope, she was one of a line of people greeted by him as he left the nunciature. He said there had been no in-depth, private meeting. Acknowledging that the meeting might have been “manipulated”, Fr Rosica also pointed out that the pope could not know “the full biographies” of everyone he might meet in such a situation.

The Davis camp, however, were sticking to their story, with her lawyer, Mat Staver, telling Associated Press that the Vatican had initiated the meeting as an affirmation of her right to be a conscientious objector. Furthermore, Mr Staver insisted that Ms Davis had met with the pope and Vatican personnel in a separate room, rather than in a receiving line, adding that the Vatian had wanted the meeting to be kept secret.

All of which leaves one slightly awkward question: who actually invited Ms Davis to the papal nunciature and why?