Everybody needs to calm down about Pope Francis and Kim Davis

Pope Francis met Kim Davis. So what?
(Image credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

During his stop in Washington, D.C., last week, Pope Francis had a brief, unannounced meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail for a handful days after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as required under the law. After the Vatican more or less confirmed the meeting on Wednesday — "I do not deny that the meeting took place," said spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, "but I have no comment to add" — the rending of garments was audible.

The 10-minute meeting was "such a disaster," Slate said. The Atlantic had a think piece on why the politically savvy peacemaking pope would meet with "one of the most polarizing figures in American politics." Vox took the high road, explaining why Jesus would have met with Davis, too. At least the first two of those got a lot of clicks.

But critics and fans of Davis are both reading too much into the brief audience, says Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit like the pope, in America. Francis met with a lot of people during his visit, Martin noted, and "would have been introduced to many more people whom we may never know about: individual Catholics whom a Vatican official, or a local bishop or friend of the pope, felt was especially deserving of a visit." And his reported message to Davis, "'Be strong,' and his gift of a rosary seem to be the kind of thing the pope might do for anyone presented to him," he added.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

If you want to know the pope's views on Davis, Martin suggests, you can read his response when ABC's Terry Moran asked Francis on the flight back to Rome if he supports "individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples"? The pope replied: "I can't have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection. But, yes, I can say conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right."

In any case, if you are offended that Francis met with Davis, maybe skip Conan O'Brien's Photoshop-filled list of other controversial Americans the pope might have visited in secret during his visit to America. It begins with disgraced Subway pitchman Jared Fogle and goes downhill from there. Peter Weber

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.