A Papal Trifecta: Part 3 -- Kim Davis, Mat Staver & The Pope
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Oct 02, 2015 at 11:53:06 AM EST
Corruption of the Concept of Religious Freedom: Pope's Support of Kim Davis

After learning about Pope Francis' secret visit last week with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples, defied a court order, served a few days in jail, and has now become the poster girl of "religious freedom" for the Christian Right, and her husband, two questions came to mind: Why did the pope meet with Davis? Why the secrecy?

I was searching for something succinct that might describe the pope's trip and his meeting with Davis. Clint Eastwood's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" struck a chord. As did Winston Churchill's October 1939 statement commenting on the actions of Russia: The meet up with Davis "is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key."

And the key may be the bastardization of the concept of "religious freedom," which conservative Christians have glommed onto, and are using it to shake as many dollars out of the right-wing money tree as possible.

The visit with the Davis' occurred on Thursday, September 24, after the pope's historic address to Congress.

The New York Times reported that during the visit with Davis and her husband, Joe, the pope "gave her rosaries and told her to `stay strong,'" according to Davis' lawyer Mat Staver, who has been gobbling up face time on the cable news channels, and, to borrow a phrase from the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, "has all the subtlety of a piano crashing onto the sidewalk."

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, a form of Pentecostal Christianity, was in the nation's capital to receive a "Cost of Discipleship" award from the Family Research Council, the powerful Washington, D.C. based "family values" lobbying group where Josh Duggar, Ashley Madison member in good standing, was recently employed.

Davis told Inside the Vatican's Robert Moynihan that "The Pope spoke in English. There was no interpreter. `Thank you for your courage,' Pope Francis said to me. I said, `Thank you, Holy Father.' I had asked a monsignor earlier what was the proper way to greet the Pope, and whether it would be appropriate for me to embrace him, and I had been told it would be okay to hug him. So I hugged him, and he hugged me back. It was an extraordinary moment. `Stay strong,' he said to me. Then he gave me a rosary as a gift, and he gave one also to my husband, Joe. I broke into tears. I was deeply moved. Then he said to me, `Please pray for me.' And I said to him, `Please pray for me also, Holy Father.' And he assured me that he would pray for me."

"Pope Francis' secret meeting with Kim Davis is a reminder that this pope, no matter how much he may sound a progressive note on income equality and climate change, remains wedded to a regressive vision of social issues -- and these are the issues that really count because they drive the church's lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., Rob Boston, Director of Communications for the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told me in an email.  

"Moderate and progressive Catholics who had dreamed of change on issues like access to birth control, the role of women in the church and inclusion of LGBT men and women are quickly finding their hopes dashed. The meeting [with Davis] is a signal that Francis is not a visionary and lacks a true reformist spirit. In other words, when it comes to culture war issues, we can expect more of the same from Francis and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. It's disappointing but not surprising."

Mat Staver, who said that the meeting had been arranged through the Vatican and not through bishops or the bishops' conference in the United States, told The New York Times that he was soon expecting photographs from the meeting.

Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, "confirmed the meeting, but he declined to elaborate.," the Times reported. "I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add," he said.

"In his public addresses in the United States, the pope spoke in broad strokes about the importance of religious freedom," The New York Times Laurie Goodstein pointed out. On the plane trip home, Terry Moran of ABC News asked him about government officials who refused to perform their duties because of religious objections to same-sex marriage.

"Conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying `this right that has merit, this one does not.' It (conscientious objection) is a human right."

"Would that include government officials as well?" Moran asked.

"It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right," the pope said. "It is a human right."

Why the Secrecy?

According to Inside The Vatican's Robert Moynihan, the pope's visit with Davis and her husband may have been "the most significant meeting, symbolically, of the entire trip."

Why the need for secrecy?

According to Moynihan, had information about the meeting become public, it could have sparked a controversy that Vatican officials, already stung by criticism of Junipero Serra's canonization, were hoping to avoid.

With the possibility of Davis facing further jail time, Moynihan speculates that the Pope "'wrapped his protective mantle' around Kim Davis, discreetly, in private, in a way completely hidden from the world, but in a way that was deeply moving for her personally, as a person of conscience."

Staver's Opportunism

According to Americans United's Rob Boston, "Mat Staver's Liberty Counsel, although dwarfed by larger Religious Right groups like Alliance Defending Freedom, has carved out a niche for itself by taking on Kim Davis' case even though it's an obvious loser in court.

Boston, who has been monitoring Staver's Liberty Counsel since it was founded in 1989, pointed out that Staver's "view is a common one among the Religious Right -- privilege for fundamentalist Christians and second-class status for everyone else. Staver's legal thinking is anchored in what he wishes the Constitution says as opposed to what it actually does say.

"I suspect Staver knew he could never win Davis' case in court, but in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality, he was determined to create a martyr -- and he found the perfect one in Davis. I'm sure Staver will use Davis' case to raise money and increase Liberty Counsel's public profile, but the courts aren't with him, and increasingly the American people aren't as well. The sooner his 15 minutes of fame are up, the better off our nation will be."

For all of his brave and good words, this one move (combined with the canonization of Serra) by the "pope" puts my opinion of him in the toilet.

I was not happy about the canonization of that murderer and slaver Serra (he's not the only one to receive laurels from the church when they deserved severe punishment), and I hoped that he'd reconsider - I thought he was operating out of ignorance combined with a bit of lack of consideration for the Other.  This indicates otherwise, he's trying to pacify the people his church has harmed through the centuries, while maintaining the status quo.  

He reminds me of a couple of recent Presidents, who knew what to say to sway the masses to follow his lead (for example committed the US to an unjust war which has cost many innocent lives), but who who had an ulterior motive that was at best self-centered.  

This all tells me that it is absolutely unlikely that the RC church will ever change for the better - the leadership is just learning how to be more hypocritical about it.  It also calls into question his dedication to the poor - is he really wanting to improve their lives, or is he wanting them to have better incomes so that they can give more money to the churches?

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Oct 02, 2015 at 12:57:02 PM EST

I think Staver wanted to give the impression that Pope Francis desired to meet Kim Davis and was concerned about her position. However, now it seems she was brought to the Pope in a "meet the Pope" bunch by Staver at the invitation of the Papal Nuncio, who is said to be an anti-gay activist. As reported in the National Catholic Observer, Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said "Pope Francis met with several dozen 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 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." The pope also met with a former student of his, Yayo Grassi, and his partner, who are gay. More on this at http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/vatican-clarifies-francis-kim-d avis-meeting-not-show-support http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/10/02/1427159/-The-Vatican-pub licly-announces-that-Kim-Davis-meeting-should-not-be-considered-s upport and http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/10/pope-kim-davis-vatican.

by Tristram on Sat Oct 03, 2015 at 08:11:57 PM EST
From the news articles I've read today, it seems that Liberty Counsel has also been telling people about the "secret meeting" and it was neither special or so secret (maybe Davis' presence was a secret until the last minute?).  I know you can't trust what comes from that organization.

http://www.baynews9.com/content/news/baynews9/news/article.html/c ontent/news/articles/ap/2015/10/04/Law_firm_labeled_hate_group_le ading_Kim_Davis_crusade.html

I'm still quite unhappy with the canonization of Serra, but it does look like the Pope might have gotten snookered by the Religious Right in "both camps", who want to milk it for all they're worth (or maybe I should say for all of their supporters' worth).  I also suspect there was an attempt to force the RC church's hand.  They do want that church to become more militant and autocratic.

Possibly the best thing to do is to take a wait and see approach... because about all you can predict from the Liberty Counsel and others like them is that they're going to try to take away freedom of (and from) religion and try to establish a theocracy with their religion on top.  

I still don't like the top-down hierarchy and distrust all of those conservative organizations - I know that they have only THEIR best interests in mind, not those of anyone else.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Oct 04, 2015 at 07:53:35 PM EST

I was very cautious of this Argentine Pope. He seemed to be doing some good, though lagging in the control and eradication of boys getting raped and fully ended such things, and now this. Later information say it wasn't a "private" meeting, but still a meeting where he supported her. That really told me this guy is just another faker, an avuncular act.

by Nightgaunt on Fri Oct 09, 2015 at 04:23:18 PM EST

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