Pope Francis made waves back in 2013 after he mildly suggested that it was OK for gay Catholics to join the priesthood.
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said at the time.
Francis' "who am I to judge" was interpreted as a kind of signpost of the new Pope's priorities: less fire and brimstone about sexuality and reproductive freedom, more focus on poverty and welcoming people into the church.
So when Kim Davis' lawyer announced Thursday that Francis had met with his client—the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for contempt of court after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples—a lot of people were like, Whaaaaa? Nooooo? Cool pope?
But it turns out that it's true. “I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Wednesday.
Davis' lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, said that Francis met with his client for 15 minutes during his visit in D.C. According to the Liberty Counsel's website, the pope reportedly told Davis, an Apostolic Christian, to "stay strong" and gave her two rosaries he had blessed. In a statement made through her lawyer, Davis said: "I never thought I would meet the Pope. Who am I to have this rare opportunity? I am just a County Clerk who loves Jesus and desires with all my heart to serve him."
Is the news that the people's Pope met with an anti-gay county clerk shocking? Not especially. The Pope, after all, agrees with Davis on the question of how to define marriage. And Francis meets with people who virulently oppose gay rights all of the time. (He spent quite a lot of time with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan while visiting Manhattan just last week!)
The Pope holds the church line on sexuality and marriage. He may have made comments to shift the tone of the church hierarchy when it comes to sexuality, but he has also said that same-sex marriage poses a fundamental threat to "God's plan for creation." Which is, you know, not very chill.
“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” Francis said in the Philippines earlier this year. “These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation.”
An early hint that the Pope-Davis summit was more than a rumor came earlier this week when the Pope said on his return flight to Rome: "Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right." He didn't mention Davis by name, but continued: "I can't have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right."
But who am I to judge Pope Francis?