Have you ever wondered if maybe the difficulty we’re experiencing is really just a matter of definitions. When the pope announced that there was going to be a “Synod on the Family” how many of us would have thought that we ought to have asked him what, exactly, he meant by that term?
Well it does seem as though the Vatican’s official spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, in his own inimitable style, has today greatly helped to clear up any confusion. Which, now that I come to type that, seems rather surprising.
I admit that, not being an American myself, I didn’t follow the papal trip to the US very closely. Quite a bit of stuff popped up in my FB feed, but I ignored most of it, thinking that there were lots of American bloggers who could cover it better and were more motivated than I. So when the whole Kim Davis business popped up, I more or less just read the headlines and moved on. Not my horse. Not my race.
But today, suddenly, we have Fr. Lombardi tying all things together for us, really helpfully helping to make us see how all the stuff we talk about, everything, is really about the Synod to End the Family.
For those who were like me, too Canadian to bother, Kim Davis is a town clerk in a backwater town in Kentucky. After the US Supreme Court decision came down, she stopped issuing marriage licenses. The thing came to a head when a lesbian, who was originaly from the town, decided she needed to get “married” to her female partner, mainly, let’s face it, to stir up a test case against a conscientious Christian.
Kim Davis refused, and she was briefly tossed in jail for contempt. A few days later, the judge let her out, and the case is ongoing. So far, so banal (for our time).
There was already a big bruhaha amongst American political neoconservatives over whether she simply should have resigned. But now she’s breaking the law! Oh! Where’s my fan! (Yes, Americans are weird.)
Cue minor kerfuffle.
Along comes the pope. During the papal visit, her lawyer arranged with the Washington DC nunciature to have Mizz Davis secreted in to meet with the pope and was told to keep it quiet. According to normal papal procedure, Francis gave her a couple of Rosraries for her Catholic parents, patted her on the head and sent her on her way. All quite pro forma.
Of course, the lawyer had sent his client to see the pope for a reason, and on the day Francis heads back to Rome, he issues the statement that she had met him privately and been blessed… or whatever.
What the trip organisers and the pope’s handlers perhaps were not prepared for was the American left going, not to put too fine a point on it, bat____ crazy! There was a sudden explosion of horror! outrage! and deep… deep… disappointment on the part of his adoring legions of fans on the US popular left.
Twitter, Facebook and Buzzfeed suddenly were deluged with weeping young ladies who, having just earlier that week devoted their lives to Christ after seeing the pope, posted lamentations like, “I’ve lost my faith…”
The DC archdiocese offered grief counsellors to help TV talk show host and systematic theologian Jimmy Kimmel deal with the shock. Esquire magazine published an op ed speculating that perhaps their darling Francis had been duped, “swindled” into meeting with Mrs. Davis.
Clearly it was a catastrophe. The pope with this one meeting had ruined all the good will he had built up during his triumphal progress through American liberalism.
Meanwhile, American neocatholics dove for their keyboards to call Steve Skojec and Michael Matt and Chris Ferrara haters because this secret meeting was PROOF that Francis IS SO! concerned about Catholic religious freedom! and was totally against “gay marriage,” because he said so once. And anyway, John Allen said so too!
“…the Davis meeting confirms that the US trip amounted to the public debut of “Francis 2.0,” meaning a pope more clearly perceived as standing in continuity with Catholic teaching and tradition, as well as in solidarity both with previous popes and with the bishops.”
…And anyway FRANCISISTHEGREATESTPOPEEVAH!!! … SO SHUT UP, YOU HATERS!
…And a splendid time was had by all…
This week, Fr. Lombardi entertained us again with one of his celebrated Italian diplomatic performance-haikus.
…the Vatican announced Wednesday morning that they could neither confirm nor deny the alleged meeting happening … ThinkProgress received a similar response from the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See: “The embassy does not deny that the meeting took place, but will not make any further comments on the subject.”
Rev. Federico Lombardi …told the New York Times that he “did not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” which led the New York Times to conclude that he had “confirmed the meeting.”
To BuzzFeed, Lombardi said that, “yes,” the meeting took place — an apparent confirmation — but then repeated the line, “I don’t deny the meeting has taken place. but I have no comment to add.”
Today Fr. Lombardi issued yet another statement this time confirming firmly that the meeting had taken place, but distancing the pope from the “details”.
“Davis was one of ‘several dozen’ people who had been invited by the Vatican ambassador to see Francis during his visit to the U.S. capital.”
“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,” Lombardi said in a statement.
“The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature (Vatican embassy) was with one of his former students and his family,” the statement said.
This, of course, was the statement that a competent press office would have released first. That this was a completely normal kind of meeting, in which a bunch of people are ushered into the pope’s presence, he says a few polite words, gives away a few Rosaries, pats people on the head and moves on.
But we’re dealing with the Vatican and, like cephalopods, their instant response to every situation is to dive for cover, then squirt a bunch of ink to create as much confusion as possible while making a break for it. The non-denial denial, and subsequent backhanded confirmation, was what drew everyone’s attention to it … because, let’s face it, the Vatican’s first instinct was to treat Kim Davis and everything she was about as an embarrassment.
There have been a few other things happening around this, particularly some very funny comments from Fr. James Martin SJ:
Via Father James Martin
BREAKING: The Vatican has said that the Pope’s “brief” meeting with Kim Davis does NOT constitute support for her position and that it wasn’t even a “real” audience. For all those who were so frustrated yesterday, this shows, as I wrote yesterday, that the Pope was simply being kind to “one of several dozen” people who was presented to him briefly by the nuncio that day, and does not indicate any support for her position. It also shows the Vatican’s willingness to correct the record when the Pope’s actions are being misrepresented.
…and Fr. Thomas Rosica, whose first instinct was less Italian and more Canadian in blaming the Americans…
“Everyone who was there was brought in by the nunciature, not the Vatican, not Lombardi, nor anyone of the Vatican’s group,” he said. “They were organized by the local people.”
Viganò is an Italian bishop best known for his role in the Vatileaks scandal, which helped bring about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation
…but we can leave those aside for the moment.
Because CNN has helpfully helped us to understand that last little bit of Fr. Lombardi’s statement much, much more clearly. Someone call Jimmy Kimmel. CNN has made it all better:
The day before Pope Francis met anti-gay county clerk Kim Davis in Washington last week, he held a private meeting with a longtime friend from Argentina who has been in a same-sex relationship for 19 years.
Didn’t Fr. Lombardi just say that this chap, who had been a former student of Papa Bergoglio in Argentina, had brought his “family”?
CNN gives us a full interview
Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug…
Grassi declined to disclose details about the short visit, but said it was arranged personally by the Pope via email…
“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi said…
…The Vatican said that the meeting with Davis was not intended as a show of support for her cause and said “the only real audience granted by the Pope at the nunciature (embassy) was with one of his former students and his family.”
“That was me,” Grassi said.
Grassi said the Pope has long known that he is gay, but has never condemned his sexuality or his same-sex relationship. Grassi said he and Iwan (he declined to disclose his last name due to privacy concerns) had previously met Francis in Rome.
Greeting Iwan with a handshake, Francis says that he recalls meeting him, according to the brief video. At the end the meeting, the Pope hugs both men and kisses them on the cheek.
“He has never been judgmental,” Grassi said. “He has never said anything negative.”
“Obviously he is the pastor of the church and he has to follow the church’s teachings,” Grassi added. “But as a human being he understands all kinds of situations, and he is open to all kinds of people, including those with different sexual characteristics.”
…While Grassi describes his relationship to the Pope as very close, they haven’t always agreed on same-sex rights.
[When Bergoglio opposed same sex “marriage” in Argentina, Grassi wrote to him,]
“You have been my guide, continuously moving my horizons—you have shaped the most progressive aspects of my worldview,” Grassi wrote to future Pope in an email, according to National Geographic magazine. “And to hear this from you is so disappointing.”
Grassi said he believes the Pope was “misled” into meeting with Davis, who served six days in a Kentucky jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
And the NYT has a video!
Isn’t that nice?
Of course, neither CNN, the New York Times, nor Crux News has a statement from Kim Davis about how she likes life under that bus.
As a friend and fellow Trad this evening commented, “With Kim Davis the left, both within and without the Church, has finally found a sinner with whom Our Lord would not sit down to dinner… and therefore, whom pope Francis does well to categorically reject.