In the original version, I said:
“When I first heard the story, I was suspicious. It sounded very un-pope like to meet privately with someone like her—a fundamentalist protestant famous for refusing to do the job she’s paid by taxpayers to do (and also openly defying the law and court orders). But she’s more than that, of course, she’s a human doll used in the radical right’s anti-gay political war in the USA. So, when I found out that, in fact, he had met privately with her, I thought he must’ve lost his marbles.”My suspicions may have been well placed.
Yesterday, Esquire published a piece by Charles Pierce in which the author speculated that the pope was “swindled into meeting Kim Davis”. He says that for two millennia the Vatican has been “a hotbed of intrigue, betrayal, and sanctified ratfcking on a very high scale”, and so, the idea of a rightwing conspiracy among Catholic hierarchy who hate the current pope is plausible. In Pierce’s view, the whole thing was a set-up by rightwingers in the Catholic hierarchy who are still loyal to ex-pope Ratzinger, and they realised the best way to derail the pope’s entire tour of the USA, and to overshadow what he said, was to engineer a “private meeting” between the pope and an American rightwing nutjob.
The Vatican finally made a statement saying that, in fact, the pope had NOT met with Kim Davis privately: She was merely one of “several dozen persons” the Vatican Embassy had invited to meet the pope just before he left Washington. In fact, the Vatican confirmed, when he was in Washington he had only ONE private meeting in DC, and that was with a former student and long-time friend, Yayo Grassi, an openly gay Argentinian man who brought his partner of 19 years on the trip. In fact, the pope personally requested the meeting.
Paints a rather different picture, doesn’t it? The pope met the Kentucky woman as one of dozens of people, probably had no idea who she was, and moved on. But he chose to meet privately with a gay couple.
Or, is that just some sort of apologetics and after-the fact spin?
The fact that it took days for the Vatican to say anything lends support to the spin explanation. After all, that excuse IS awfully convenient, and could be seen as damage control, trying to repair the pope’s tarnished image.
Moreover, the radical right “Christian” legal outfit representing that Kentucky woman still maintains it was a private meeting and the pope endorsed that woman:
“Despite a statement this morning by a Vatican official, the Pope’s own words about conscientious objection being a human right and his private meeting with Kim Davis indicate support for the universal right of conscientious objection, even for government officials. The meeting with [that Kentucky woman] was initiated by the Vatican, and the private meeting occurred at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. … This meeting was a private meeting without any other members of the public present.”Somebody is clearly lying: Either it was a private one-on-one meeting, or it wasn’t. Either that woman from Kentucky met privately with the pope, or she was just one of dozens who met him briefly. These are mutually exclusive things. So, who’s lying?
Based on the preponderance of evidence, I think that the US radicals are lying and the Vatican’s version is probably what really happened.
What’s going on here, I think, is that the rightwingers—both Catholic and protestant—played us like a violin.
As Pierce noted in his article, it was very odd that ABC (USA) News’ Terry Moran asked the pope a vague question about religious “conscientious objection” without putting it in the context of that woman from Kentucky. This allowed him to make a vague answer that seemed to support that Kentucky woman’s argument (or, it may not have). Then, when the pope has left the USA, someone leaked the story about the pope meeting “privately” with that Kentucky woman to a rightwing catholic website, and, given the answer to Moran, it all seemed consistent. Then, the outrage began—just as the pope’s adversaries had planned?
The Ratzinger faction in the Catholic hierarchy has personal reasons for wanting to damage this pope, as does the USA’s political rightwing who oppose his words on climate change action and helping the poor, among other things. The radical-right protestant religionists in the USA, however—who, let’s be honest, don’t exactly have a catholic-friendly history—need to make their extremist position seem rational, so they desperately needed some of the respectability that the pope’s image could give them.
So, rightwingers of every description had the means, the motive and the opportunity to trap the pope into something he may not have intended. Given the long history of medieval-style intrigue in the Vatican, the idea that he was betrayed from within isn’t farfetched at all.
On the other hand, the radical-right protestants could be telling the truth. After all, the Vatican is NOT LGBT-friendly, and is adamantly opposed to marriage equality. On LGBT rights and women’s rights, the Vatican actually has a lot in common with radical-right protestants, even if those are pretty much the only issues where they agree.
So, it’s entirely possible that the Vatican statement denying a private meeting is a diversion (it doesn’t say there wasn’t a separate meeting with that woman…), and the news that he met privately with an openly gay man could be a just an elaborate version of the “some of my best friends are gay” defence of prejudice and bigotry, perhaps arranged in advance to blunt the criticism they knew would be coming.
This whole thing is far too Game of Thrones for me. Somebody’s lying, someone was secretly conspiring, and we were all played by someone—we just can’t really be sure who did what. But, given the duplicitous nature of the religious far-right in the USA—protestant and catholic alike—I tend to err on the side of caution here, on the side of not aiding and abbetting religious extremists.
So, that’s why I’ve totally replaced and revised this post, and not merely deleted it. In the unlikely event that some radical somewhere has linked to this for propaganda purposes, what they’ll now see is that I’m calling them liars at best, conspirators at worst.
I’m still not a fan of this pope (or any pope, for that matter), and I still regard him as anti-LGBT. And, I even acknowledge that it could be the Vatican playing us. But I refuse to allow rightwing religionists to use me in their culture wars, and I won’t take the chance that that’s what’s really going on.
In future, if I say anything at all about this pope, it’ll probably be a week or so after the events everyone else is talking about.
I won’t be played again by either side.