The Slatest

Vatican Says Pope’s Meeting With Kim Davis Was Not an Endorsement

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience at St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30, 2015, at the Vatican.
Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience at St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30, 2015, at the Vatican.

Photo by Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty

The Vatican says that Pope Francis’ Washington, D.C., meeting with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis should not be considered a specific endorsement of her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The statement:

Slate’s Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart wrote Wednesday that Francis’ apparent support for Davis’ behavior was a disappointment for those who appreciated the generally nonconfrontational tone he has taken toward divisive culture war issues while pursuing a message of concern for the environment and for the poor:

The pope ate with the homeless, visited a prison, and spoke about the plight of immigrants, but all that is threatened by one single meeting. However assiduously he avoided pressing America’s hot buttons over the rest of the visit, he’s pressed one now, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

This is unfortunate, because the other message, the one about coming together and addressing the poor, the vulnerable, and the dispossessed was a message we desperately need to heed.

The pope is nonetheless an opponent of legal same-sex marriage who has largely refrained from trying to change the church’s core positions on similar issues like birth control and divorce; as Slate’s William Saletan wrote, his approach has been to speak conciliatorily about such subjects without giving much ground in terms of official rules. Francis’ approach “make[s] life easier for some women, gay people, and divorced couples,” Saletan wrote before the pope’s U.S. visit. “But in each case, he has avoided challenging the catechism. He’s offering just enough, procedurally or rhetorically, to lure wayward sheep back into the church, where their errors can be corrected.”

*Correction, Oct. 2, 2015: This post originally misstated when Slate’s Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart published a blog post about why Pope Francis’ visit with Kim Davis was such a disappointment. It was posted Wednesday, not Thursday.