Kim Davis, a Rowan County, Ky., clerk, celebrates her release Sept. 8 from the Carter County Detention center in Grayson, Ky. The Vatican Sept. 30 did not deny reports that while in Washington, Pope Francis briefly met with Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. CNS photo/Chris Tilley, Reuters

Vatican says Pope's meeting with Kentucky clerk is not endorsement

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • October 2, 2015

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis' meeting with Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses, does not equate support for her "position," a Vatican spokesman said.

Davis, the elected clerk of Rowan County, initially refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples and then stopped issuing them to gay or straight couples, claiming that doing so would violate her Christian religious values after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples have a right to marry.

Davis told ABC News she met the Pope Sept. 24 at the Vatican embassy in Washington. "I put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it, and I hugged him and he hugged me," Davis told ABC News. "And he said, 'Thank you for your courage.' ”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a written statement Oct. 2, two days after an initial statement saying, "I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no comments to add."

However, since the private meeting between the Pope and Davis "has continued to provoke comments and discussion" in the media, Lombardi wrote, "in order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired, I am able to clarify the following points."

The spokesman said the Pope had met with "several dozen persons who had been invited by the nunciature to greet him" and that "such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope's characteristic kindness and availability."

Lombardi made a distinction between these brief greetings and more official meetings by saying, "The only real audience granted by the Pope at the nunciature was with one of his former students and his family."

The spokesman said when the Pope met with Davis, "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 clerk had told ABC News that a “Church official" phoned and invited her to meet the Pope.

Although Davis' name was not used, Pope Francis was asked about her case during his news conference Sept. 27 on the flight back to Rome.

"I cannot know all of the cases of conscientious objection that exist," he said. "But yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is part of human rights."

"If a person is not allowed to exercise conscientious objection, he is denied a right," the Pope told reporters.

As a follow-up, the reporter asked if that should apply to a government official, and the Pope replied, "It is a human right. If the government functionary is a human person, he has that right."

Lawyer Mat Staver, who represents Davis, also confirmed the Pope did meet Davis in Washington at the apostolic nunciature. He told Catholic News Service a phone interview Sept. 30 that he could not discuss details of how the meeting came about.

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