I was waiting for confirmation from the Vatican before saying anything, and now that they’ve confirmed it, it’s time to talk about the Pope’s recent visit with Kim Davis. If by now you don’t know who Kim Davis is, I recommend both reading my September 5th post “Kim Davis Broke The Law,” and doing a quick Google search for her name. This woman is a hero to the evangelical right, and a pariah to the secular left. She is a polarizing figure to say the least, a beacon of God-inspired exclusion. She has been marketed as a martyr, embraced by Mike Huckabee, and now Kim Davis seems to have found favour with the most influential Christian leader on Earth – Pope Francis.
Pope Francis has done a lot of good. He refuses to live lavishly, he shuns the rich to eat with the poor, he is a champion against our destruction of the planet, and he was surprisingly impressive when addressing the U.S. Congress on his recent visit. He is also a skilled hypocrite. Very recent exceptions aside, the Pope panders to his nearest available base. He eats with the poor but does little to help them. He said “who am I to judge,” and then slammed the LGBTQ+ community at a Vatican-run interfaith International Colloquium On The Complimentarity Of Man And Woman. He is, quite frankly, very similar to another well-known Catholic figurehead – talking out of both sides of his mouth while holding to the values and ideals that keep those he claims to care about in the same desperate situation. Francis is nothing new, he is merely a deceptively polished version of the same charlatanry the papacy was built on. His meeting with Kim Davis should come as no surprise, but the impact of it is worthy of discussion.
Now, it should be noted that Charles P. Pierce wrote a piece for esquire.com, published just yesterday, effectively arguing that the Pope may have been swindled into meeting with Davis; an attempt by his enemies within the Vatican to discredit him. Mr. Pierce is not the only one suggesting a set-up here, and I must admit his argument is plausible. That being said, for the reasons stated above, I believe it naive to just give the Pope a free pass. Meeting with Kim Davis is not unbelievable given his loyalty to traditional doctrine, and he may very well agree with the many Christians who praise her ridiculous behaviour as heroic. Given the likelihood of Francis agreeing to meet with her had he known the situation, the issue of whether or not he actually knew and was tricked into it is irrelevant.
On to the important part of this story – the impact. Pope Francis’ approval numbers are through the roof. Catholics, evangelicals, members of most Christian denominations, even some Atheists, like this man. What he says carries a fair amount of weight. So what is a 10-year-old child supposed to think when the man they have been told to revere meets with a woman who is seeking to deny that child the same rights and freedoms as the heterosexual cis majority? Even if Francis never utters a public word about Davis, his actions speak loudly enough. The LGBTQ+ children dragged to mass every week learn that the Pope stands against them, the church stands against them, and their parents tell them to listen to the Pope and the church. In this childhood scenario, the world is not safe. These damaging influences on the developing minds of young people more often than not cause self-loathing, fear, hatred, bullying, too often suicide, and fatal attacks. We know this because it’s not a hypothetical. It keeps happening. Religious and familial influence play a huge part in who we become, and when that influence tells you that who you are is wrong, the impact is devastating.
It doesn’t matter if the Pope knew about Kim Davis, and despite the noise being made about what might have been said at the private meeting, the words spoken don’t matter either. What matters is perception, and the perception here is that the figurehead of the Roman Catholic church had a private meeting with one of America’s most notorious homophobes. The message sent is that the Vatican approves of Davis’ actions, and although not surprising to some of us, the impact this can have on LGBTQ+ Catholics is something we should be concerned about.
The message I wish to give to LGBTQ+ Catholics is this: There is nothing wrong with you. Kim Davis is wrong. Pope Francis is wrong. The doctrine that dehumanizes and oppresses you is wrong. Many of us understand the difficulty reconciling your identity with what the church teaches. We’ve been there, and we can help if you reach out and ask for it. You’re never alone in this. Whatever your identity, no matter who you are, Outspoken Ally has people who can help at the email address on the ‘About’ page. We can also put you in touch with other organizations that are on your side.
You don’t have to listen to the Pope. What’s wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.