How Pope Francis Undermined the Goodwill of His Trip and Proved to Be a Coward

How Pope Francis Undermined the Goodwill of His Trip and Proved to Be a Coward

Written by Michelangelo Signorile, and originally published on


After first refusing to confirm nor deny it, the Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis met with the Kentucky clerk Kim Davis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, where Davis’ attorney – who made the news public after the pope’s trip ended – said Francis told her to “stay strong.” And that simple encounter completely undermines all the goodwill the pope created in downplaying “the gay issue” on his U.S. trip.

The pope played us for fools, trying to have it both ways. As I noted last week, he’s an artful politician, telling different audiences what they want to hear on homosexuality. He did that in Argentina as a cardinal – railing against gay marriage when the Vatican expected him to do so – and he’s done that since becoming pope, striking a softer tone on the issue after Benedict’s harsh denunciations were a PR disaster for the Catholic Church in the West. But this news about Kim Davis portrays him as a more sinister kind of politician. That’s the kind that secretly supports hate, ushering the bigots in the back door – knowing they’re an embarrassment – while speaking publicly about how none of us can judge one another.

I would have more respect for the pope if he had publicly embraced Kim Davis and made an argument for her, as he did in his visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are battling against filling out a form to exempt themselves from Obamacare’s contraception requirement, claiming that even filling out the form violates their religious liberty – even though I vehemently disagree with the pope on that issue. I’d have more respect if he boldly, explicitly made a public statement (not the vague, general statement he made on his plane on the way home only in response to a reporter’s question about Davis), as he did in trying to stop the execution of a Georgia inmate who was put to death this morning. But by meeting with Davis secretly, and then at first having the Vatican neither confirm nor deny the encounter – and now having the Vatican say it “won’t deny” the meeting while it still won’t offer any other details – the pope comes off as a coward.

He shows himself to be antithetical to much of what he preaches and teaches. He talks about dialogue and having the courage of one’s convictions and the courage to speak out. But he swept this Davis meeting under the rug, seemingly ashamed and certainly not wanting to broach the subject. Even Davis’s supporters should find that insulting to them.

We all knew Francis was playing a PR game, and we were fine with that. He was focusing on climate change, immigration and other issues passionate to him – and certainly I, and I hope everyone, still welcome whatever influence he can have on those issues. And it appeared he viewed the LGBT rights debate as a distraction from a focus on those causes. He even told U.S. bishops in a meeting during his trip that they should stop complaining about it and turn their attention to other issues. The sense was that he was probably not passionate about gay rights, but not passionate about attacking them either.

But by telling Davis that she should “stay strong” – if her attorney’s account of the encounter is to be believed – the pope is only encouraging the bigots, even if he’s doing so quietly. We don’t know all the details yet regarding how Davis came to meet Francis – if, for example, it was one of the more vocally anti-gay U.S. Catholic Church leaders who brought her along, or if the Vatican invited her.

But the optics of it are bad, no matter what. Rather than moving us forward on LGBT rights ever so slightly, as many viewed the pope as doing, he now, with this meeting, emboldens the haters in the church who will be pushing to make sure church doctrine continues to call homosexuality “intrinsically disordered.” And it sends a message to all those people who’ve experienced anti-gay discrimination – like the Catholic school teachers fired from their jobs in the U.S. simply because of who they are – that this pope is not going to end that discrimination any time soon. Rather than stopping that discrimination, he welcomed, with open arms in the Vatican’s own embassy, the bigots who promote that discrimination but who’ve turned themselves into the victims.

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  1. KingBey
    October 01, 06:37 Reply

    This post though. Were you expecting the Pope to publicly support Gay marriage abii gay rights? Pls, stop biting more than you can chew and stop expecting too much because the Catholic doctrines are still against Homosexuality even though the Pope is a liberal human being. He still has to abide by the doctrines of the Catholic church.

  2. Colossus
    October 01, 06:53 Reply

    An entire rant predicated on a meeting that either happened or not? You get a conservative Pope in Benedict, you scream. You get a liberal one in Francis, you still scream. I really don’t get what people want from the Pope, he is but one man heading a church with centuries of traditions that’s surely almost impossible to pull down. He might not be screaming open acceptance for gays but at least he ain’t showing open hostility like his predecessor did.

  3. obatala
    October 01, 08:31 Reply

    i have said it countless times.
    the firm handling this popes PR are geniuses.
    a little PR slip once in a while is expected though.
    but on the whole they are doing a bombass job.

  4. obatala
    October 01, 08:36 Reply

    i have said it countless times.
    the firm handling this popes PR are geniuses.
    a little PR slip once in a while is expected though.
    but on the whole they are doing a bombass job. .

  5. Teflondon
    October 01, 09:09 Reply

    Like KingBey and Colossus rightly said earlier.. What exactly do we humans want really? Anyone expecting the pope to come to the U.S. and openly support gay rights as gone bunkers.
    He is but just one man, there is only so much he can do. He is a political figure and he would do as he is told or follow a set standard that as been laid down for decades.
    He might not be in support of gay rights, but he never openly discriminated and he even champions the slogan ‘Live and Let Live’ and world peace which I believe is also the main agenda of most rights groups and LGBT. But to suggest that the man should have openly and categorically support gay right is as good as telling him to commit suicide.
    What if he met with the woman, so what? He isn’t free to do that anymore. He even had the decency to do it in private and not openly gloating abt the meeting. Yet some people are not pleased. we just like to look for issues were there is none.

  6. Tiercel de Claron
    October 01, 09:31 Reply

    What can one say?.
    Another idiotic us v them rant.

    For the records,the Vatican will not deny nor would it confirm the meeting took place.
    Assuming,without conceding,it did happen,a 15-minute meeting details of which we’re not privy to as yet.What’s there to kvetch about?.
    It’s same way the sexual abuse victim organizations were going on and on about the Pope not meeting with them,only for it to be made known he’d secretly met with five actual victims.Now the complaint is that five is not enough and it should have been public.
    Makes one wonder if it’s the optics that matter or the substance the man preaches

  7. Keredim
    October 01, 09:48 Reply

    Poor Pope, damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

    Another gay journalist trying to remain relevant.?

    • Tiercel de Claron
      October 01, 10:22 Reply

      A gay blogger and trans activists,among others,were among the guests that greeted him at the White House,but no use pointing that out.It wouldn’t fit in their predetermined narrative.

      • Keredim
        October 01, 10:51 Reply

        How can?!! It’s not inflammatory enough. So it won’t make news for them.
        They just love drama?

  8. Max
    October 01, 10:43 Reply

    What’s wrong with people sef?
    “Stay strong” could be interpreted in many ways. I heard this news yesterday on CNN and I knew it won’t be long before an overzealous gay journalist jumps on it and make an entire rant about it. Mtchew.
    The pope is for everyone, not for gay people. And the mere fact that he’s the leader of the oldest & largest league of a Christian group entangled in centuries of doctrines and traditions doesn’t make his job any easier.
    I know we’ve been persecuted, grilled, boiled, beaten, tortured, killed etc, but this was a cheap attempt at attacking the pope. Whoever wrote this should go and have several seats.
    While tons of gay people don’t even have the courage to come out to people who are closest to them, they expect the pope to come out publicly and sing cumbaya with Elton john.
    Please let’s not lose our heads in fairyland.. A reality check once in a while matters.
    Christianity is still against homosexuality in all its form, so don’t expect any public embrace of it anytime soon, especially not from the catholic church.

    • Keredim
      October 01, 10:53 Reply

      Well said, until the last sentence.????????

      • Tiercel de Claron
        October 01, 11:16 Reply

        Commendable still,coming from the new Max.

        The Catholic church is not “against homosexuality in all its form”,Max.
        Being sexually active,for gays,is what it’s against.You know,that ‘lie with a man,as with a woman’ old testament thingy.The church would rather have gays be celibate.
        Not enough,but much better than kill them all.

        • Keredim
          October 01, 11:28 Reply

          TdC, thanks for clarifying it’s the Catholic Church, because the (non-Catholic) church I go to doesn’t bat an eyelid at the type of sex I have…

          (At least that’s what the young vicar I banged last night said….)?

          • Tiercel de Claron
            October 01, 11:57 Reply

            Hoping to draw Max out,are you?.
            ‘Ware,he may come at you with a cudgel.

            The church is old,steeped in tradition,yet in many other ways it is liberal and progressive.
            What get emphasized on depends on the bent of the Pope in office.
            All Popes are conservative,but the church’s definition of conservative is way different from the American definition we currently go by.

        • Max
          October 01, 13:08 Reply

          “They don’t want us to act on it”, good luck with that (for them). Straight people should be told not to act on their heterosexuality too and see how they react to it.
          The point is still that they think its abnormal and unnatural, they think its like drug addiction or some other bad habit that can be gotten rid of with strong dedication to abstinence. As long as that narrative is there, it still feels like they’re totally against it.

          • Tiercel de Claron
            October 01, 13:49 Reply

            “Straight” people are told to zip till their marriage night or join the priesthood,don’t you know?.
            The Catholic church is not big on sex,except as means of procreation.Sex outside that is frowned upon,for both homo- and heterosexual people.

            • Max
              October 01, 14:18 Reply

              Well we can’t marry now in church, can we?
              See, they still have the upper hand. @Least they still have a way of getting what they want if they decide to stick with church teaching.

  9. Williams
    October 01, 12:23 Reply

    More attention on Kim Davis.She needs to really rest in peace!

  10. Chizzie
    October 01, 13:38 Reply

    Behind closed doors, the Catholic church is pro-gay. The whole institution promotes homosexuality and most Catholics are either gay,or bi or have gay tendencies which might explain why most gay folks I meet are from the eastern part of Nigeria . Its all just one big act and I can bet the Pope has had several gay encounters. If Catholics believe that thier Pope is still a virgin with his 70 plus yrs of existence, then thats fine by them- But I’m not buying that

  11. Dickson Clement
    October 01, 14:42 Reply

    This was a delicate matter that needed a lot of wisdom and discretion. Jesus christ was confronted with similar questions in the bible by the pharisee’s and scribes ‘issues on taxes to ceasar or to God’. Give unto ceasar what is Ceasars and unto God what is Gods’. I believe the Pope acted well, this propaganda is not to favour Gay community but it’s against the church

  12. sensei
    October 01, 15:53 Reply

    Life on earth is getting very exhausting…

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