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The Chaotic Pope Francis

So, now the Vatican says that the pope’s meeting with Kim Davis should not be read as a papal endorsement of her cause. OK, fair enough; it seemed to me that it’s entirely possible that he could have met with her and encouraged her to be strong without endorsing her specific actions. From the WaPo:

In a formal statement, the Vatican said Friday that Pope Francis’s meeting with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis “should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”

The statement, issued by the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the press office of the Holy See, said it was not a “real audience,” suggesting that she was among a group that gathered to greet him and send him off.

But here’s where it gets weird. The Vatican statement also said that the “only real audience

That friend was a gay Argentine man and his same-sex partner of 19 years. CNN has the story:

Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan Bagus, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Grassi declined to disclose details about the short visit, but said it was arranged personally with the Pope via email in the weeks ahead of Francis’ highly anticipated visit to the United States.

“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi said.


“That was me,” Grassi said, adding that he wants to publicize the meeting “to show the truth of who Pope Francis is.”

Grassi said that Pope Francis taught him in literature and psychology classes at Immaculada Concepcion, a Catholic high school in Sante Fe, Argentina, from 1964-1965. Grassi said that he is now an atheist.

OK. But this is just bizarre. It takes about 15 hours to fly from Buenos Aires to Washington, DC, and about the same time to fly from Buenos Aires to Rome. It’s not like Francis was going to be in this hemisphere, so it would be more convenient for Grassi to get to him in DC versus Rome, if Francis wanted his hug. It is far-fetched to believe that this just “happened.” What is Francis’s game?

[UPDATE: Ah, my big mistake. I didn’t realize that Grassi no longer lives in Argentina, but in Washington DC, as National Geographic reports. I regret the error. — RD]

One thing we can say for sure: whether it’s the fault of the Pope or the Vatican press office, the Holy See’s media operation is a disaster. John Allen says:

Without necessarily blaming the pope’s own media team, which seemingly was caught as off-guard as everyone else, there have been three separate breakdowns in communications strategy:

  • Apparently believing (or perhaps just hoping) that the pope’s brief encounter with the Kentucky clerk wouldn’t leak out.
  • Not being prepared to respond immediately when the news did break, thereby creating an interpretive vacuum.
  • Issuing a belated statement saying the pope did not intend to endorse Davis’ position “in all its particular and complex aspects,” but leaving unresolved precisely what he did mean by it.

One predictable consequence is that just as the past 48 hours were consumed by speculation over who put the pope up to the meeting, the next 48 will probably be marked by conspiracy theories as to who put him up to issuing the statement.

Another is that liberals will take a maximal reading of the statement, suggesting the pope has disavowed Davis, while conservatives will argue it simply means Francis hasn’t written her a blank check. Perhaps intentionally, the brief text could lend itself to either interpretation.

For a pope who by rights should be basking in the after-glow of a bravura outing to Cuba and the United States, it’s a fairly depressing scenario.

Read the whole thing; it’s worth it. Allen apparently filed this before the gay atheist hug story, which only makes it much, much worse. In his piece, Allen says that the Vatican needs to put the Kim Davis thing to rest by making a clear and unambiguous statement “on what exactly the Church understands by ‘conscientious objection,’ and the sooner the better.”

On an earlier thread, a reader linked to this John Rao column in a 2014 edition of The Remnant, the traditionalist Catholic newspaper. Excerpt:

In the Fall of 2013 a well-known Catholic intellectual from South America, a highly recognized university professor, Lucrecia Rego de Planas, who knows Bergoglio well and who worked with him, among other things, gave a portrait of the man.

“Bergoglio wants to be loved by everyone and please everyone. In this sense one day he will talk on TV against abortion and the next day he will bless the pro abortionist in the Plaza de Mayo; he could give a marvelous talk against the Masons (Masonic Order) and, an hour later, eat and drink with them at the Rotary Club…….this is the Cardinal Bergoglio whom I know close up. One day busy in a lively chat with Bishop Aguer about the defense of life and the liturgy and the same day, at dinner, having a lively talk with Mons. Ysern and Mons. Rosa Chavez about base communities and the terrible obstacles that are presented by the Church’s dogmatic teachings. One day a friend of Cardinal Cipriani and Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga speaking about business ethics and against the New Age ideology and little latter a friend of Casaldaliga and Boff speaking about the class struggle and the “richness” of Eastern techniques which could contribute to the Church.”


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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