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Monday, September 28, 2015

The Pope In America: Women, Sexual Minorities, and Kim Davis

The Pope and Kim

In Tom Lehrer’s comic song “The Vatican Rag” [YouTude:] those dancing to the song are advised:

Do whatever steps you want if
You have cleared them with the Pontiff!

That verse came to mind after witnessing the Pope’s rock star-like visit to the United States, which in any viewing was a triumph for him and the Catholic Church.  Thousands of delirious Americans were dancing to the Pope’s tune and he announced he was astounded by how much love they showed him.  My husband, raised a Catholic, but no longer much of a follower, was amazed that so many people adored the man enough to worship him in giant crowds that were so big most of them couldn’t really spot him.  One woman on TV said that seeing the Pope was like meeting God!  Wow!  On top of that some of the Pope’s messages to Americans about the necessity of dealing with climate change and reining in the excesses of capitalism were ones that I certainly applaud with gusto [see my post “The Collapse of 2050: Earth as a Ponzi Scheme,”].  As for the victims of priestly sexual abuse, he met with some of those and said he would pray for them, adding that what had happened made God weep.



Pope Francis Addresses Congress



Though an atheist since eighth grade, I was reared a Catholic myself [see “Related Posts” below], and have written about this particular Pope in prior posts [ditto].  For my views of what Pope Francis has said about birth control and gay rights and why I think he is sinfully wrong, see those posts.  But while in America the Pope repeated the standard Catholic line on these and other controversial topics: no women priests, no birth control, no abortion rights (still a major sin, but forgivable), and gays can only be good Catholics if they refrain from sex and never marry (each other).  He didn’t repeat what he’s previously said about trans people, who according to Pope Francis are guilty “of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory that does not recognize the order of creation," adding, "With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the creator."




But the Pope held off until he was on the place leaving the country to deliver the blow that most blunts his popularity and that has attracted the biggest sensation: he aligned himself with those supporting the right of Kim Davis and religious people like her to refuse to perform their official duties (in Kim’s case, issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as she is required to do by Kentucky law) if doing so would interfere with deeply held religious convictions (in this case abhorrence of gay sex).  The Pope was asked by reporters, “Do you … support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example when issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”  He replied that he did think there was a right to be a “conscientious objector” in this situation.  “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right.” It turns out that the Pope had met with Davis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D. C., and told her to "Stay strong."  They then agreed to pray for each other.  [Since I wrote this there has emerged a fascinating speculation that the Pope was swindled by conservative factions within the Church to appear to endorse a woman who he knew nothing about, with the goal of embarrassing him.  See] [Since I added that there has been more news.  As of October 2: the Vatican denies that the Pope had any special visit with Ms. Davis and says that she was just one of "several dozen" people with whom he had a "brief meeting," claiming that the only "real audience" granted by the Pope was to a gay man from Argentina who was the Pope's former student, who brought along his family and partner.  So there!  But Davis's attorney says the Vatican originally arranged the meeting with his client, picked her up from the hotel she was staying at, and told her to change her hairdo so she wouldn't be recognized.  She was shown into a private room with the Pope, with no others around.  She was told not to make it public that they had met until the Pope had left the USA.]







Why is this such a big surprise?  It’s right in line with the Church practice of firing teachers in Catholic schools who are outed after years of fine service—and this is happening all across this country routinely.  See






Ah, but would the Pope still take this stance if it interfered with his own responsibilities as CEO of a major international organization?  


Consider this little scene from a play I'm considering writing titled “The Pope and the Conscientious Objector.”  It opens in the Pope’s dressing room on a morning when he has just stepped from the shower, a large white towel wrapped around his middle, prepared to don his vestments so he can greet the public for a ceremony.  His dresser, Giuseppe,
a longtime employee, enters and bows to him.

Giuseppe:  Buon giorno, mio Papa.

Pope:  Good morning, Guiseppe.  Shall we begin?

Giuseppe: Alas, no, Papa.  I will be unable to help you dress this morning.

Pope: (startled)  What?  But it is hard work and you know I cannot dress myself in these heavy vestments without your help.  What is the problem, my friend?

Giuseppe:  I have been talking truth to myself, and I have finally accepted the fact that I am a homosexual.

Pope:  Oh, horror!

Giuseppe:  Perhaps even worse I have abandoned Catholicism and joined a gay church, where it is against our religious principles to aid those engaged in discriminating against gay people.

Pope:  But then, Giuseppe, I will have to let you go!  I have no choice!

Giuseppe: (very excited, waiving his arms) But this is a matter of both my conscience and my religion!  You’ve announced to the world I cannot be fired for this stance!  Are you a hypocrite? You???

Pope:  Oh, my, you’re right, Giuseppe!  I, the Pope, must set a good example.  I’ll have someone else dress me.  Go have your breakfast.

Giuseppe:  (in a low tone) I’m afraid all of your attendants are also gay, and my example has made them come out en masse in a show of support.

Pope:  Hmm.  My priests then.

Giuseppe:  (shrugs) Same problem.

(Long silence)

Giuseppe:  I will go so far as to help you dry off.




Related Posts:


"Catholicism and Me” parts One and Two: and


“Who Am I To Judge?" Pope Francis and the Future of Gay Catholicism”;


“So, the Pope Doesn’t Like Gay Marriage?”


A Homophobic Organization Throws in the Towel: Goodbye to Exodus International” ;


A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013: