And the comments just keep pouring in to my email inbox and my Facebook feed, people crushed and angry that the pope chose to meet with Kim and Joe Davis and Mat Staver while he was on a U.S. tour preaching mercy, and, we were told, encouraging the rest of us to rise above the culture-war fixations:
This is from a friend of mine who has a truly remarkable record of working for social justice for many years now in my state, a highly regarded minister:
The fact that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis, and that he did so secretively, is beyond disappointing.
From another wonderful friend of mine, a gay person who's not Catholic, who long since gave up on religion, but who found the pope inspiring up to now:
When I saw the news that he had dissembled, and that he actually had met with Kim Davis and made out on the plane that he was not referring to her necessarily, that was it for me. I'm done with all the protestations that he's such a nice, kindly, old man.
From a friend of a friend on Facebook, also not Catholic but who found the pope inspiring — until this:
I watched so much of his visit - felt inspired. Now I kind of feel that watching The Cartoon Network would have done a better job of sustained inspiration.
From another friend of a friend on Facebook, another non-Catholic who had previously found the pope inspiring:
From a friend of mine of many years who's a retired Catholic theologian specializing in spiritual theology:
I was very disappointed with Francis meeting the Kentucky lady. But as some gay people have said, it is good because now he needs to meet LGBT people. If he wants to build bridges, he must build all bridges.
From a Facebook friend with a Catholic background:
Pretty cynical to hold the meeting, then wait until the pope is on the plane to announce it.
From a Facebook friend who's a retired UMC minister, who followed Francis's papal visit with interest and hope:
I have been depressed and disappointed---and angry---all day. What does this say about his previous statement, "Who am I to judge?" It is now hollow and disingenuous.
From another Facebook friend:
He undermines our nation's laws.
From a Facebook friend who's a friend of a cousin of mine and who has Catholic background:
sickening to say the least and reminiscent of previous pope's behavior, his is just packaged better. He undermines our nation's laws.
From a Facebook friend who's an abuse survivor, a former Catholic priest, and a highly regarded leader of the survivor movement in the U.S.:
Pope Francis had this meeting arranged two weeks before his jet landed on American soil. His secrecy concerning this severely problematic meeting was done purely for his political benefit and with the intention of hurting people who have fought so long for their civil rights.
From a friend of a friend on Facebook:
I thought it was an Onion article at first. . . . Sleazy.
From a friend of my Facebook friends involved in Catholic movements to build bridges to the LGBT community:
I wonder if Francis realizes that he now stands shoulder to shoulder with Mike Huckabee. St Ignatius and St. Francis are spinning in their graves.
From a friend of a Facebook friend who's young, gay, Catholic, and struggling hard to hang onto his church connections:
I wonder if they talked about her four marriages. What a letdown. His action opens a door much larger than the issue of marriage equality. His millions of followers and admirers may now feel empowered or obligated to exercise their religious or philosophical beliefs even if those beliefs are inconsistent with the law. It's called anarchy.
From a conservative evangelical cousin of mine who votes Republican but for whom any disrespect of her gay relatives is a fighting matter, a vomit emoticon.
From a Catholic friend of mine who's one of the best people I know, who works, along with her husband, to build stronger marriages in Catholic communities:
I was already disappointed that the pope did not meet with greater numbers of abuse victims, stunned at his sympathy for bishops. Apparently he knew a lot more about Ms. Davis than he indicated at the press conference on his return to Italy. Lies do not inspire confidence! And giving bishop Dolan a chalice after what Dolan did in Milwaukee doesn't sit well with me either!
As Barbie Latza Nadeau said yesterday at Daily Beast, what this secret meeting underscores for us, quite simply, is the following:
The pope’s vision of social equality simply does not extend to LGBT people.
When Catholic leaders rattle on about respect for the human lives of every human being born or pre-born, they don't mean LGBT people. Full stop.
As Roisin Davis asked yesterday at Truthdig,
Why was the so-called people's pope offering words of encouragement to the woman jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples?
As Reuters notes, the choice of the pope to hold this secret meeting with a woman jailed for refusing to respect a ruling of the highest court in the U.S. puts an entirely new frame on his visit to the U.S. For many people Catholic and non-Catholic alike who had previously found him a breath of fresh air, what they now see inside the frame is appalling.
And as cranefly pointed out here yesterday in one of the many illuminating observations in comments here, he chose to do all this — to bankrupt the moral authority he had earned on this trip — over Kim Davis, a woman from whom even the political right had begun to shy away as an embarrassment for its religious freedom crusade:
Even sensible bigots on the Right were embarrassed about Kim Davis and the boneheaded stand she made for the right of public employees to be little dictators making up their own rules and wielding total power. Pope Francis would have shown more dignity if he met with Kim Kardashian, for what a squalid, tabloid sideshow Kim Davis is, glamorizing attacks on the humanity of LGBT citizens for the Right-wing shit parade.
As Electra added in a comment here,
I am way beyond indignant at this travesty. The Vatican's stupidity, devious manipulations, contradictions, and unholy deviousness are out in the open for all to see.
The implications of what Francis did are staggering: 1) a death blow to the image he wants to present of himself as "open," and "merciful,"; 2) a hypocritical denial of his previous assertion, "Who am I to judge?"; 3) his unwonted personal involvement as the "Chief of state" that he is, in the US political scenario; 4) his encouragement of a public official to break the law; 5) his overlooking the fact that he was approving the behavior of a woman who, any way you look at it, was scandalously adulterous; 6) telling a woman, who is so cowardly she hasn't resigned the position she won't fulfill, to "be strong"!!!
As I said yesterday, we're all just little people, and I don't imagine the big boys who run the Catholic church much care what we think, though the comments I'm citing above are among many coming to my email inbox, Facebook feed, or this blog site from people in all kinds of places, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, gay and straight, high and low, all of whom are bound together by hope for a better world. Some of these are people with years of distinguished service working for social transformation; some have distinguished careers as theologians and teachers of Catholic spirituality.
I do think, however, that more than the apologists for the pope realize — the apologists who are telling us that, well, he meets with all kinds of folks and well, he can't control the political messages people make out of his meetings — the pope's choice to hold this secret meeting with Kim Davis and then dissemble about it on the flight back to the Vatican has undermined his moral authority in the most serious way possible. It has erased all the good he did on his U.S. visit.
As one long since thrown away by the Catholic church solely because I'm gay, long partnered, and refuse to play the games of hiding and shame, who has never had a single word of apology from the Catholic institutions that have treated me and my husband as human garbage, why would I hope that this event might be a turning point at which the big boys running the Catholic show finally realize the very high moral price they increasingly pay in much of the developed world for their toxic, ugly homophobia?
(P.S. I am deliberately citing comments sent to me by email without identifying those who sent them, out of respect for the privacy of my friends. I hope that in citing emails without providing identifying information about the person I'm citing, I have not trodden on anyone's toes. It surely is not my intent to do that. I would not dream of violating the privacy of friends.)