About 48 hours after Pope Francis decamped from America's greatest city, reports started circulating in the press-later confirmed by the Vatican-that the Holy Father had secretly met with Kim Davis, that Kentucky clerk who refused to grant same-sex marriage licenses. Davis, you'll recall, has been (for the last month anyway) History's Greatest Monster.
And not just "met with," but Francis (allegedly) embraced Davis, gave her a rosary, and encouraged her to "stay strong."
At which point the American media-which had spent the last week (not to mention the preceding two years) presenting Francis as the great moral exemplar for humanity, lost its frickin' mind.
There's a lot to say here.
You may recall that I am not especially impressed with Francis. So right off the bat, I was moved to a strange new respect.
I kid. My immediate reaction was that it would be awesome if this was the payoff on the greatest bit of media cat-fishing ever. Imagine the genius of the long con: Francis becomes the Vicar of Christ and immediately starts talking about the evils of capitalism. Then he sets the hook with the secular media elite by pivoting to climate change. He comes to the United States to close the sale by meeting with Obama and praising his climate change policies; going before Congress and calling for an end to the death penalty; and then taking to the U.N. and asking to enlarge the Security Council.
And only then--after the entire media chorus bowed down in worship--did he rip the mask off to show that he's going to be just as tough as God's Rottweiler!
I'd put the odds of this scenario being true at about, roughly, impossible-to-one.
The other--vastly more likely scenario--is the Ron Burgundy Hypothesis, which states that, like Ron Burgundy, at any given moment Pope Francis will simply embrace whatever, or whoever, is put in front of him. Adding support to this theory is the fact that the Vatican then rushed out to say that no, Francis really didn't know anything about Davis and that no, of course, he didn't endorse her. The Vatican had no idea how Kim Davis-an obscure local official from Kentucky who isn't even Catholic-wound up at the Vatican nunciature to meet with the Holy Father. It's a mystery! But that, in any case, the pontiff was happy to meet her and embrace her.
There are other possibilities, too, of course. Having officially claimed that Francis didn't know what he was doing, unnamed Vatican officials then trashed Davis on background and claimed that the Holy Father had been "blindsided" by the meeting and another Vatican official said that That Woman had "exploited" the gentle, noble Francis.
Finally, the Vatican made sure to let people know that the real private audience Francis granted at the nunciature was to a gay couple. (A friend joked: "Francis only met with Davis because he thought she was the one doing the gay marriages.") But none of this really matters. Whatever Francis believes or endorses, it's clear that the freedom of his Church to resist being roped into the gay marriage parade is not near the top of his list of priorities.