VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Friday distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, the focal point in the gay marriage debate in the U.S., saying she was one of dozens of people the pope greeted as he left Washington and that their encounter “should not be considered a form of support of her position.”
After days of confusion, the Vatican issued a statement Friday with its version of Francis’ Sept. 24 encounter with Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis met with “several dozen” people at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington just before leaving for New York.
Lombardi said such meetings are normal on any Vatican trip and are due to the pope’s “kindness and availability.” He said Francis really had only one “audience” in Washington: with one of his former students and his family.
“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Lombardi said.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian, spent five days in jail for defying federal court orders to issue same-sex marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide.
A judge ultimately freed Davis on the condition she doesn’t interfere with her deputies issuing the licenses. When Davis returned to work, she replaced the licenses with new ones saying they were issued “pursuant to federal court order.”
Davis said earlier this week that she and her husband met briefly with the pope at the Vatican’s nunciature in Washington and that he thanked her for her courage and encouraged her to “stay strong.”
“Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we’re doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything,” she told ABC.
The Vatican statement made clear the pope intended no such validation.
However, Davis’ lawyer, Mat Staver, told The Associated Press that the Vatican initiated the meeting as an affirmation of her right to be conscientious objector.
“We wouldn’t expect the pope to weigh in on the particulars of any case,” Staver said Friday. “Rather, the meeting was a pastoral meeting to encourage Kim Davis in which Pope Francis thanked her for her courage and told her to ‘Stay strong,'” Staver said in a statement. “His words and actions support the universal human right to conscientious objection.”