Pope Francis secretly met Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk under fire for refusing to issue marriage licenses for gay couples, while he was in Washington last week, according to reports out Tuesday.
‚ÄúThe pope spoke in English,‚ÄĚ Davis told Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican magazine, a conservative periodical that reported the newson its website, which crashed soon afterward. ‚ÄúThere was no interpreter.‚ÄĚ
Davis told Moynihan that Francis said to her, ‚ÄúThank you for your courage.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI said, ‚ÄėThank you, Holy Father,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Davis reportedly said. ‚ÄúI had asked a monsignor earlier what was the proper way to greet the pope, and whether it would be appropriate for me to embrace him, and I had been told it would be okay to hug him. So I hugged him, and he hugged me back.
‚ÄúIt was an extraordinary moment. ‚ÄėStay strong,‚Äô he said to me. Then he gave me a rosary as a gift, and he gave one also to my husband, Joe. I broke into tears. I was deeply moved.
‚ÄúThen he said to me, ‚ÄėPlease pray for me.‚Äô And I said to him, ‚ÄėPlease pray for me also, Holy Father.‚Äô And he assured me that he would pray for me.‚ÄĚ
Moynihan, who has covered the Vatican for years, said Davis recounted the meeting to him shortly after it took place last Thursday, shortly before the pope flew to New York for the second leg of his historic six-day visit to the United States.
Davis‚Äô lawyers on Tuesday evening also confirmed the meeting and said it took place at the Vatican embassy where Francis stayed during his three days in Washington.
Moynihan said Vatican officials confirmed that the meeting took place and said ‚Äúthe occurrence of this meeting is not in doubt.‚ÄĚ
Church officials in Rome and the United States were not immediately available for comment.
Davis and her husband had come to Washington to receive a ‚ÄúCost of Discipleship‚ÄĚ award the next day from the Family Research Council in recognition of her witness against gay marriage.
Davis, 49, whose mother is Catholic, identifies as an Apostolic Christian, a Pentecostal style church. She has been married four times but had a religious awakening several years ago.
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A federal judge jailed Davis earlier this month over her refusal to issue marriage licenses with her name on them to same-sex couples in her county. Davis also refused to allow clerks in her office to issue licenses. She cited the Bible as the basis of her opposition, saying that God‚Äôs law superseded secular law.
Davis was released after six days in jail and, in a compromise, has allowed licenses to be issued without her name and the title removed. Each license includes a statement saying it is issued ‚Äúpursuant to a court order.‚ÄĚ
If confirmed, the meeting would be a stunning coda to the pope‚Äôs visit.
Throughout the trip, Francis seemed to studiously avoid political landmines and repeatedly urged his bishops to avoid harsh language and culture war battles ‚ÄĒ and the Kim Davis case has been one of the year‚Äôs biggest rallying cries for the religious.
On the flight back to Rome, Francis met for nearly an hour with reporters. Without mentioning Davis by name, Terry Moran of ABC News asked him if he would support people, including government officials, ‚Äúwho say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.‚ÄĚ
Francis said he could not address all cases but said that ‚Äúconscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.‚ÄĚ
Conservatives quickly pounced on the remarks as a papal endorsement of Davis‚Äô cause while others argued that it was not clear that Francis was referring to Davis or knew about her case.
Others also noted that the pontiff was referring to a right to conscientious objection, which is somewhat different from the claims Davis is making: She says she should be able to keep her government job and while not fulfilling part of the law because of her beliefs.
Conscientious objectors typically choose to do another job or resign in protest.
Writing at Religion News Service, Jacob Lupfer said Davis‚Äô claims actually undermined traditional religious freedom claims.
‚ÄúMagistrates who serve all comers are the last people we should expect to get high and mighty about the sacred meaning of marriage,‚ÄĚ Lupfer wrote. ‚ÄúI am a strong supporter of religious freedom. But Davis‚Äô claim is a huge overreach. If you have strong views about sacred marriage, perhaps a courthouse wedding clerk is not the job for you.‚ÄĚ
By David Gibson