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Pope meeting with Kim Davis sparks surprise and disappointment

Faith

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Pope Francis counseled bishops during his recent tour of the United States to "not pick fights that would turn more people off than they would attract," Religion News Service reported.

"Now it turns out that even as he was preaching that message the pope met secretly with an icon of the culture wars: Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk and conservative Christian who was jailed for five days in early September for refusing to issue marriage licenses for gay couples because she said it conflicted with God’s law," RNS wrote on Wednesday.

Gay rights advocates have reacted with disdain that the visit revealed the pope's true colors, while others have pointed out that as leader of the Roman Catholic Church the pope has never hidden his support for religious freedom and opposition to same-sex marriage.

Inside the Vatican first reported the meeting on Tuesday. The Vatican did not deny the meeting took place, but offered no details. Other news outlets received confirmation from Davis herself.

“I put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it, and I hugged him and he hugged me,” Davis told ABC News. “And he said, ‘thank you for your courage.’”

Davis' case has become a lightning rod in the anticipated standoff between religious conservatives and gay rights activists since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Her case has even divided the religious freedom camp, where advocates disagree about whether her refusal to perform her clerk duties is the best case to pursue in defending conscience rights.

"The secretiveness of the meeting, and the Vatican’s refusal to give any information, will inevitably raise questions about why Francis chose to meet with Ms. Davis — and why he kept the meeting secret," The New York Times reported.

The newspaper quoted Davis' attorney, Matthew Staver, saying that he, the Davises and Vatican officials agreed to not publicize the meeting until after Pope Francis left the country because "we didn’t want the pope’s visit to be focused on Kim Davis.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said the pope's visit undermined the work his group has done to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church.

“Though LGBT and ally Catholics have welcomed Pope Francis’ affirming remarks, many, including myself, have also remarked that he sometimes talks out of both sides of his mouth,” DeBernardo wrote on his blog. “While he is LGBT-positive in general ways, his remarks on specific moral and political issues are often at odds with his welcoming stance.”

Barbie Latza Nadeau of the Daily Beast, wrote that the pope's meeting with Davis shouldn't surprise the LGBT community, reminding them that he is a devout Catholic.

"Lest we forget, despite the fact that this pope does preach acceptance for all, that acceptance clearly does have its limits," she wrote. "He does not actually support same-sex marriage, siding instead with the Church’s long-standing view that a family consists of a married man and woman who don’t use birth control and who spend every Sunday at Mass."

The Rev. James Martin, editor-at-large for America magazine, advised readers to relax and not read too much into Pope Francis' private meeting with Davis, one of many the pope had with people between public appearances.

"Meeting with the pope is a great honor, but it does not betoken a blanket blessing on 'everything' one does," Martin wrote. "Not to put too fine a point on it, but Pope Francis also met Mark Wahlberg, and that does not mean that he liked (the movie) 'Ted.'”

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @mbrownreport

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