Before Pope Francis Met Kim Davis, He Met With Gay Ex-Student



Ever since it became public that Pope Francis met in Washington with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples, the questions have been swirling: Why did he meet with her, and was it meant as a political statement?

As it turns out, the Vatican said on Friday, the pope did not mean to endorse Ms. Davis’s views. It also said he gave her no more than a typical brief greeting, despite what her lawyer described.

Instead, the Vatican said that Francis gave only one “real audience”: to someone later identified as one of his former students, Yayo Grassi, a gay man in Washington who says he brought his partner of 19 years to the Vatican’s embassy in Washington for a reunion. They even shot video.

The disclosure, after the Vatican’s unusual attempt to correct the impressions left by Francis’ meeting with Ms. Davis, added to days of speculation about whether Francis intended to send a message on the place of gays in the church, or conscientious objection, and whether his advisers had fully briefed him on Ms. Davis, or had their own agenda.

The Vatican spokesman emphasized that the meeting with Ms. Davis was arranged by the office of the Vatican’s ambassador in Washington, not by anyone in Rome — including the pope.

“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,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement released Friday morning.

On the other hand, Mr. Grassi, a 67-year-old caterer, told The New York Times that he and the pontiff have known each other since the 1960s, when Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as the future pope was then called, taught him literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepción, a Jesuit high school in Santa Fe, Argentina.

Mr. Grassi said that he had resumed contact with the future pope years later, when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. He also visited the pope at the Vatican in September 2013, and later contacted his office to ask for an audience in Washington.

“Once I saw how busy and exhausting his schedule was in D.C., I wrote back to him saying perhaps it would be better to meet some other time,” Mr. Grassi said. “Then he called me on the phone and he told me that he would love to give me a hug in Washington.”

Mr. Grassi said that he had been accompanied by his partner of 19 years, Iwan Bagus, as well as four friends, and that the meeting took place at the Vatican Embassy on Sept. 23 — a day before Ms. Davis met the pope.

Mr. Grassi said that Francis had told him to arrange the visit through the office of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio, or envoy, in Washington.

“It was a private meeting, for about 15 to 20 minutes, in which I brought my boyfriend of 19 years,” Mr. Grassi said. His boyfriend, Mr. Bagus, worked on a video that was posted online that showed Francis hugging Mr. Grassi and the others.

Mr. Grassi said the meeting was purely personal. “I don’t think he was trying to say anything in particular,” Mr. Grassi said. “He was just meeting with his ex-student and a very close friend of his.”

Late on Friday, the Vatican confirmed the meeting. “Mr. Yayo Grassi, a former Argentine student of Pope Francis, who had already met other times in the past with the pope, asked to present his mother and several friends to the Pope during the Pope’s stay in Washington, D.C.,” Father Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement.

“As noted in the past, the pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue,” the statement added.

Earlier on Friday, the Vatican said that Archbishop Viganò had arranged the pope’s meetings in Washington, including the one with Ms. Davis.

The news of the meeting with Ms. Davis was disclosed late Tuesday night by Ms. Davis’s lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, at the same time it was reported on the website of Inside the Vatican, a conservative publication edited by an American who has covered the Vatican for years.

For nearly eight hours, Vatican officials refused to confirm or deny that the meeting had occurred, before finally confirming it on Wednesday afternoon.

For Francis, the timing of the Davis controversy is not ideal. Beginning Sunday the Vatican is staging a critical three-week meeting of bishops and laypeople to discuss whether to recommend changing their approach to contemporary issues related to the family, like gay couples, single parents or whether divorced and remarried Catholics who have not obtained annulments should be allowed to receive communion.

That meeting, known as a synod, could become a showdown between liberals and conservatives. Francis has spent nearly two years trying to gradually build consensus and has repeatedly stated his desire for a more welcoming, merciful outreach — even as he has not signaled any willingness to change church doctrine.

News of his meeting with Ms. Davis buoyed Christian conservatives, who had been dismayed that the pope, in his emphasis on the poor, barely mentioned issues like abortion and homosexuality during his visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia. It also puzzled and angered more liberal observers.

It also led observers of the Vatican to speculate about whether the encounter with Ms. Davis was a signal of support for her cause. Francis has emphasized that he strongly believes in conscientious objection as a human right, a position he reaffirmed on his plane ride home.

On Friday, the Vatican appeared to be distancing itself from Ms. Davis’s camp. Father Lombardi’s statement said that the brief meeting “has continued to provoke comments and discussion,” and that he was providing clarification “in order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired.”

The Vatican’s statement prompted reactions on both sides of the Atlantic.

In a phone interview on Friday, Mr. Staver said the meeting had been called by the Vatican.

“This was a private meeting initiated by the Vatican,” Mr. Staver said. “My contacts were Vatican officials in the United States. And I was informed the request came directly from the pontiff.”

Mr. Staver said the request had come on Sept. 14, the day Ms. Davis returned to work after her release from jail. Ms. Davis and her husband were picked up at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in a tan van by private security guards who spoke Italian, he said. She had been instructed to change her hairstyle so she would not be identified.

Mr. Staver said Ms. Davis was not among a large group of people meeting the pope. She saw no one else waiting to see the pope and no one else saw her. “Just think about it. If she was in a line, there is no way this could have been kept secret for five days,” he said.

But at the Vatican on Friday, a spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, said the invitation had been extended by the nuncio’s office — not from Rome.

“Who brought her in? The nuncio,” said Father Rosica, who is working with the Vatican’s media office in advance of a major meeting of bishops that begins this weekend. “The Nunciature was able to bring in donors, benefactors.”

Father Rosica said of the controversy: “I would simply say: Her case is a very complex case. It’s got all kinds of intricacies. Was there an opportunity to brief the pope on this beforehand? I don’t think so. A list is given — these are the people you are going to meet.”

Mr. Staver, for his part, said he had been briefly introduced to Archbishop Viganò in April, when he spoke at a large rally in Washington against same-sex marriage, before the Supreme Court ruled on the issue.

The Rev. James Martin, editor at large of the Jesuit magazine America, had cautioned in an article this week that the pope meets many well-wishers on his trips, and that news of the meeting with Ms. Davis had been manipulated.

“I was very disappointed to see the pope having been used that way, and that his willingness to be friendly to someone was turned against him,” Father Martin said in an interview on Friday. “What may originally have prevented them from issuing a statement was the desire not to give this story too much air. But what they eventually came to realize was that they needed to correct some gross misrepresentations of what had happened. It shows that Pope Francis met with many people on the trip, and that she was simply another person who he tried to be kind to.”

Father Rosica’s statement seemed to square with that account.

Asked on Friday if the Vatican press office had been unaware that Ms. Davis had met the pope, Father Rosica said: “No, but I think we may not have been aware of the full impact of the meeting. It is very difficult sometimes when you are looking at things in America from here.”

A receptionist who answered the phone at the Vatican Embassy in Washington on Friday said, “The nuncio does not deny that the meeting took place, but would not make any further comment.”

She said the embassy did not have its own spokesman, and that no other officials there would comment.

Archbishop Viganò is turning 75 in January, the age at which bishops must submit a formal request to the Vatican asking for permission to resign. These requests are not automatically accepted, and bishops often stay in their appointments well past age 75. But if Archbishop Viganò is held responsible for what is seen as a grave misstep on an important papal trip, he is likely to be removed at the first respectable opportunity, according to several church analysts.

“Nobody in the Catholic Church wants another Regensburg,” said Massimo Faggioli, an associate professor of theology and director of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He was referring to the backlash after Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor, gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that appeared to denigrate Islam.

“This was not as serious as Regensburg, when Benedict read his own speech,” Dr. Faggioli said about the meeting attended by Ms. Davis. “But the pope has to be able to rely on his own system, and in this case the system failed him. The question is, was it a mistake, or was it done with full knowledge of how toxic she was?”

The meeting with Ms. Davis was clearly a misstep, Dr. Faggioli said, “because the whole trip to the United States he very carefully didn’t want to give the impression that he was being politicized by any side.”

He added, “And this thing is the most politicized thing that you can imagine.”

Complete Article HERE!


Pope Francis’s meeting with Kim Davis should come as no surprise


The pope’s enormous influence has undermined LGBT people all over the world, as evidenced by his thinly veiled anti-equality statements in the US

Francis in DC


Pope Francis’s no-longer-secret meeting in Washington DC with anti-gay activist Kim Davis, the controversial Kentucky county clerk who was briefly jailed over her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses in compliance with state law, leaves LGBT people with no illusions about the Pope’s stance on equal rights for us, despite his call for inclusiveness. It should now be clear to all that he and the Catholic Church remain steadfastly on the wrong side of history, mired in a discriminatory past.

While in the US, Pope Francis spoke about treating others as we would like to be treated. Yet his enormous power and influence have undermined LGBT people all over the world, as evidenced by his thinly-veiled anti-equality statements both in Congress and during his post-visit press conference – all broadcast before a global audience.

He even repeated the tired old nonsense that we are a threat. In his speech to Congress, he lamented that “fundamental” family relationships were threatened by modern alternatives and, in a press conference conducted in-flight en route to Rome at the end of his visit to the United States, he stated that it is a human right to refuse same-sex marriage licenses and referred to it as conscientious objection.

Yet, Davis, with whom he met and apparently offered moral support to, was quite free to conscientiously object to same-sex marriage. She even had the opportunity to resign or allow her deputies to issue the licenses without her, but she refused to do either – and went so far as to reportedly altering the license forms in a manner that may invalidate people’s marriages. She apparently thought she could “conscientiously object” and keep the perks of the job she conscientiously objects to performing at the same time.

The pope’s support of Davis and others objecting to same-sex marriage and actively trying to keep people from marrying will result in more bigotry and discrimination against us, and is at variance with his overall message of inclusiveness.

Francis is championing “fundamental” family relationships at the expense of hard-won rights by gays and their families – and already many are using the pope’s comments to further their anti-equality agenda, including Davis and her lawyers with the anti-equality Liberty Counsel. But none of this should have
come as a surprise.

Statements made by Pope Francis just a few months ago in the Philippines underscore his opposition to marriage equality. “The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life”, Francis said at a Mass in Manila. “These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation”.

These views were even more obvious and succinct than the thinly-veiled swipes against marriage equality that he made in America last week. His anti-marriage equality stance stands in stark contrast to some of his other statements. For instance, Pope Francis rightly lectured Congress and the world about the refugee crisis and quoted the bible’s message “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – but to ‘do unto others’ means affording equal rights to all, not select groups. Affording unrestricted access to marriage rights strengthens the institution of marriage in a democracy and it is very troubling for the pope to suggest that same-sex marriages threaten traditional marriage.

That oft-demolished illogical and unreasonable argument is ludicrous and the US supreme court ruled accordingly – as did the citizens of Ireland (a predominantly Catholic country) and in other countries where gay marriage has been legalized. The pope may not have given much emphasis to his bigotry or prejudice when he was in the United States, but it was there all along – if we paid attention attention. His meeting with Kim Davis in Washington DC is more definitive proof of which side he is on when it comes to human rights for LGBT people.

Next time, perhaps we’ll be less surprised when he shows his true colors.

Complete Article HERE!


Pope Francis’s meeting with Kim Davis disappointed the liberals he courted


For a man who has made it a point to be humble in his faith and to take politicians in the United States to task, meeting Davis was a profound error



Pope Francis will never be pro-choice. He will never preside over the ordination of women nor perform a same-sex wedding. He is a Catholic, after all.

But from the moment he alighted in DC to wheels up from Philadelphia for his first US visit, the pope’s statements sent shockwaves through both the Catholic communion and the US political community. While speaking to Congress, he demanded attention to climate change. He chastised a war-happy nation against selling arms for “blood money” and never once did he use the word “abortion” in a public forum. For the Roman Catholic Church, which evolves at a glacial pace, each of these small utterances or omissions were nothing short of miraculous.

Then came word that the pontiff met with Kim Davis.

He met with many people during his visit: the Little Sisters of The Poor, the order of nuns embroiled in a legal battle over the contraception provision of Obamacare; the conservative leader of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, who promptly announced his retirement the next day; Mark Wahlberg – arguably a questionable move – and got the official blessing of Her Majesty, Madonna.

But Kim Davis?

Davis is the Rowan County Clerk who famously emerged from her Kentucky jail cell to Eye of the Tiger and into the embrace of Mike Huckabee for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex-couples. Most recently, Davis announced that she was leaving the liberal Democratic Party to join the more accommodating confines of the right-wing Republican one.

The meeting can be heckled by observers for many reasons, including that she’s a member of a church that generally believes Catholics to be heretical idolaters and her belief that loving gay couples shouldn’t get married. But her meeting with the pope casts no reflection on her. We saw what she stood for weeks ago.

Instead the meeting casts a long and confusing shadow over the pope, the first pontiff from the Global South, who was supposed to be a man of the people. The stories of his humility have rapt lapsed and so-called “cafeteria” Catholics around the world. Raised Roman Catholic but not a follower in adulthood, I too was taken by this pope. Riding the bus in Argentina. Considering himself a sinner. His off-the-cuff remark – who am I to judge? – when asked about LGBT people by a reporter. This pope, it seemed, was different.

For a man who has made it a point to be humble in his faith and to take politicians in the United States to task, meeting Davis was a profound error.

Davis is a politically charged figure. Had she not been elevated to near sainthood by Mike Huckabee and others, perhaps she would have faded into the ether. For better or worse, Davis is now a symbol of right-wing Christian morality and so-called traditional and wholesome family values. Her notoriety epitomizes what non-inclusivity looks like. What are we to think about the humble, who-am-I-to-judge pope stamping with approval the values of Kim Davis?

Maybe one of his many handlers didn’t do a simple Google search on exactly how divisive a figure Davis has become? It doesn’t matter how the meeting happened – it happened. To a pope who seeks to broaden the appeal of Catholicism in the US – where the church is flagging in funding, mired in horrific sexual abuse scandals and facing a falling membership – he has done himself no favors by holding a private meeting with Davis and her husband.

Pope Francis’s actions in this case speak much, much louder than his many seemingly good words.

Complete Article HERE!


LGBT Catholics Alarmed With Pope’s Remarks About “Unjust Discrimination”

Pope Francis made the comments on Wednesday in the context of marriage, family, and religious liberty. LGBT Catholics said they believe the term “unjust discrimination” channels a specific history of antipathy toward gays and lesbians in the church.


In his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis condemned “unjust discrimination” while speaking about religious liberty, family, and marriage. The pope’s overture was couched as a nod to inclusivity, but the remarks nonetheless riled LGBT Catholic leaders who said the unexpected comments echoed talking points from the hierarchy of U.S. bishops who oppose LGBT rights.

The pope’s comments were not entirely specific, however. Delivered at the White House on Wednesday, the remarks were broad enough to possibly address a number of social and political issues facing U.S. Catholics, including health care, contraception, and LGBT rights.

But the pope’s use of “unjust discrimination” — a term that appears in a key Catholic teaching on homosexuality — seemed particularly pointed in that context to LGBT Catholics. They say church officials have used the term to argue that there are, in contrast, just and fair forms of discrimination against LGBT people.

“It is a term that has dangerous ramifications for LGBT people,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA, who sat in the VIP section at the White House during the pope’s remarks. “To any well tuned LGBT ear, or anyone listening, it is support for a position many U.S. Catholic bishops have taken — which is against same-sex marriage, the right to fire married gay employees or transgender employees, the right to exclude LGBT people from adoption, and to deny LGBT people foster-care services.”

“It set off warning bells,” she told BuzzFeed News.

The term itself — “unjust discrimination” — appears in a key, conflicting paragraph in the Catholic catechism about homosexuality. “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial,” it says. “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Pope Francis on Wednesday also visited Little Sisters of the Poor, who in 2013 filed a lawsuit to challenge provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require employers to provide contraception coverage. The nuns cite religious objections. While the pope was supporting the nuns’ legal challenge by making an appearance, it is unclear that the pope’s comments earlier in the day were confined to that issue.

Contacted by BuzzFeed News in a phone call, Father Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the pope, did not clarify which subjects the pope was addressing — same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, homosexuals in the church, or something else — when discussing discrimination and religious freedom.

Since taking leadership of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has made gestures of tolerance toward LGBT people, such as famously asking, “Who am I to judge?” However, Francis has not pushed for changes to church doctrine, and he has supported a ban on same-sex couples marrying.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Way Ministries, another prominent LGBT Catholic group, told BuzzFeed News, “We haven’t heard that term in a long time — in the three years since Francis has been in — and it is disturbing to hear him resurrect it. I think the record shows that sometimes he speaks out of both sides of his mouth.”

Unjust discrimination has been a talking point for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which leads of the country’s roughly 70 million Catholics. In 2013, for example, the bishops told the U.S. Senate to reject a bill that would protect LGBT workers from discrimination while, in the same statement, also saying the bishops oppose unjust discrimination.

While Duddy-Burke was enthusiast about the pope’s visit, she said, “If he winds up enforcing the U.S. bishop’s agenda, that means a continuation of the war on LGBT people from the catholic hierarchy.”

At the White House, the pope said he would “celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this critical moment in the history of our civilization.”

“American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination,” he continued. “With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty. That freedom reminds one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

DeBernardo reflected, “I would be fearful that right now the U.S. bishops think that just discrimination would be being able to discriminate against gay and lesbian people who choose to marry.”

He noted that Pope Francis’s comments could be interpreted two ways: that the pope rejects unjustifiable discrimination against LGBT people, or he rejects unjustifiable discrimination against religious people who oppose LGBT rights.

The latter issue has inflamed numerous denominations that support the right to refuse services to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

DeBernardo said he believed the pope was progressive at heart and acknowledged a challenge for the pope’s trip abroad. “I think Francis is really trying to hold the church together, he said. “The Catholic Church around the world and in U.S. is extremely divided over many serious issues.”

Complete Article HERE!


High School Suspends Gay Student Who Wanted To Bring Same-Sex Date To Dance

The saga continues.  I posted about this earlier HERE!


A private Christian high school has suspended a male student who wanted to bring a male date to his Homecoming dance – even after he didn’t go.

Lance Sanderson

Lance Sanderson

Lance Sanderson wanted to bring a date to his high school’s Homecoming dance. The administrators at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, a college prep school “in the Catholic and Lasallian traditions,” told him no – for “logistical reasons.”

So he started a Change.org petition which garnered almost 24,000 supporters, and his story made headlines.

Apparently, that was exactly what the administration didn’t want.

Even though Lance decided to not even attempt to bring a date – he didn’t even attend the dance Saturday night – Monday morning he was suspended.


“Today I arrived at school around 6:30am,” Lance wrote in a letter to the school’s administrators, to explain his side of the story.

“I sat down to complete my assignments for the classes I planned on attending today. At 7:30am, I was speaking to a teacher when an administrator walked into the room and told me to gather my books and come to the office.

“When I arrived at the office I was told that the administration ‘had 890 other students to worry about’ and could not deal with me. I was told to go home for the week. I said goodbye to a few teachers and students, then drove home.”

Lance says he is “hurt by this exclusion,” and notes that it “goes against the Lasallian value of brotherhood that the school is supposed to stand for.”

“You won’t let me dance with my date and you won’t let me go to class now either. I had hoped that today would be one for positive conversation going forward. Instead, I was sent home.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong and haven’t hurt anybody,” Lance notes. “I want to be welcomed back to the school building today and I want this mean-spirited semi-suspension ended, so that I can do my classwork like anybody else.”

NewNowNext, which first published Lance’s letter today, reports that all he did was “speak out for LGBT students everywhere who experience discrimination from faculty and school administrators citing baseless, outdated policies.”

Apparently, that’s enough to warrant a week’s suspension.

On its website, Christian Brothers High School says tuition and fees total nearly $14,000 a year.

Told they have “890 other students to worry about” while his rights and the respect he deserves are being ignored? Hardly the way to educate anyone.

Complete Article HERE!