Pope Sides With Marriage License-Denying Clerk

Photo: Tony Gentile/AP Photo.
Pope Francis has appeared to condone the actions of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to fulfill her court-ordered duty of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Pope spoke to reporters while he flew home on the papal plane, the pontiff's version of Air Force One, following a 10-day tour of Cuba and the United States. He didn't bring up Davis by name, but when he was asked whether he supports the sort of civil disobedience Davis practices, he responded:

"Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right." His statements have been widely read this morning as being in support of Davis.

Since he became Pope in April 2013, liberals have hoped Francis would step all the way to the left, hopes that intensified following his recent speeches. He told world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly that they should approach initiatives to end global poverty, correct educational inequality for girls, and preserve our environment with urgency. He heralded a Catholic figure who is as famous for her deviation from piety as she is for her dedication to it later in life.

The media has called him a "liberal icon." But on issues like birth control and LGBTQ rights, the Pope continues to use language that aligns far more closely with the ideas of American social conservatives.

"I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without," the Pope told the U.S. Congress in his address in Washington, D.C., last Thursday. "Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family."

In the Philippines earlier this year, he delivered a sermon asserting that attempts to “redefine the very institution of marriage” coupled with a “lack of openness to life” were damaging to the concept of the family, The New York Times' Frank Bruni wrote.

And in 2010, on the subject of Argentina's move to legalize same-sex marriage, Pope Francis wrote, "It is not a simple political struggle; it is the destructive attempt toward God’s plan."

Fundamental relationships, threats to the institution of marriage, God's plan — this is language we hear in the talking points of Republican politicians. We can and should continue to laud the Pope for the strides he has made. In light of the history of Popes before him, he's an anomaly. But he isn't a liberal. We're not all the way there, yet.
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