30 September 2015
A question for the Pope
In case Americans needed a reminder after he was gone that the Pope belongs to none of their parties, it looks like the liberal media has to reconcile Francis's progressive positions on poverty and climate with his endorsement of Kim Davis's resistance to federal law. Davis, who was jailed briefly for refusing to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples in her capacity as a county clerk in Kentucky, started boasting a couple of days ago that she'd had a secret meeting with Bergoglio in which he encouraged her to "stay strong." One could only hope that she was delusional, but the pontiff had already hinted at his position on the controversy, without naming the woman, by endorsing the principle of conscientious objection during an interview on his flight back to Rome. Now, perhaps with some embarrassment over Davis's boasting, the Vatican states succinctly that it won't deny that the meeting took place. That's not enough. Americans need to know what Francis meant by meeting with Davis and encouraging her. It's one thing to praise conscientious objection, but the difference between Davis's stand and the way conscientious objection usually works, in the context where the term arose, is that Davis insists on wearing a uniform and carrying a gun while refusing to fire it. Conscientious objection is when you tell the draft board you can't be a soldier because you don't believe in war or killing, at which point they find something else for you to do. In the Kentucky case the right thing for a conscientious objector to do is resign her post. Instead, Davis has practiced obstructionism, claiming a moral right (or as the Pope says, a "human right") to refuse a duty mandated by federal law as interpreted by the majority of the Supreme Court. The Court says it is unconstitutional to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples. All laws denying gay couples marriage licenses are void, and no positive legislation is necessary to secure homosexuals marriage rights. Davis has no discretion in the matter. Perhaps the Pope sees her as a moral equivalent of the soldier who refuses specific orders on moral grounds, the archetypal good German of World War II or the good American of other conflicts. If so, that would be a pretty sick comparison, since it equates allowing gays to marry with ordering people to be tortured or massacred. But it's up to Bergoglio to clarify this point. He now has an obligation to state whether he believes Kim Davis has a right to use her office to obstruct gay marriage. He ought to be asked that question in plain language by the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, and he can answer in whatever language he feels most comfortable with, so long he makes clear to all where he stands on the rule of law in the United States. If a Muslim mullah or a Russian diplomat said something similar to Americans in legal jeopardy there'd be an uproar in this country, and perhaps there will be now. There definitely should be until the Pope explains himself.