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Gerald Posner on Pope Francis and Kim Davis. No surprise.
So many are surprises that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis.
In God’s Bankers I wrote that Francis was essentially a Rorschach ink blot, people saw in him what they wanted. Or maybe what they hoped. I wrote that his “difference in style instilled in many a belief that a change in substance was imminent.”
And once he became Pope, Francis deliberately toned down the reactionary language that was often his trademark while he was the cardinal of Buenos Aires.
For those who know Francis, his embrace of Kim Davis, or his refusal to reply to my Washington Post OpEd calling on him to free the church's much contested World War II files, is not unexpected. Just disappointing.
Here is what I wrote about him in Chapter 42, “The People’s Pope,” of God's Bankers:
"The best politicians realize there is a natural charisma, a chemistry of sorts, that allows a handful of them to connect with people in a way about which most can only dream. Despite shortcomings on promises and a failure to meet expectations, these men and women still inspire confidence and get high favorability ratings in opinion polls long after people would have soured on less magnetic personalities. Francis appeared to fall into this select group. Throughout his first year as Pope, people ignored what he did or said that they did not like.
Six months into his Papacy, in September, he gave a broad-ranging interview to America, a prominent Catholic magazine, in which he pedaled back on some of his most popular impromptu remarks. “On issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods . . . the teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear, and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” That same month in a talk to Catholic gynecologists he issued as harsh a condemnation of abortion as anything Benedict or John Paul ever said: “In a decisive and unhesitating ‘yes’ to life” he said that abortion was a product of “a widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which has today enslaved the hearts of so many.” He later tweeted support for pro-life demonstrations, reminding Catholics that life “begins in the womb,” and declaring, “This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”
He declined, when asked, to soften what he had said in 2009 when as a cardinal he opposed a gay marriage bill pending before Argentine legislators: “Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
In July 2013, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child had sent Francis a request for “detailed information” on the investigations and results of the Vatican’s sex abuse cases. The U.N. wanted transparency on previous offenders, especially so that any who were defrocked under Benedict might not return to civilian society as pedophiles without anyone the wiser. The Holy See had in 1994 ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a legally binding instrument that committed it to protecting children. But in nineteen years, the Vatican had in 2012 only submitted a single summary, lacking any details. The U.N. thought that under Francis the church might be more forthcoming. But in November, the Vatican refused to provide the CRC the names or details it had gathered over the years about clerical sexual pedophiles.
“It is not the practice of the Holy See to disclose information on the religious discipline of members of the clergy or religious according to canon law.” (The next January, 2014, at a U.N. hearing in Geneva, Vatican representatives sat in silence as CRC delegates publicly castigated the church for its refusal to cooperate: “The Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests,” charged a CRC attorney. The CRC scolded the Vatican again in May, urging the church to “take effective measures.” In September, the Vatican shot back, criticizing the CRC for a “grave misunderstanding” of the church’s sovereignty.)
Those who know the Pope best do not think there is any contradiction between the progressive and reactionary Francis. Boston’s likable Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and the Pope’s closest American confidant, cautioned a reporter from The Boston Globe that Francis had softened the church’s tone but said, “I don’t see the Pope as changing doctrine.”
Posner, Gerald (2015-02-03). God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican (p. 499-502). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.