The Vatican is walking back its seeming embrace of Kim Davis after receiving backlash from LGBT groups and liberal Catholics disappointed that the pope had meet personally with the county clerk responsible for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky.
A spokesman for the Vatican said that the pope had not personally sought out Davis for the meeting and that it should not be seen as an endorsement of Davis’ views. According to Reuters, the Vatican spokesman said there was a “sense of regret” that the pope had met with Davis, as he attempted to distance the pontiff from the potentially controversial Davis.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said that Davis was one of “several dozen” people invited to meet with the pope during his visit to Washington, and insisted that they did not discuss the particulars of Davis’ situation.
“The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family,” Lombardi said in a statement.
While Lombardi declined to answer further questions about the pontiff’s meeting with Davis, his assistant, Canadian priest Father Tom Rosica, blamed the Vatican embassy in Washington for underestimating the impact that Davis’ meeting would have when made public.
“I’m not sure that they realized how significant it would be,” Rosica said. He added that the pope was most likely not fully aware of how controversial a figure Davis had become in the United States.
“I would simply say her case is a very complex case,” said Rosica. “It has all kinds of intricacies. Was there an opportunity to brief the pope on this beforehand? I don’t think so. Was an in depth process done? No, probably not.”
In an interview with ABC News, Davis said she was inspired to keep fighting against being forced to issue same-sex marriage licenses — which she has insisted violate her personal religious beliefs — after meeting with the pope.
“Just knowing the pope is on track with what we’re doing, and agreeing, you know, kind of validates everything,” she said. “I’ve weighed the cost, and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes.”
Davis has already come under fire for first refusing to issue any marriage licenses — an act that earned her a five-day stint in jail — and then, later, upon returning to work, for altering marriage license forms in order to ensure her name and title are not associated in any way with same-sex marriage.
But Rosica also added that he doubted claims by Davis and her lawyer, Mat Staver, of Liberty Counsel, that the Davises had spent 15 minutes with the pontiff, saying “there simply was not enough time.” He also said he hoped that the reports of meeting with Davis would not distract from the overall significance of the pope’s first visit to the United States.
“The visit was extraordinary … so to allow this to kind of overshadow it would be very unfortunate,” Rosica said. “This is not the centerpiece of the papal visit. This is one small part of it, but it is a loaded centerpiece.”