It’s hard to imagine a bigger sham than a Planned Parenthood hearing without Planned Parenthood. Or at least it was until this week, when Republican Congressmen went out of their way to behave like sexist jerks, while attempting to grill Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards during a House Oversight Committee Hearing. If there was ever a sham hearing on Capitol Hill, this one was it. It was farcical from beginning to end.
When Pope Francis visited the U.S. last week, conservatives hoped he would speak out against same-sex marriage and publicly come out in support of Kim Davis’ version of “religious freedom.” Nothing like that happened. So, they just made it up.
It started shortly after the pontiff wrapped up his visit, and left the U.S., with a rumor that the Pope met privately with Kim Davis, and offered her his support. The story first appeared in the conservative Catholic magazine, Inside the Vatican. Reporter Robert Moynihan wasn’t actually at the meeting, but he tells Davis version of the story.
“The Pope spoke in English,” she told me. “There was no interpreter. ‘Thank you for your courage,’ Pope Francis said to me. I said, ‘Thank you, Holy Father.’ I had asked a monsignor earlier what was the proper way to greet the Pope, and whether it would be appropriate for me to embrace him, and I had been told it would be okay to hug him. So I hugged him, and he hugged me back. It was an extraordinary moment. ‘Stay strong,’ he said to me. Then he gave me a rosary as a gift, and he gave one also to my husband, Joe. I broke into tears. I was deeply moved.”
At first, the only other source on the story were Davis’ Liberty Foundation lawyers, who released photos of the rosary beads they said the Pope gave to Davis and her husband. The Vatican would neither confirm nor deny that the meeting occurred. Then Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told the New York Times that he “did not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add.”
But something seemed odd about the whole story. After all, Pope Francis didn’t specifically mention same-sex marriage during his visit, nor did he offer his explicit support to Davis or her cause. Why would me meet secretly with Davis, and why would such a meeting imply his support for Davis? Does the same apply to his meetings with LGBT people?
Could Pope Francis have been “punk’d” into meeting Davis, so right-wingers could make hay of it after he decamped back to the Vatican? Esquire’s Charles Pierce thought so. Suspecting that there are “more than a few members of the Church’s permanent bureaucracy” who are “not happy that this gentleman got elected Pope, and who are not happy with what he’s done and said since he was,” Pierce proffered a theory as to what happened.
So, if you’re one of these people, and you’re looking to ratfck the pope’s visit to the United States, and to his agenda in general, you’d be looking to put him in a box. So, how would you do that?
Here’s what I’d do. I’d arrange for the pope to meet Davis, but not as an American culture war celebrity, but as a devout Christian whose faith is under vague assault. (I would not mention the three marriages or the fact that she took an oath before god to do her job. I mean, why burden the poor old fella with details, right?) I’d shuffle her through the process and she gets some vague words of encouragement from the pope, who otherwise doesn’t know her from any other hick who gets sent his way. I’d sit on the news for the entire rest of the pope’s trip, even enlisting Davis’s publicity-hungry legal team in that effort.
The next step would be to leak word to a reporter, who would ask the Pope a general question about “religious liberty.” Once the Pope was safely back in the Vatican, leaking the news to a conservative Catholic publication would seal the deal.
Pope Francis’ encounter with Kim Davis last week in Washington, which was interpreted by many as a subtle intervention in the United States’ same-sex marriage debate, was part of a series of meetings with dozens of guests and did not amount to an endorsement of her views, the Vatican said on Friday.
“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 on Friday morning.