After Fawning Over Pope's Economic Stands, NYT Accuses Him of Reigniting 'Culture Wars' by Meeting Kim Davis

October 1st, 2015 11:44 PM

Religious double standards on the front of Thursday's New York Times: "The Pope, the Clerk and Culture Wars Revisited."

During his U.S. tour, the Times celebrated Pope Francis's liberal tone on economic, environmental, and immigration issues. But when he reaffirmed his belief in religious freedom (and the Church's opposition to gay marriage) by secretly meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail instead of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, the Times adopted a puzzled, chiding tone. Reporters Laurie Goodstein and Jim Yardley fretted that by standing up for civil disobedience in the name of faith, the Pope was reigniting the U.S. "culture war."

That's far from the celebratory tone in which the Times greeted the Supreme Court's June 2015 decision finding a constitutional right to gay marriage. It's certainly not how Yardley reverently treated the Pope's more liberal stances during his visit.

From Thursday's Times:

After a busy morning addressing a joint meeting of Congress and mingling with the homeless at an outdoor lunch, Pope Francis decamped to the heavily barricaded Vatican Embassy in Washington last Thursday for what Vatican officials billed as a brief afternoon siesta before his flight to New York, the second leg of his American trip.

But the 78-year-old pope did more than nap that afternoon. He made time for a private meeting in the embassy with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who has been claimed as a hero by religious conservatives for choosing to go to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Francis gave Ms. Davis and her husband, Joe, two rosaries, embraced her and told her to “stay strong” -- according to her lawyer, Mathew D. Staver.

Reporters Goodstein and Yardley certainly made the whole incident sound embarrassing:

Six days after Ms. Davis was furtively hustled into the embassy, a Vatican spokesman issued a terse confirmation on Wednesday that the meeting had occurred but offered no details. The episode added a new dimension to an American tour in which the pope drew rapturous throngs and surprised admiration from liberal Americans thrilled to hear a pope stake out left-leaning positions on poverty, the environment and immigration.

Suddenly, on Wednesday, religious conservatives were cheering. They had spent a week watching with some chagrin the pope’s reluctance to engage directly in their culture-war battles over same-sex marriage, abortion rights and religious liberty. Francis had urged American bishops to avoid “harsh and divisive language.”

But now, the conservatives were taking heart, putting the Davis visit together with the pope’s subtle speech on religious freedom on Saturday and his unscheduled stop in Washington to see the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that is suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

The Times let liberals arrogantly claim, with no pushback, that the Pope had made a mistake:

Liberal Catholic commentators were left asking whether the pope had been trying to make a statement about religious liberty or same-sex marriage by meeting with Ms. Davis, and if so, why the meeting had been kept secret. Some called it a mistake.

Goodstein and Yardley used "incendiary" language to describe traditional Catholic teaching on marriage.

For the most part, Francis has avoided incendiary talk about same-sex marriage, and early in his papacy, he signaled a tolerant attitude about gay people with his well-known comment, “Who am I to judge?”


Some analysts argued that Francis’ meeting with Ms. Davis was less about same-sex marriage and more about his uncompromising support for conscientious objection -- a stance he emphasized in the news conference on his flight home.

The paper's sour attitude -- perhaps resentment at being hoodwinked, coupled with the usual media loathing of Kim Davis? -- permeated the retrospective play-by-play:

For nearly eight hours, Vatican officials refused to confirm or deny that the meeting had occurred, before finally confirming it on Wednesday afternoon.

Asked why the Vatican had announced the visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor but not the meeting with Ms. Davis, a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, drew a distinction.