Does Pope Francis Support Kim Davis? Francis Has Some Harsh Words About Religious Freedom
After 10 days of traveling, you would think that Pope Francis would be all out of wisdom and grace, but the pontiff had two final messages for the world as he flew back to Italy Sunday night. One of those messages from the so-called "Progressive Pope" won't sit well with many Americans: Pope Francis supports government workers like Kim Davis, telling reporters on the papal plane that it's a "human right" to refuse to follow the law because your conscience objects. While the pontiff did not specifically address gay marriage, the question was framed in the context of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and if he supports people like Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue the licenses on the grounds of religious freedom.
"Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right," Francis told reporters. "I can't have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right."
Francis added that the persons or governments who block people from following their "conscientious objection" are essentially denying a fundamental right. That's why Francis believes "conscientious objection" needs to be part of the legal system, or else rights become unequal. "We would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying: 'This right has merit, this one does not,'" the pontiff told reporters. "We have to respect all rights."
Although Francis did not bring Davis up in name, his response is sure to fire up the Kentucky clerk's fervent supporters, who include GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), both of whom are not Catholic, but Southern Baptist. Davis has cited religious freedom as her defense for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the basis that same-sex marriage defies her religious beliefs. However, the Kentucky clerk was eventually sent to jail for her persistent non-compliance of federal law. In the meantime, Davis' deputy clerks began issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Francis' support of "conscientious objection" to laws was not the only firm statement he made Sunday on his way back to the Vatican. Hours after he met with several victims of clergy sex abuse in Philadelphia, the pontiff condemned the "evil" of sexual abuse by men who took a vow to serve God.
"We know abuses are everywhere, in families, in the neighborhoods, in the schools, in the gyms, but when a priest abuses it is very grave because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy, that girl grow towards the love of God, toward maturity," Francis told reporters. "But instead [the victim] is crushed by evil and this is nearly a sacrilege because the priest has betrayed his vocation, the calling of the Lord."
Earlier on Sunday, Francis vowed to punish perpetrators of child sex abuse, including priests. "I commit to a careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected and that all responsible will be held accountable," the pontiff said after meeting with the victims.
On the issue of clergy sex abuse, which has plagued the Catholic Church for decades and, in recent years, marred its public image, Francis has taken a much harsher stance than his two predecessors. In 2013, Francis created a Vatican oversight commission dedicated to child sex abuse by clergy members. Earlier this year, Francis also established an unprecedented Vatican tribunal to look into and penalize bishops who attempted to protect priests accused of child molestation by evading authorities, covering up sex abuse scandals in their dioceses.