Earlier today on the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis answered questions from reporters about a variety of issues. In one fascinating segment, ABC News’s Terry Moran had this exchange with the Pope—an exchange that seems to imply papal support for the conservative side of a recent religious liberty controversy concerning gay marriage:
Terry Moran, ABC News:
Holy Father, thank you, thank you very much and thank you to the Vatican staff as well. Holy Father, you visited the Little Sisters of the Poor and we were told that you wanted to show your support for them and their case in the courts. And, Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?
I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection. But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’ It (conscientious objection) is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the “Chanson de Roland” when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.
Terry Moran, ABC News:
Would that include government officials as well?
It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.
The Pope doesn’t mention Kim Davis by name, but the questioner certainly seemed to have the Kentucky County Clerk in mind when asking the question. Kim Davis is the Clerk who recently went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses in Rowan County Kentucky. And it appears that Pope Francis is saying that folks like her have a “human right” to do precisely what she did without being punished for it.
As far as Pope’s are concerned, Pope Francis is the progressive’s dream Pope. But the Pope’s liberal admirers are not going to like this. My hunch is that Pope Francis did not know the particular background to the reporter’s question. I wonder if he would have answered in the same way if he had known? As it is, however, the Pope has landed on the side of Kim Davis. And that’s really something.
UPDATE, 9/30/15: The report below just came out last night and certainly clarifies the background of the comments that Pope Francis made to Terry Moran.
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) September 30, 2015