Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: What Kim Davis, Fidel and Raúl Castro have in common

Pope Francis and Cuba's Fidel Castro shakes hands, in Havana on Sept. 20. The Vatican described the 40-minute meeting at Castro's residence as informal and familial, with an exchange of books.
Pope Francis and Cuba's Fidel Castro shakes hands, in Havana on Sept. 20. The Vatican described the 40-minute meeting at Castro's residence as informal and familial, with an exchange of books. AP

Here’s some perspective for Americans who basked in the grace of Pope Francis — and now, repulsed by Kim Davis’ claims, are condemning him.

In Cuba, Pope Francis met with the devil and his executive assistant, Fidel and Raúl Castro, and not a peep of objection was heard in this country outside of Cuban-American circles.

Worse yet, Pope Francis didn’t meet with any dissidents — not even the Ladies in White who are harassed, beaten, arrested on Sundays as they peacefully walk to church to worship. Government operatives put them on lockdown so that they couldn’t attend any of the pope’s public events. Francis didn’t visit political prisoners, bless them, nor publicly ask for their release.

None of these shortcomings gave Americans pause.

But we hear that Pope Francis met in private with Kim Davis — poster child for American conservative intolerance — and it’s over between us! No more praying for you!

He’s in the doghouse with churchgoing Catholics, maybe-Catholics, cultural Catholics (like me), and when-you-think-the-plane-is-going-down Catholics (me too) — and all of progressive America.

No sooner had Pope Francis returned to the Vatican than the Kentucky clerk who denied gay couples marriage licenses in defiance of a Supreme Court decision catapulted herself to more notoriety by announcing that he had met with her.

Not only did she have exclusive one-on-one access, but according to Davis, he had “encouraged” her. Bombshell — and with good reason.

In this alleged gesture of support for a hater, Francis’ inclusive speeches and truisms — “Who am I to judge?” especially — take on the frivolity of a sound bite. We no longer see him as the emissary of the church of love but of judgment. We no longer see the space we wayward Catholics need to feel his grace embrace us. If being Catholic means exclusion and second-class-citizen status to others, we’re out.

At first, the Vatican didn’t help with its no-comment stance. But by Friday, the meeting had cast such a shadow on the pope’s overwhelmingly positive visit — characterized by inclusion and good will — that the Vatican issued a statement explaining that Davis was part of a large group visiting the Vatican embassy in Washington D.C. The meeting wasn’t an endorsement of Davis’ views, it said.

Earlier, Father Antonio Spadaro, one of the pope’s closest advisors, had tweeted a clue: “2 good Popes who bless people not asking them ID (and then exploited): #BenedictXVI with #RebeccaKadaga & #PopeFrancis with #KimDavis.”

Kadaga, a Ugandan parliamentarian who pushed an anti-homosexuality bill, was in a group that met with Pope Benedict. Her supporters used the moment to claim it represented a papal blessing for her cause. The Vatican denied it.

Compared with the dictators with whom Francis communed in Cuba, Kim Davis’ claims carry the sting of a mosquito. The “exploited” in Spadaro’s tweet says it all.

Her chase for celebrity status shouldn’t destroy the moments of grace Pope Francis gifted to all, gay or straight, believers or non-believers.

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