The view that Pope Francis’ visit with Kim Davis — the Kentucky county clerk who made headlines in the summer when, in defiance of the Supreme Court, she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — amounted to papal support for her anti-gay agenda became less tenable Friday when the Vatican announced that the visit had been arranged independently by an archbishop with confirmed anti-gay sentiments, and that the pope had shared an affectionate visit the day before with a gay former student and his boyfriend, The New York Times reports.

Footage of Francis’ visit with the former student, Yayo Grassi, can be viewed above.

The Vatican pinned blame for the Davis controversy on Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the papal nuncio, or envoy, in Washington, D.C., saying he was the church official in charge of arranging the pope’s meetings in Washington.

In April, Vigano was a special guest at an anti-gay-marriage rally held in Washington and organized by the National Organization for Marriage. Though reportedly scheduled to speak, he did not address the crowd but was applauded for attending the rally, the Human Rights Campaign reported.

As for the meeting with the pope’s ex-student, the Vatican said that Yayo Grassi, a 67-year-old caterer who had met the pope on other occasions, brought his mother, his boyfriend of 19 years and several friends for a private meeting with the pontiff that lasted as long as 20 minutes.

The New York Times reported that Grassi and Francis have known each other since the 1960s when Francis, then Jorge Mario Bergoglio, taught Grassi literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion, a Jesuit high school in Santa Fe, Argentina.

Mr. Grassi said that he had resumed contact with the future pope years later, when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. He also visited the pope at the Vatican in September 2013, and later contacted his office to ask for an audience in Washington.

“Once I saw how busy and exhausting his schedule was in D.C., I wrote back to him saying perhaps it would be better to meet some other time,” Mr. Grassi said. “Then he called me on the phone and he told me that he would love to give me a hug in Washington.”

Mr. Grassi said that he had been accompanied by his partner of 19 years, Iwan Bagus, as well as four friends, and that the meeting took place at the Vatican Embassy on Sept. 23 — a day before Ms. Davis met the pope.

The Times noted that the timing of the Davis controversy was “not ideal” for Francis.

Beginning Sunday the Vatican is staging a critical three-week meeting of bishops and laypeople to discuss whether to recommend changing their approach to contemporary issues related to the family, like gay couples, single parents or whether divorced and remarried Catholics who have not obtained annulments should be allowed to receive communion.

That meeting, known as a synod, could become a showdown between liberals and conservatives. Francis has spent nearly two years trying to gradually build consensus and has repeatedly stated his desire for a more welcoming, merciful outreach […]

That brings us back to the question of why the pope’s visit with Davis was arranged. The Times reported that Vigano, who arranged it, met Davis’ lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, in April at the rally against same-sex marriage cited above. The Times further reported that several church analysts suggested that, after the Davis controversy, Vigano would be asked to resign “at the first respectable opportunity” if he is “held responsible for what is seen as a grave misstep on an important papal trip.”

Combined with the Vatican’s claim that it played no part in arranging the visit with Davis, these facts support speculation that Vigano was acting outside of Pope Francis’ wishes and in opposition to the more progressive and inclusive agenda Francis has been building for the church.

Massimo Faggioli, an associate professor of theology and director of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., told the Times, “Nobody in the Catholic Church wants another Regensburg”:

He was referring to the backlash after Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor, gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that appeared to denigrate Islam.

“This was not as serious as Regensburg, when Benedict read his own speech,” Dr. Faggioli said about the meeting attended by Ms. Davis. “But the pope has to be able to rely on his own system, and in this case the system failed him. The question is, was it a mistake, or was it done with full knowledge of how toxic she was?”

The meeting with Ms. Davis was clearly a misstep, Dr. Faggioli said, “because the whole trip to the United States he very carefully didn’t want to give the impression that he was being politicized by any side.”

He added, “And this thing is the most politicized thing that you can imagine.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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