EXCLUSIVE: Viganò reveals what really happened when Pope Francis met privately with Kim Davis
ROME, August 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Less than a week after publishing his extraordinary 11-page testimony implicating Pope Francis and several senior prelates in a cover-up of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of priests and seminarians, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has now decided to reveal, for the first time, the details surrounding Pope Francis’ meeting with Kim Davis during his visit to the United States in 2015.
In a written statement, dated August 30, 2018 (see the Italian and English texts below), Archbishop Viganò, who served as papal nuncio to the United States from 2011-2016, says he was prompted to speak out after reading an August 28, 2018 New York Times article, in which Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean sexual abuse victim, says the Pope “recently told him Archbishop Viganò nearly sabotaged the visit by inviting the critic, Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who became a conservative cause célèbre when she refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”
Davis was jailed for five days, in 2015, for defying a court order to grant marriage licenses, on the grounds that she had personal religious objections to same-sex “marriage.”
According to the New York Times report, the Pope allegedly told Cruz: “I didn’t know who that woman was, and [Archbishop Viganò] snuck her in to say hello to me — and of course they made a whole publicity out of it.”
“I was horrified and I fired that nuncio,” Cruz recalled the Pope saying.
Catholic and secular media soon picked up on the New York Times story, with headlines such as: “I fired that nuncio” over Kim Davis meeting, Pope Francis reportedly said of Archbishop Viganò; and Kentucky’s Kim Davis might have played a role in Vatican infighting.
In the introduction to his three-page statement, Archbishop Viganò writes: “Faced with the Pope’s reported statement, I feel obliged to recount the events as they really unfolded.”
Viganò goes on to detail how the Pope’s private meeting with Kim Davis at the Washington nunciature was organized, what senior Vatican officials were involved in the decision making, and why they thought the meeting would be significant. He also reveals what happened once Pope Francis returned to Rome, and the “avalanche of phone calls, faxes and emails” started to roll in to the nunciature in Washington and the Vatican Press Office.
Readers will recall that news of Pope Francis’ meeting with Kim Davis broke out after his return from the U.S. to Rome, and quickly became a heated controversy. Davis’ lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, initially disclosed the news on Tuesday, September 29. He said the “private meeting” lasted around 15 minutes and took place in a “separate room” to keep it secret, adding that the Vatican official who arranged the meeting insisted that it not be made public until after Francis returned to Rome.
According to Staver, the Pope said he wanted to “thank [Kim Davis] for her courage,” told her to “stay strong,” and gave her two rosaries. He described the meeting as very “cordial” and “warm,” with Pope Francis and Davis promising to pray for one another.
But Vatican officials initially declined to comment. They finally acknowledged the meeting on Wednesday, September 30, but downplayed it as brief and part of a larger group.
Two days later, on Friday, October 2, then-Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement, saying that a “brief meeting” did occur but that it “should not be considered a form of support of [Davis’] position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”
Lombardi noted that the “only real audience” Pope Francis granted at the Nunciature in Washington was with one of his former students, Yayo Grassi, an openly gay Argentine who was accompanied by his male partner, Iwan Bagus, and several friends.
Headlines of the private audience with Grassi and his partner flew across major media outlets, with the Guardian heralding: “Vatican: Pope’s only ‘audience’ was with gay former student – not Kim Davis,” and the New York Times announcing, “Before Pope Francis Met Kim Davis, He Met With Gay Ex-Student.”
Fr. Thomas Rosica — a Canadian priest who was acting as an English attachè for the Vatican Press Office, and came to be known during the Synod on the Family for his overemphasis on homosexual issues at the daily press briefings — told the LA Times that Fr. Lombardi had met with Pope Francis on Friday morning before issuing the statement.
Rosica distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, saying they met in a group, and that it amounted to little more than a “very brief” handshake.
“In terms of why this person was invited, you’d have to ask those questions of the nunciature,” he said.
Rosica said that he couldn’t imagine that Davis spent 15 minutes in a private meeting with Francis at the nunciature in Washington. “I have difficulty believing 15 minutes was spent with one individual, because there simply wasn’t time,” he said.
He insisted the meeting was organized by the nuncio, i.e. Viganò — and not Rome — and said he found it unlikely that the Pope knew anything about it beforehand: “Was there an opportunity to brief the Pope on this beforehand? I don’t think so. A list is given — these are the people you are going to meet,” he said.
But Davis’ lawyer told the Associated Press that the Vatican initiated the meeting as an affirmation of her right to be a conscientious objector.
As described in more detail below, Archbishop Viganò, who as papal ambassador played a key role in organizing the 2015 papal visit to the United States, insists that he did speak with Pope Francis about the details of the Kim Davis case — and he provides documentation to prove it.
He says he handed Pope Francis a one-page memo (included below in Italian and English) summarizing the Kim Davis case. In the memo, Viganò informs the Pope that Davis was “unjustly arrested and put in prison” for refusing to sign “marriage licenses for same-sex couples,” on the grounds that “her conscience does not permit her to become a participant in this new way of understanding marriage.”
“Hers is the first case in which an American citizen has been imprisoned for reasons of freedom of conscience and religious liberty even though these rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America,” he wrote in the memo.
Viganò also details his subsequent consultation that night, at Pope Francis’ request, with top Vatican officials about the advisability of a potential meeting, and describes the private meeting between the Pope and Kim Davis the following day.
Finally, the former U.S. Nuncio recalls the “frantic” telephone call he received from Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, once the media firestorm began, and his subsequent and surprising meeting with the Pope.
Here below is the official English text of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s statement on Pope Francis private meeting with Kim Davis and what really happened. The English text may also be accessed in pdf form here, while a pdf of the Italian original may be read here. Emphasis not added.
[This article was updated at 1:00 p.m. EST, on September 2, 2018]
Pope Francis met privately with Kim Davis: here is what really happened
His Excellency Carlo Maria Viganò
Titular Archbishop of di Ulpiana
On August 28, 2018, the New York Times reported part of a conversation that Juan Carlos Cruz, the most well known Chilean sexual abuse victim of Father Karadima and Bishop Barros, allegedly had with Pope Francis. Inexplicably, in his conversation with Cruz, the Pope is said to have spoken about his meeting with Kim Davis during his visit to Washington on September 24, 2015, and to have said that he knew nothing about the case before the meeting.
Faced with the Pope’s reported statement, I feel obliged to recount the events as they really unfolded.
At the end of the dinner, at the Nunciature in Washington, on the evening of September 23, 2015, I told the Pope that I needed him to grant me a half hour, because I wished to bring to his attention, and possible approval, a delicate and easily achievable initiative; that is, to meet personally and in a completely confidential way, out of the media spotlight, with Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, the first American citizen condemned and imprisoned for one week for having exercised her right to conscientious objection.
At the beginning of our meeting, on the evening of September 23, I gave the Pope a one-page memo summarizing the Davis case (here attached in Italian and English). The Pope immediately appeared in favor of such an initiative, but added that the meeting would have political implications, and said, “I don’t understand these things, so it would be good for you to hear Cardinal Parolin’s opinion.”
It was already 9:30 in the evening, so I went in person with two of the counselors of the Nunciature (an Italian and a Lithuanian) to the hotel not far away, where the Pope’s entourage was being hosted. Since I had called ahead to give advance notice of my arrival, His Excellency Archbishop Angelo Becciu (Substitute of the Secretary of State) and His Excellency Archbishop Paul Gallagher (Secretary for Relations with States, and Head of the Political Section of the Secretariat of State) were waiting for me in the hotel lobby. They immediately notified me that Cardinal Parolin had already retired to his room, and they did not consider it appropriate to disturb him, since they could easily make him aware of our meeting the following morning.
We then met in a small lounge of the hotel. As I said, there were five of us. I gave them the same memo that I had given to the Pope, setting forth its content and explaining the reason for my visit, which had been requested by the Pope. After considering the case, Archbishop Becciu was immediately in favor of the Pope receiving Davis privately before he left Washington for New York.
Archbishop Gallagher, while showing support for the idea given the importance of defending the right to conscientious objection, said that it was appropriate to verify from the point of view of common law whether there were any reasons that would render the meeting inadvisable; namely, whether the legal proceedings brought against Davis were concluded or were still open. I therefore had him speak by telephone with the canonist for the Nunciature, who before becoming a priest had been a judge in the American military courts and a professor of canon law. After the conversation with the canonist to clarify matters — he said there were no procedural obstacles — Bishop Gallagher gave an unconditionally favorable opinion that the Pope should receive Davis.
The following morning, after the Mass that the Pope concelebrated with us in the Nunciature, I informed the Pope of the positive opinion of his two principal collaborators, who had then told Cardinal Parolin about our meeting. The Pope then gave his consent, and I organized to have Davis come to the Nunciature without anyone noticing, by having her sit in a separate room. Everything was made much easier by the fact that Davis was already in Washington, where she was invited to receive a Cost of Discipleship Award from the Family Research Council.
Before the meeting took place, I alerted the photographer from L’Osservatore Romano that he should not release the photographs of the meeting without the permission of his superiors. He of course observed the orders, but took many photographs, which have never been published, and are currently kept in the photographic archive of L’Osservatore Romano. I also had Davis promise me in advance that she would not give any news to the media until after the Pope’s return to Rome, at the end of his pastoral visit to the USA. Davis faithfully kept her promise.
Early in the afternoon of September 24, before leaving for New York City, the Pope entered as planned into the sitting room where Davis and her husband were waiting for him. He embraced her affectionately, thanked her for her courage, and invited her to persevere. Davis was very moved and started crying. She was then taken back to her hotel in a car driven by a pontifical gendarme, accompanied by an American Monsignor and staff member of the Nunciature.
Once the Pope returned to Rome from Philadelphia after the World Meeting with the Families, the news of his meeting with Davis broke out in the media. An avalanche of phone calls, faxes and emails arrived at the Nunciature in Washington and the Vatican Press Office, many with insults and protests, but also many in favor of the Pope’s meeting with Davis. In an article of September 30, 2015, the New York Times reported that “Vatican officials initially would not confirm that the meeting occurred, finally doing so on Wednesday afternoon, while refusing to discuss any details.” The Vatican Press Office then issued a statement — without their superiors in the Secretariat of State ever consulting me — stating that the Pope had never received Davis in a private audience, and that at most he may have greeted her among many other people before departing for New York. Father Rosica and Father Lombardi increased added to the lies, and were quoted as follows in the October 2, 2015 edition of the New York Times: “But the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said on Friday that the office of Archbishop Viganò had extended the invitation to Ms. Davis and that the Pope was probably not briefed about her case. And the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman, depicted the meeting as one meet-and-greet among many.” This is the transparency of the Holy See under Pope Francis!
The next morning, at about 6:00 a.m. in Washington — I remember it well because I had just entered the chapel at the Nunciature — I received a frantic telephone call from Cardinal Parolin, who told me “You must come immediately to Rome because the Pope is furious with you!” I left as soon as possible and was received by the Pope at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, around 7 o’clock in the evening on October 9, at the conclusion of one of the afternoon sessions of the Second Synod on the Family.
The Pope received me for almost an hour, and was very affectionate and paternal. He immediately apologized to me for troubling me with coming to Rome, and he lavished continuous praise on me for the way I had organized his visit to the USA, and for the incredible reception he received in America. He never expected such a welcome.
To my great surprise, during this long meeting, the Pope did not mention even once the audience with Davis!
As soon as my audience with the Pope was over, I immediately phoned Cardinal Parolin, and said to him, “The Pope was so good with me. Not a word of reproach, only praise for the success of his visit to the USA.” At which point Cardinal Parolin replied, “It’s not possible, because with me he was furious about you.”
This is a summary of the events.
As mentioned at the beginning, on August 28, 2018, the New York Times reported an interview with Juan Carlos Cruz, in which Cruz reported that during his meeting with the Pope, in April 2018, the Pope told him about the Davis case. According to Cruz, the Pope said: “I did not know who the woman was and he [Msgr. Viganò] snuck her in to say hello to me — and of course they made a whole publicity out of it. And I was horrified and I fired that Nuncio.”
One of them is lying: either Cruz or the Pope? What is certain is that the Pope knew very well who Davis was, and he and his close collaborators had approved the private audience. Journalists can always check, by asking the prelates Becciu, Gallagher and Parolin, as well as the Pope himself.
It is clear, however, that Pope Francis wanted to conceal the private audience with the first American citizen condemned and imprisoned for conscientious objection.
+ Carlo Maria Viganò
Titular Archbishop di Ulpiana
August 30, 2018
Feast of Saint Jeanne Jugan and Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster
Official translation by Diane Montagna
Here below is the text of the one-page memo summarizing the Davis case which Archbishop Viganò gave to Pope Francis at the beginning of their meeting on September 23, 2015. (Download the original Italian here, and a PDF of the English translation here.)
9. Mrs. KIM DAVIS,
As noted, the United States Supreme Court recently decided that “marriage” between persons of the same sex are a right by law, in all of the States of the U.S.A, radically changing the concept of marriage, as well as its very definition.
Mrs. Kim Davis, who was elected an Official of her County, in Kentucky, has refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples, stating that her conscience does not permit her to become a participant in this new way of understanding marriage. Mrs. Davis, who belongs to a charismatic Christian church, several years ago had a personal conversion and wants to reamin faithful to her conscience, following “the Law of God rather than the law of man.” She has been careful not to impose her religious beliefs on others, while they have sought to impose on her these new “beliefs” about marriage. For this she was unjustly arrested and put in prison.
Hers is the first case in which an American citizen has been imprisoned for reasons of freedom of conscience and religious liberty even though these rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Mrs. Davis is a humble person who has not sought publicity for her case, but she has become an exemplary witness to freedom of conscience and religion for the entire country.
News of the meeting of Mrs. Davis with the Holy Father has remained secret until now.