The papal visit to the United States was, in most respects, a remarkable affair. Pope Francis brought his people-centric message to thousands upon thousands and even spoke to a joint session of Congress where he told America's lawmakers things that left many in the chamber feeling uncomfortable. He spoke about climate change, poverty and hunger, immigration, and the excesses of capitalism. He did not, as many conservatives had hoped he would, get into the trenches to wage the culture wars. Abortion and gay marriage were largely ignored.
Indeed, the entire papal visit seems to have been a positive encounter between the Pontiff and America - with one glaring and galling exception.
It was learned shortly after the trip ended that Pope Francis "met with" Kim Davis, the embattled county clerk from Kentucky who is crusading against gay marriage. Davis and her lawyers said that she had met the Pope, by invitation, at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC, and that Francis had told her to "stay strong." Phrased that way, it almost sounds like the Pope endorsed her actions and had brought her in for an audience to shore up her position - quite a different perspective from the one he had presented to the American public and the world during the rest of his visit.
Obviously, there was more to the story than met the eye.
It has since been learned that Pope Francis was likely the victim of a political ploy instituted by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican Ambassador to the United States. Vigano had invited Ms. Davis along with several others to a rushed "meet and greet" at the embassy, and it is unlikely that Pope Francis even realized who Ms. Davis was. But the archbishop got his headline and a bit of notoriety for a cause he obviously supported.
There is now a petition being circulated urging Archbishop Vigano to resign. It has over thirty-four thousand signatures. The petition states in part:
"Inviting Kim Davis to a reception with Pope Francis undermined the pope's message to the United States and was a mean-spirited insult to the Kentucky couples whose marriage licenses she has tried to deny. For the good of the church, please resign immediately and allow Pope Francis to appoint a new apostolic nuncio."
Pope Francis has already replaced several top church officials over their inflexibility and inability to adapt to the modern world. It would appear that the removal of Archbishop Vigano from his ambassadorship might now also be in order.
The world has moved well beyond the fifteenth century, and Pope Francis realizes it - whether his church has or not.