Last September Pope Francis made his first official visit to the United States, a trip that thrilled and enraptured most of those with whom he came in contact. The trip was a rip-roaring success, and even the Republican right-wing troglodytes in Congress sat and listened politely as the Pontiff addressed a Joint Session of both Houses. The Pope's visit to American was almost blemish-free.
It wasn't until the Pope had returned to Vatican City that word leaked out that he had "met with" Kim Davis, the bigoted Kentucky county clerk who was actively pursuing her fifteen minutes of fame by refusing to provide marriage licenses to gay couples. This news seems not only to have surprised and disgusted many Americans, but it was apparently news to the Pope himself.
As more became known of the incident, it soon took on the trappings of an "ambush" rather than a meeting. The four-times married Mrs. Davis had been invited to come to a reception at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC, to meet Pope Francis. The anonymous invitation was sent at the behest of the Vatican Nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, an ultra-conservative cleric with a strong opposition to gay marriage. And Mrs. Davis instead of "meeting with" the Pontiff, was instead one of many hands that he shook in a long line at the reception.
But the damage was done as soon as Nuncio Vigano let the word slip that Mrs. Davis had met the Pope. Joe Cool was suddenly and maliciously tainted - and Joe Cool was not pleased. He reportedly recalled Vigano to Vatican City where he read the riot act to the sneaky diplomat.
This week it was announced by the Vatican that Archbishop Vigano was being replaced as the Nuncio to the United States. The incoming ambassador will be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the current Vatican Ambassador to Mexico. Nuncio Pierre is pro-immigration and is expected to be decidedly more liberal on social issues than his predecessor. One of the duties of the nuncio is to vet candidates for various hierarchical positions within the U.S. church and make recommendations to the Vatican regarding appointments. With that authority, Archbishop Pierre could have an immense role in shaping the role of the Catholic Church in the United States for years to come - well beyond the papacy of Francis.
And as the American Catholic Church becomes more liberal in its outlook, Ambassador Vigano and Kim Davis will have themselves to thank for it.
God save the Pope!