Pope Francis got a lot of love from Americans during his whirlwind trip to the United States.
Much of it is deserved. I join many others in applauding the Holy Father’s humanity and humility.
Then he said something today that I find, well, not quite so praiseworthy. He said upon returning to the Vatican that U.S. elected officials have the right to object to performing their duties on matters of conscience.
At issue: gay marriage.
Your Holiness, I believe you are mistaken.
Francis gets it wrong
There, I said it. I hope I’m not struck down for criticizing the pope.
“Conscientious objection must enter into every judicial structure, because it is a right,” he told reporters while flying to Rome.
Fans and allies of embattled Rowan (Ky.) County Clerk Kim Davis are no doubt cheering the pontiff. She has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of her religious faith, which she said opposes gay marriage.
The pope agrees with her, which is his right.
Back to his point about “conscientious objection.” Americans who get elected to public office take a secular oath, even though many of the oaths instruct them to say “so help me God.” Still, the standard oath doesn’t give officeholders the option to object to doing certain duties because their conscience won’t allow it.
It’s a secular oath that binds the officeholder to upholding the laws of the land.
The Supreme Court upheld a challenge to a law — in Kentucky — that banned gay marriage. A gay couple sued and the high court ruled earlier this year that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law for gay couples who want to marry.
So, the county clerk must follow the law.
She is free to quit her public job. She also is free to campaign as a private citizen to make gay marriage illegal. Contrary to what the Holy Father believes, though, Davis or any other public official isn’t free to invoke his or her personal belief in the performance of their public duty — when it discriminates against Americans.
Surely His Holiness knows this.
Hey, I still love the guy.