Dan Brown please call Esquire. Conspiracy nuts seem to be in vogue there.
Charles Pierce has it all figured out. You see, there's no way that the wonderful Pope Francis would ever agree to meet that "hick" (his word) Kim Davis. So it must have been a conspiracy. For real. He actually writes, "Ratzinger's fingerprints are all over this story." Dude thinks he's Christopher Marlowe. Yeah see.
Oh, and he believes there's an ABC News reporter in on it as well. Because we know that major mainstream news reporters are always in cahoots with the Vatican. They're practically pawns that the Vatican uses because the Vatican has the threat of albino monk assassins.
This is just too awesomely hilarious not to share:
First of all, let us stipulate that there are more than a few members of the Church's permanent bureaucracy, both within the Clan Of The Red Beanie and without, who are not happy that this gentleman got elected Pope, and who are not happy with what he's done and said since he was. Second, let us stipulate that many members of this group are loyal to both former pope Josef Ratzinger and, through him, to the memory (and to what they perceive as the legacy) of John Paul II who, for good and ill, had a much different idea of how to wield a papacy than Papa Francesco does. Third, let us stipulate that this opposition to the current pope has been active and vocal, to say nothing of paranoid. Finally, let us stipulate that, for over 2000 years, the Vatican has been a hotbed of intrigue, betrayal, and sanctified ratfcking on a very high scale. (It also has been a hotbed of, well, hot beds, but that's neither here nor there at the moment.) So, if you're one of these people, and you're looking to ratfck the pope's visit to the United States, and to his agenda in general, you'd be looking to put him in a box. So, how would you do that?
Here's what I'd do. I'd arrange for the pope to meet Davis, but not as an American culture war celebrity, but as a devout Christian whose faith is under vague assault. (I would not mention the three marriages or the fact that she took an oath before god to do her job. I mean, why burden the poor old fella with details, right?) I'd shuffle her through the process and she gets some vague words of encouragement from the pope, who otherwise doesn't know her from any other hick who gets sent his way. I'd sit on the news for the entire rest of the pope's trip, even enlisting Davis's publicity-hungry legal team in that effort.
However, as the pope is preparing to go wheels-up in Philadelphia, I'd get the word to a reporter – say, Terry Moran of ABC. On the plane ride home, Moran would ask the pope a vague question about "religious liberty," without mentioning Davis's name, which seems a curious omission for a veteran journalist to make. The pope again would give a fairly anodyne answer about freedom of conscience with which nobody can disagree. Then, with the pope safely back in Rome, I'd leak the news to a conservative Catholic website and wait for the inevitable explosion. (Implicit in this strategy are two facts: a) that the pope doesn't know who Davis is or the facts of her situation, and b) that the Vatican press office will resort to its default position of clumsy semi-stonewalling when the story breaks.) When it comes, lo and behold, Kim Davis gets to give an exclusive interview to ABC, the same network that employs the reporter who asked the question on the airplane. But to pull this off, I'd need someone with serious clout within the Church bureaucracy. And this is where Vigano comes in.
The man is a real player within the institutional church. He first came to prominence as a whistleblower during one of the several investigations of the Vatican Bank, which may be what got him exiled to this godless Republic in the first place. Despite that fact, Vigano is well-known to be a Ratzinger loyalist and he always has been a cultural conservative, particularly on the issue of marriage equality. In April, in a move that was unprecedented, Vigano got involved with an anti-marriage equality march in Washington sponsored by the National Association For Marriage. (And, mirabile dictu, as we say around Castel Gandolfo at happy hour, one of the speakers at this rally was Mat Staver, who happens now to be Kim Davis's lawyer.) In short, Vigano, a Ratzinger loyalist, who has been conspicuous and publicly involved in the same cause as Kim Davis and her legal team, arranges a meeting with Davis that the legal team uses to its great public advantage. Once again paraphrasing New Orleans lawyer Lamar Parmentel from The Big Easy, the Vatican is a marvelous environment for coincidence.
(Also, I have been remiss in not mentioning that, because of the way John Paul II larded the cardinalate with conservatives, the pope was surrounded by conservative American clerics, including his host in Philadelphia, Charles Cardinal Chaput, who's really something of a dog's breakfast. While presiding in Denver, Chaput led the movement to deny communion to pro-choice American politicians. And, after this pope met with survivors of sexual abuse in Philadelphia, Chaput reached deeply into the Corporate Works Of Mercy to declare, "In some ways, we should get over this wanting to go back and blame, blame, blame. The church is happy to accept its responsibility, but I'm really quite tired of people making unjust accusations against people who are not to be blamed—and that happens sometimes." What a guy! As a pastor, Chaput would make a terrific collection agent.)
Ratzinger's fingerprints are all over this story. Vigano is a Benedict loyalist. Robert Moynihan, whose newsletter, Inside The Vatican, got the story first, is an actual lifelong Ratzinger protégé. And the Vatican press office acted just the way I'd want it to act, if I were the guy setting this up. First, it issues a silly non-denial denial, and then it merely confirms that the meeting occurred. At which point, the office clams up, leaving the story festering out there in the news cycle, and leaving the pope out there in the American culture war to twist in the wind. And, if this scenario is in any way accurate, it had its desired effect.