Roman Catholic Church officials and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò have issued differing statements in recent days over the details of a meeting Pope Francis had with an American county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In 2015, following the United States Supreme Court's 5-4 decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide, Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis garnered national headlines for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
During that year, Davis met with Pope Francis while the head of the Catholic Church was making an official visit to the United States.
At the time, Vatican officials and news media downplayed the meeting, claiming among other things that Francis' meeting was not an endorsement of Davis' efforts.
Archbishop Viganò, who recently garnered attention for his 11-page testimony arguing that the pope and other church leaders aided in the church sex abuse cover-up, told lifesitenews.com last week that contrary to 2015 reports, Francis knew who Davis was and that he indeed supported the county clerk.
"What is certain is that the Pope knew very well who Davis was, and he and his close collaborators had approved the private audience," stated Viganò.
"It is clear, however, that Pope Francis wanted to conceal the private audience with the first American citizen condemned and imprisoned for conscientious objection."
In response, Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., and Federico Lombardi, S.J. issued a statement on Sunday taking issue with the archbishop's account.
Father Lombardi stated that the meeting between Pope Francis and Ms. Davis "was organized by the nuncio (Viganò) who inserted it in the context of the pope's many and quick greetings at his departure from the nunciature."
"This certainly did not allow the pope and his collaborators to realize the significance of this meeting," added Lombardi, as quoted by America Magazine.
In September 2015, Liberty Counsel attorney and founder Mat Staver claimed in an interview that Kentucky clerk Kim Davis had a private meeting with Pope Francis while the pontiff was in the United States.
According to Staver, Davis and Francis met at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 24 of that year, with the Pope offering words of encouragement to the embattled clerk.
For her part, Davis also described the meeting in a report published by Inside the Vatican, in which she spoke of the meeting being positive.
"'Thank you for your courage,' Pope Francis said to me. I said, 'Thank you, holy father.' I had asked a monsignor earlier what was the proper way to greet the pope, and whether it would be appropriate for me to embrace him," said Davis.
"So I hugged him, and he hugged me back. It was an extraordinary moment. 'Stay strong,' he said to me. Then he gave me a rosary as a gift, and he gave one also to my husband, Joe. I broke into tears. I was deeply moved."
At the time, however, the Vatican neither confirmed nor denied that the meeting took place. Later, Vatican spokesman Lombardi issued a statement confirming the meeting but warning against considering it a sign of support for Davis.
"The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects," stated Lombardi at the time.
The Liberty Counsel, which has represented Davis during the litigation against her over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, released a statement Monday arguing that the latest revelations prove that the Vatican spokesmen admited to "lying and hiding the truth" about the meeting.
"In 2015, Lombardi and Rosica lied about the private meeting with the Pope. Now Lombardi and Rosica admit there was a private meeting and that Vatican officials approved the meeting," stated the Counsel.
"The private meeting with Kim Davis apparently ran counter to the narrative of some factions within the Catholic church, and, as a result, the Holy See Press Office lied about the meeting."