That’s the eye-catching question posed at the beginning of this op-ed piece by Peter Manseau in The New York Times. The key to understanding the pontiff, he explains, is his consistency:
No matter if in his meeting with Kim Davis we cast Pope Francis as a bumbling victim of his own lieutenants, or a back-room wheeler-dealer unwilling to come clean, in his past complaints about judges meddling in matters constitutional and divine, he already lent support to Ms. Davis’s cause no less than her loudest defender, Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a Republican presidential candidate, who put the same idea this way: “Constitutionally,the courts cannot make a law.”
It is tempting to see in the pope’s varied messages during his first visit to the United States the ploys of a seasoned political fighter who knows that a move left on the climate and the economy gives him the space he needs to jab right on social issues. That may be part of it. As the future pope counseled, one should not be naïve. The Vatican was an old hand at international politics before this country was born.
Yet another interpretation is far more unsettling to our bifurcated culture: that Pope Francis is a man who sees more similarities than differences between Kim Davis and Dorothy Day.
During her protests against the war in Vietnam, Day, too, broke the law, and spoke openly about the need to do so. She professed her willingness to go to prison for her convictions, just as Mr. Huckabee did the day Ms. Davis was released from jail. While Day took action because of war and Ms. Davis did so because of marriage, in the pope’s view, his church’s struggle against same-sex marriage is “God’s war.”
Francis has said he sees the devil at work in the question of marriage equality; Ms. Davis has said her refusal to grant marriage licenses was “a heaven or hell decision.” Whatever sets them apart, what the pope and the county clerk ultimately have in common is more than a few moments together in Washington.
As his papacy continues, Francis will likely infuriate people on both sides of our political divide, but it won’t be because he’s fickle. Cool or uncool, the pope is consistency itself.