Huh!? Aboard papal plane, Francis backs Kim Davis, disputes notion of Catholic divorce?

Some of our favorite Godbeat reporters -- exhausted after days and even weeks of chronicling Pope Francis' first-ever trip to the United States -- celebrated the papal plane's takeoff Sunday night:

But even in the air -- on his way home from Philadelphia -- Pope Francis keeps making headlines. As in, on some of the very topics that American journalists stressed that he avoided while on the ground in the United States.

And as always seems to be the case with Francis, his statements aboard the papal plane defied the easy media narrative of a pope at odds with conservative Catholics:

From Reuters:

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Monday government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty, such as issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals, if they feel it violates their conscience. ...
On the flight back to Rome, he was asked if he supported individuals, including government officials, who refuse to abide by some laws, such as issuing marriage licences to gays.
“Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” Francis said.
Earlier this month a city official in the U.S. state of Kentucky, Kim Davis, went to jail because she refused to issue a marriage licence to a gay couple following a Supreme Court decision to make homosexual marriage legal.
Davis’s case has taken on national significance in the 2016 presidential campaign, with one Republican contender, Mike Huckabee, holding rallies in favour of Davis, a Apostolic Christian, who has since joined the Republican party.
“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” he said, speaking in Italian.

Time religion writer Elizabeth Dias is a part of the press contingent that joined Francis on the papal plane:

From Dias' report:

Pope Francis also underscored that conscientious objection is a human right. He was asked if he supported individuals — including government officials — who say they cannot in good conscience abide by some laws or discharge their duties, for example when issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. “I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection but yes, I can say [that] conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” he said. “If a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. … Conscientious objection must enter into every judicial structure … Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’”

Meanwhile, the National Catholic Register quotes Francis as saying Catholic divorce "doesn't exist":

The Register reports:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis told journalists Sunday on board his flight to Rome that giving Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics is a “simplistic” solution to the issue, and stressed that there are also other problems that need to be discussed.
“(It) seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the synod, that the solution for these people is that they can receive Communion. That’s not the only solution (asked for).”
What the instrumentum laboris (working document) proposes “is a lot,” he said. “Also, the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn’t the only problem.”
“In the instrumentum laboris, there are many (problems to be addressed). For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It’s a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem: the effective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith.”


Is there a chance that this pope is more complicated -- and more committed to centuries of Catholic doctrine -- than 21st century media headlines make him appear? Of course, tmatt emphasized that fact just this morning. But some news organizations insist on political language, alone:

Alas, even on the latest news, not everyone agrees with the analysis of what Francis said. You will be stunned to know that David Gibson, the superstar liberal Catholic columnist at Religion News Service, and former GetReligionista M.Z. Hemingway, now with The Federalist, differ on this one:

Stay tuned.

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