What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.
Elegantly, and always to the point, Francis Bacon went right to the kernel of the matter in his essay Of Truth, showing up the shallowness and hypocrisy of a Roman prefect who should have known better.
More recently, good Pope Francis spoke in a similar tone to the reviled Pilate when he asked prettily, Who am I to judge?
That seems like a straightforward rhetorical question not requiring an answer until you remind yourself that this Pope is a Jesuit.
On the face of it, the pontiff has told us in his own words that he doesn’t consider himself fit to judge, but perhaps he didn’t. Perhaps he was employing that technique of clerical thinking we became so familiar with during the height of the Irish child-abuse scandal: mental reservation.
Perhaps he mentally reserved his reply to a question that appears plainly rhetorical, and perhaps he answered himself silently.
Who am I to judge?
The Pope. That’s who I am. The Pope!
The United States constitution imposes a very clear separation between church and state, but Kim Davis sought to impose her own Christian law over and above the law of the land by refusing to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples in defiance of a Supreme Court judgement.
Of course, in some countries public officials obey their clerics, imposing religious rules as the law of the land and when those countries are Muslim, we call it Sharia. But when the majority population happens to be Christian, we call it following our conscience.
What to make of the four-times-married Kim Davis? Clearly, her Christian principles didn’t prevent her from divorcing three times, but they kick in good and strong when it comes to gays getting married. Call it what it is: plain old-fashioned homophobia.
When Pope Francis sought a secret meeting with the person who has become the face of modern bigotry in the USA, he offered comfort to a deeply intolerant strain of society, a tendency that spends every waking hour judging other people.
The non-judgemental Pope prayed with this woman who presumes to judge her fellow man and woman in direct violation of the constitution she swore (on a bible) to uphold. He gave her a set of rosary beads and urged her to be strong. Or, to put it more plainly, to keep denying gay people their constitutional rights.
He can’t have it every way, this affable, smiling Pope. By offering comfort to a bigot and a homophobe, the Pope was judging, and doing it harshly.
The smile, it seems, was only there to mask the dark intent behind it, just as other clerics have used an affable exterior to set a child’s fears at ease. It appears the Pope has been grooming us.
Bacon, as ever, put it best.
There is no vice, that doth so cover a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious.