The One About When the Pope and the Adulterer Walked Into a Bar

Pope Francis adjusts his glasses in front of his chair, which has an image of the Shroud of Turin woven into the red fabric, as he leads a mass during a two-day pastoral visit in Turin, Italy, June 21, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino

A whiff of scandal always helps grab the interest:

Williams is a vulnerable messenger for such a critique: He was a priest of a secretive and influential religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, a longtime favorite of the Catholic right, which the Vatican has been trying to overhaul after revelations of lurid sex and money scandals.

He later left the priesthood to marry a woman — the daughter of Mary Ann Glendon, a conservative Catholic law professor and ambassador to the Holy See under President Bush — with whom he’d secretly had a child while he was still a cleric.


Okay, that’s not the real scandal, except it probably should be, and there is no actual, real scandal.

So here’s how it goes. Among those invited to a very large reception for Pope Francis are some gay Catholics, gay advocates, and even a gay Episcopal bishop. Oh, and a nun who apparently doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut, or something, because we’re all supposed to be really, really upset about the lot of them, or something like that.

Yes, really:

Do we have our first full-blown diplomatic incident marring the carefully orchestrated visit of Pope Francis to the U.S.?

Did the Obama White House muff what should have been a slam dunk in welcoming the pontiff to what is essentially a Washington photo op?

It sure sounds that way judging by the conservative outrage over White House invitations to a number of gay Catholics and LGBT advocates, an openly gay Episcopal bishop and a nun who is a prominent social justice activist.

They are among the nearly 15,000 people taking part in a reception for Francis on the South Lawn on Wednesday(Sept. 23) before his private meeting with the president.

But these particular guests are “a rogue’s gallery” of dissenters and their inclusion is “a stunning show of political indecorum” designed to “test just how far Pope Francis’ notorious tolerance will go,” Thomas Williams wrote last Wednesday (Sept. 16) on the right-wing news site

And then from Breitbart to the Wall Street Journal, the intemperate bluster of the conservative blogosphere, and, of course, the Washington Post.

And, yes … there is that punch line: “In his article, Williams — who left the priesthood to marry a woman he was having an affair with ....”

Why is that such a reliable punch line?


Gibson, David. “Conservatives Upset That Gay Catholics Were Invited To Meet Pope Francis At The White House”. The Huffington Post. 21 September 2015.

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