Two popes/ Two lies

Netflix has released a drama based on an imaginary meeting between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, the roles played superbly by Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins. Sadly I cannot recommend it. 1/10 is my paltry score.

The reason for the low score has nothing to do with acting talent or production values, these are high, it is due to the overall content. This is a dishonest programme that forgoes truth to push the tired and predictable political agenda of Hollywood elites. Bottom line; liberal leftism is good, conservative morality is bad.

Expect to see “conservative” Benedict presented as a grumpy old goat who is out of touch and needs replacing. Replacing by “liberal” Francis the enlightened progressive who is ushering in the brave new era. We are essentially told that all will be well, pleasant and touching even, so long as past it conservatives step aside and allow with-it progressives to take over. Move aside traditional Christian thinking let a radical new leftist activism determine the life of the church. All hail the Anglicanisation of Rome!

Meanwhile, in the real world, the Benedict papacy saw optimism creeping back into the life of the church whilst the Francis era has been blighted by controversy, chaos and growing divide. Rumours are rife of a lavender mafia active in the highest levels of the Vatican. I have no idea if this is true but we have certainly witnessed a return to the centre of figures mired in scandal, such as Cardinals Ricca, Daneels, Maradiaga and Cocopalmerio. The drama investigates none of this, of course. It is just Benedict bad, Francis good, which is a great disservice to both of them.

What a shame the acting talent wasn’t used to make something better informed, more balanced and genuinely interesting. Who needs made up stories of life in the Vatican when so many fascinating stories, good and bad, surround it in truth?!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

18 thoughts on “Two popes/ Two lies

  1. For a short while after his accession, the “liberal” media went after Francis, just as they hounded Pope Benedict throughout his career with every accusation imaginable. In March 2013, the Guardian ran a story which included the allegation against Francis that: “accusers in his native Argentina continued to raise awkward questions about the past and reproduced a document suggesting the Jesuit may have betrayed two of his priests to the murderous military dictatorship in the 1970s.” Within a few months, Francis had established his credentials as a liberal in the eyes of the media with his “Who am I to judge” statement — a position consolidated by numerous subsequent words and deeds. Stories such as his alleged collaboration with the right-wing dictatorship in Argentina were never again published.
    Now I have no wish to lend credibility to the Guardian’s story. It is, probably, without foundation. The media were still in full “let’s destroy the Pope mode by fair means or foul” and assumed thoughtlessly that Francis was another Benedict. But, the manner in which the story was raised and dropped is telling in its own right. A Pope who upholds traditional values is ipso facto a nasty who must be opposed by all available means. On the other hand, a Pope who is perceived as conforming to the agenda of western liberalism, who is seen to be overturning the “restrictive rules” of the Church, especially in the area of sexual morality, is to be celebrated, and no obstacle, by way of negative coverage, should obstruct his path.
    Unfortunately, most Catholics take their views on matters ecclesiastical from the “liberal” media, rather than by doing a bit of independent investigation, and they will happily buy into the message of this silly movie.

  2. I could not disagree more with your assessment. I EXPECTED the film to be as you have assessed it, and was very pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t, so I am wondering if you actually watched it before posting this. I thought that the humanity of Benedict was very well depicted by Anthony ~Hopkins and the revelation of sides to him that are attested but never were mentioned by the media – his love of formula 1 racing and rather inane Austrian TV shows, for example, and that his musicianship extended well beyond just Mozart and Schubert. As the film progresses Benedict becomes more and more likeable while Francis is revealed as a more complex personality deeply scarred by his murky past. I think you should take another look at it.

  3. I have not seen the film ‘The Two Popes’, so I cannot offer an opinion on it. But one would surely have to accept in relation to what has happened over the last few days that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

    First of all we have the announcement of the publication of the book ‘From the Depths of our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church’ with ‘Benedict XVI’ and ‘Robert Cardinal Sarah’ named on the cover as joint authors. (Note that although the latter is given his correct title the former is not given his: ‘Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’.) Some of the press react by describing the book as an attack by the previous Pope on the direction that the church is taking under the present Pope, although others, including the Catholic Herald, seem to take a more measured view, seeing no contradiction, notwithstanding the Amazon Synod. But what is one to make of today’s further development? According to Reuters, Benedict now wants his name removed as co-author of the book, but the publishers continue to say he is a co-author, while Sarah has felt the need to deny media accusations that he had used Benedict’s name without his permission.

    Now let us remind ourselves of what happened less than two years ago. Another very senior cleric, Archbishop Viganò, accused the Pope of cover-up and asked him to resign. Viganò then felt the need to go into hiding and, as far as I am aware, he is still in hiding. What is he scared of? What is he afraid might happen to him if his whereabouts were to be known? He did though come out of hiding briefly to give an interview to the Washington Post a few months ago, and he is reported to have said in the interviews “The Supreme Pontiff is now blatantly lying to the whole world to cover up his wicked deeds.”

    What on earth is going on? You could not make this up. Indeed if what I have described in the preceding paragraphs had not actually happened but had been the plot of a fictional film about feuds within the senior ranks of the Church it would – until quite recently – have been dismissed as laughable.

    How can people take the Catholic hierarchy seriously when some of its most senior people are behaving like this, openly accusing each other of lying, running off into hiding, etc. etc.? Can the laity really be expected to show respect for and reverence to the hierarchy when so many of the hierarchy appear to be at each other’s throats and to have, at the very least, abandoned the spirit of Canon 273?

    1. I totally agree. The Vatican is a shambles at present and abuse, corruption and infighting have cost it serious credibility. Its a mess. Which is why, more than ever, we look not to the (Fallen) princes of this world but to Christ and we focus on the church where it is working, that is seeking out where it is still faithful, at a local level.

      1. Thank you, Father Ed, for your reply. I was struck by your references to ‘fallen princes’. I immediately thought about the two actual princes in this country who have recently fallen out of favour. (Well, Andrew fell, but it could be said that Harry jumped.) The fact is that our lives ‘at a local level’ (to use your phrase) will carry on just fine without these two princes. So maybe it could be the same for the Church. Maybe the faithful work of the Church at the local level could carry on just fine without the ‘princes’ in the Vatican. Maybe the senior hierarchy is as irrelevant as are secular princes in today’s world. Maybe it is time for the membership of the Church simply to ditch the ‘Vatican shambles’ (to use your words again), including the pretence that the Vatican City is a nation state.

  4. Father Ed –

    Do you feel more alienated now – as a Catholic – than when you were an Evangelical Protestant minister?

    If you could start afresh, what would you do? Join the Ordinariate or stay within the C of E.

    From what you describe both are as bad as each other. Has the Catholic Church really deteriorated more in the last 9 years than in the previous 2,000 years combined?


    1. I don’t feel alienated at all as a Catholic, just very saddened and frustrated seeing modernism rise in Rome, as it did in Anglicanism as it is so very damaging to true and living faith and not in the slightest bit scriptural. But this is a view shared by many cradle Catholics too. If I started afresh I would change nothing. And yes- I think we are in crisis quite unparalleled at present- not in the last 2000 years but certainly since the Arian heresy needed to be defeated.

  5. But I guess the question is: would you have joined the Catholic Church now if (say) the Ordinariate option had taken 10 more years to come to fruition. Or was the attraction really largely Pope Benedict and that attraction has now all dissipated with the coming of Pope Francis?

    In other words, do you think we would not be in the state we are in if we had had a (presumably) younger Benedict still in the papacy rather than Francis?


    1. I think the church would be in much safer hands with a Benedict, certainly. But I would still have joined the Ordinariate.

  6. Thanks Father. If the ordinariate option hadn’t come about, would you have sought entry to the Catholic Church via the Diocesan route?
    I remember Pope Francis quoted as saying that the ordinariate “wasn’t necessary” (I think what he meant was that there is always an option via the Diocesan route, rather than him saying the ordinariate is not a good thing per se).

    1. I had already investigated that route, so yes. Pope Francis is reported to have said that by an Anglican prelate- it has never been confirmed. However in practice he has shown a lot of support- not least in broadening our potential membership by enabling the Ordinariate to gather new members from those baptised Catholic but not confirmed.

    1. Holy Mother church embraced us and enabled us to retain an Anglican patrimony for the sake of the wider church. What would the ‘diocesan route’ have given us that the Ordinariate did not? Ultimately the Ordinariate let us become 100% Catholic without losing our own identity which is deeply rooted in English spirituality and culture. That is precious- and also often lacking in a Catholic church in this land where statues of Patrick outnumber George and Edmund by a factor of 1000 to 1. It is called Paddy’s wigwam not George’s after all!

      Which is to say that, without losing the wonderful multicultural and universality of the church, there was work to do to re-establish an authentic English catholicism largely lost at the reformation. To enable the church to speak in a local dialect as well as an international one. To overthrow the old Anglican label of ‘italian mission to the Irish’..and that work, Pope Benedict proclaimed, was best done in the Ordinariate he established. Great work, I believe, to which I feel called.

      I could not, for example, have beautified a church in an English style, as we have at St. Anselm’s, as easily in a diocese. There are many other reasons why the Ordinariate was great- not least our own liturgy with roots in a Sarum rite.

      But to say we didn’t welcome the diocese would be erroneous – our church is both Ordinariate AND a church of Southwark Archdiocese- all are welcomed. So we did welcome the diocesan life but in a unique way. It is all very inclusive and visionary- sadly some who want a very tightly controlled one size fits all approach born out of 1970’s false ecumenism seem to find it threatening – but maybe that is just another reason for why it was and is needed?

      1. Hi

        I don’t think I have ever seen a statue of St Patrick in a Catholic church in England (or St George for that matter). All or most would for certain have statues of Our Lady and St Joseph and probably the Sacred Heart. The church of my youth, in south London, built in the 1850s to accommodate the needs of Irish immigrants as well as the local existing population, has statues of Sts John Fisher and Thomas More, headstops depicting Sts Gregory, Augustine, Winifred and Dunstan; windows showing St Mary Magdalene. No sign of St Dunstan or anyone Italian. And they achieved that without needing the help of the Ordinariate!

        So I kind of get the point you are trying to make to back up the need to “re-establish” the English-ness of the church, but the assertion re an overwhelming Irish/ Italian influence (not that that is a bad thing in any way incidentally ) really isn’t borne out in reality.

        Where are all these statues of St Patrick you keep seeing…?!

  7. Thanks Father

    Sounds like you are spot on with that last bit!

    My question was really why you hadn’t already joined via the Diocesan route by the time the ordinariate was established? You mentioned you had already investigated that route; what happened? I wasn’t suggesting you should have done that in lieu of joining the ordinariate or that it would have been better.


    1. The short answer is that I was raised in an evangelical setting, was drawn to Anglo-Catholicism and, once I began reading, became doubtful of Anglican claims. By this time I was leaving theological college and had a curacy lined up. I finished that – and at that time explored the option with the local Catholic bishop in Essex. But then I was asked to take the post at St. Barnabas in Tunbridge Wells and had a strong sense God wanted me there. It was confusing but very concrete. Three years later 72 members of that congregation left with me for the Ordinariate. All in God’s plan then- and ultimately I was only in Anglican orders around 7 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.