So the last time I wrote, the pope was hiding in an old tomb overlooking the Tiber, the German Lutheran soldiers of the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor were looting St. Peters Basilica burning Rome and doing things I would rather not discuss in a parish bulletin.
Pope Clement remained a prisoner in the tomb of the emperor Hadrian, also called the Castel Sant’Angelo, for six months. He bribed some jailers and escaped disguised as a peddler. When he could finally return to Rome in 1528, it was a depopulated ruin. He did his best to restore it and finally died after eating bad mushrooms in 1534. The next 250 years the popes were not bad fellows all in all but one gets the impression that the great powers of Europe mostly ignored them. Some were better some were worse, but the bad old days of the secularized papacy seemed pretty much over.
Around 1600, just when the nation state was really getting popular, the crowned heads of Europe claimed what they called the right of exclusion (jus exclusivae), a veto by which a crown-cardinal, a personal representative of a Catholic European monarch could block the election of any candidate they did not approve! The royal cretins who ran Europe and most of the world didn’t get to pick the pope, but they could say who they would not accept. I suppose if they didn’t get their way, they would leave the Catholic Church like Henry VIII had done in 1530, taking England with him.
By 1600, the English, French and the Spanish pretty much owned the world and had the popes over a barrel. Louis XIV was devoutly Catholic. He never missed Mass, nor an evening with his many mistresses, nor an opportunity to wage a pointless war of expansion to ally himself with the Muslim Turks, nor to ignore the pope. Louis had a point when he said “Apres moi, le deluge.” (Or for the less pretentious “After me, the flood!”) Louis ruled France and the Church in France as an absolute monarch for sixty-four years during which he managed to put his grandson on the throne of Spain, so Louis and his family controlled almost all of north and south America and about half of Europe and a lot of other places. When he died in 1715, he had outlived seven popes. Nobody was afraid of the pope anymore. They were very afraid of Louis.
The deluge he predicted came in 1788, one long life later. The French revolution and its offspring swept away the monarchies of Europe over the course of the next century, but they didn’t manage to sweep away the papacy, no matter how hard they tried. The years since the American/French Revolution have been an unremitting catalogue of wars. You already know that and the French Revolution and Napoleon tried to abolish the Church in all Europe. I have already explained how they failed. England tried to destroy Catholicism in Ireland in 1650 by means of Oliver Cromwell and war and again in 1842 by the use of mass starvation. They failed.
Germany tried to limit Catholicism after the Prussian takeover of German speaking Catholic countries in 1866 by means of Bismarck’s Kulturkampf, then went to wars with a re- Catholicized France in 1870. Germany tried again in 1914, initiating the First World War which swept all the monarchies of Europe before it. Those crowned heads that had tried to control the papacy and the Church had by then all separated from their royal shoulders one way or another. The monarchs were gone, but the tyrants were not.
The “isms” and dictators of the twentieth century waged unremitting war on the successors of Peter. The only major voice to persistently resist Hitler and the Nazis was that of the papacy, no matter what you’ve heard. Eugenio Pacelli, later Pius XII despised national socialism and worked tirelessly against it. He was credited, in the 1967 book, “Three Popes and the Jews,” by the Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide, “...with saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.” Hitler so hated Pius that he tried to have him kidnapped and deported to Germany where he could dispose of the pope as he pleased.
“Wait a minute,” I hear you saying, “everybody knows Pius XII was an anti-Semite!”
Everybody knows that because Stalin, the Marxist dictator of Russia who starved millions of Ukrainians, both Catholic and Orthodox to death, and who tried to erase religion from Russian life as a prelude to erasing it from the world, realized that after the Second World war, the only force capable of resisting the Marxist takeover of Eastern Europe was the Catholic Church. He started a disinformation campaign to discredit the Church, particularly Pope Pius, and infiltrated seminaries and religious institutions, especially in places like Poland. That didn’t work either. Poland clung to its faith and the Polish pope brought European Marxism and its slave empire to the ground by simply saying, “Do not be afraid” when he returned to Poland in 1979. When Churchill reminded Stalin to consider the Catholicism of Poland, Stalin quipped “Why? How many divisions does the pope of Rome have?” It turns out he didn’t need divisions of soldiers.
Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro, and all the petty tyrants of the 20th century have tried and failed to control or to eliminate the Church and the papacy. We have a new kind of government in the modern world. We are ruled by the arbiters of fashion in the entertainment and news media who tell us what to think, how to act, whom to marry and whom to elect. Government by Media. I call it the Mediacracy (pronounced mee-dee-AH-kruh-see). They decided that it is time for the Catholic Church to change its ancient beliefs about the sanctity of human life and the nature of marriage. One hundred fifteen cardinals went into a locked room and two days later came out having elected a complete surprise. A man hated by -- guess who -- his leftist government which is trying to turn Argentina into the next Venezuela.
When one looks at the long list of 266 popes, you can only come up with around ten who were scoundrels, but there are ten times as many popes who are revered for exceptional holiness, 94 certifiable saints among them (78 canonized, 16 beatified, 33 martyrs) and we Catholics are pretty picky about canonized saints. The so called bad popes were those few who were the result of the desire of the ruling class to control the papacy whether it was Italian duke or German emperor or powerful Roman family.
Now we have the Mediacracy trying to elect a pope pleasing to it. Do you for one minute imagine that the mediacracy will give us a holy pope? From Nero until now, the powers of this world have tried to control the church of Christ and the papacy that Christ established to govern it. Thus far they have failed. I doubt that the rich and fashionable, the sybarites and the media chic who think themselves above the law of Christ and His church will succeed either.
“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) Christ’s promise has held true 265 times so far. I am confident for the 266th.
Viva el Papa Pancho! Viva Cristo Rey!