Garry Wills: The pope shouldn’t be king


A general view of Saint Peter's Square and the city of Rome is seen from the cupola of Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 14, 2013. (PAUL HANNA/REUTERS)
March 14, 2013

Garry Wills doesn’t mince words when it comes to the papacy. “It’s a crime,” he told On Faith’s Sally Quinn in a recent interview. Why?

Says the author of a new book, “Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition” about the legitmacy of the Vatican:

“Well, my wife stopped going to the Vatican because it is a great fortress, a great palace, containing wonderful treasures, but huge coats of arms of all the aristocratic popes. And, after all, the church was built with money the pope got by pretending to let people out of purgatory.

“It’s the remnant of a medieval monarchy, and the idea that the church of Jesus should become a monarchy … you know when Pilate asks Jesus, ‘Are you a king?’ He says, ‘No, not of this earth. If I were a king I would have followers, and they would fight for me, but I’m not a king of this earth.’ The pope has been made into a king of this earth.

“As a matter of fact, when the Romans mocked Jesus, they crowned him as king. That kind of insulting thing is what Christians, in­cred­ibly, came to do themselves. They crowned the pope as king. And, of course, for centuries the king had armies, countries, spies, prisons, torturers, killed masses of people. He was a powerful king, but he was also a spiritual leader and decided that if your Jesus is not my Jesus, I will kill you, so he killed them … Huguenots, Albigensians, in vast numbers for the sin of not worshipping him as king.

“So Lord Acton, who was a Catholic . . . [his] most famous saying, ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ was said precisely about popes.”

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