How Dangerous Is The Pope?

In 2014 Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the second highest judicial office in the Catholic Church, was removed from his post by Pope Francis Commentators said this demotion was related to his conservative views which clashed at the annual Synod with Francis’ more liberal vision for the church

The incident displayed a clear division between conservative elements within the Vatican and the Pope, with Francis exercising his power by removing opponents who question his doctrine Is the Pope the puppetmaster of the Vatican or the puppet? How dangerous is the Pope? Before the unification of Italy in 1861, the papacy wielded substantial power over the Italian peninsular A pope traditionally occupies the position for life, making the state an elective monarchy As head of state, spycraft and assassination were tools to be used as much as any other In the late 15th and early 16th centuries Alexander VI, together with his son Cesare Borgia, had political opponents killed and waged war to further the power of Rome under the Pope

It was during the 15th Century that the Swiss Guard, the personal bodyguard of the Pope, came into being Originally formed of Swiss foot mercenaries and making the backbone of Papal armed forces, today the guard numbers between 110 and 125, making them the smallest army in the world Despite their size, they are highly trained and aside from their ceremonial duties carry an array of modern weapons and travel with the Pope as his personal bodyguard Yet in the centuries since the Borgias, Protestantism and Nationalism eroded the dominance of the Pope in Europe The position is now, with the exception of the head of state of the Vatican, largely spiritual in power

That alone is substantial According to a 2015 census, approximately 12 billion Catholics listen directly to the pontiff on matters moral and spiritual This personal influence has had a marked effect The official papal stance on contraception has clashed before personal papal opinion

In the 1950s and 60s Catholic Congolese nuns were often vulnerable to sexual assault, and it was the considered opinion of Catholic theologians, of which the then Archbishop of Milan is believed to have been part, that contraception was an acceptable measure Later, when the Archbishop of Milan became Pope Paul VI, this personal feeling was never conveyed into law As the exceptional use of contraception was never sanctioned, yet also never denied, Catholics could still weigh the pope’s personal attitude against official dogma Yet the delay in acknowledgement of AIDS as a crisis, and anti abortion stance that Francis still maintains, can be said to have had a significantly detrimental effect on developing parts of the world The concept of Papal Infallibility was only formally defined in 1870

It only applies to statements made ‘ex cathedra’ or in an official declaration Contrary to popular belief, the Pope is not officially infallible as he is still only human Personal statements that he makes in passing or when not addressing the church as a whole can be ignored by Catholics In 1789 English Catholics declared they did not believe in the infallibility of Rome The tradition of factionalism in the Church continues today

According to Sandro Magister, a commentator on Vatican affairs, Pope Francis’ liberalism has caused a rift in Catholicism This was made particularly apparent when in 2015 the annual Synod of the Catholic Church told Francis his speculated relaxation of Communion for divorcees was unacceptable He had no mandate and was forced to back down Therefore in matters of spiritual dogma and official teaching, unless the pope has complete backing from a significant majority of Catholic officials, the status quo is likely to remain, despite personal wants Despite the division between conservatives and progressives in the Vatican, Pope Francis is still far from weak According to Forbes he is the fourth most powerful person in the world and is considered a highly influential figure

Indeed his opinions on international topics often make headline news Catholics voters have been called swing voters by certain sectors of the US press, and with a record of majority voting for the winner in every election bar one since Roosevelt, Francis’ comments on Donald Trump may have more influence than many wish to believe Ignoring divisions within the priesthood, it’s impossible to deny the popularity Francis enjoys amongst both lay Catholics and non-believers alike And Francis has tackled the Church in a manner unlike his predecessor Within months of his accession to the position, the new pope is reported to have ordered an unprecedented audit of Vatican finances This is believed to be in relation to his insistence that the Catholic church return to a level of modest living, the opposite of which had attracted condemnation from critics

It also appears that he has every intention of removing those who are particularly vocal in their opposition to Francis’ moderate reforms, such as Burke Yet he still largely relies on the infrastructure provided by the Vatican, which exists as a government which Francis inherited And while there is no official way to remove a Pope from office, the Vatican will endure, persist and, if necessary, obstruct unpopular measures of business As the Bishop of Rome, the pope holds power comparable to that of any democratic nation, in that he is only as powerful as the position and the nation he commands However unlike most democratic nations, he is not elected by the masses and has the office for life

The danger posed by the Pope depends very much on who is the Pope Francis may command the hearts and minds of most of the billion or so Catholics on Earth But if he can’t keep the Vatican on his side, his actual impact could be negligible in the short term Unlike the pontiffs of the past, Francis can not be considered particularly dangerous in military or even political power However his words influence one seventh of the world’s population, and that can have a significant effect, for better or worse, on the future of the planet

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