The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story Of The Francis Papacy, by Marcantonio Colonna (pseudonym)
It took a while for this book to get to me, and it was one I was eagerly waiting for. For odd reasons I do not entirely understand, I frequently engage in social media conversations with traditionalist Catholics whose political and moral worldview is very similar to my own, and within that community this book is a vitally important one as it demonstrates the disconnect between the contemporary Catholic hierarchy and the ordinary and decent body of Catholics that exists in the United States and other places. And, as someone who reads and comments on matters relating to Catholicism as part of my general religious beat as a writer, this book is obviously one of considerable personal importance to review . A reader should know going into this, though, that this book is one of those pieces of political literature that leaves a lot of people looking very bad and that probably encourages even more cynicism than would already exist concerning the structural and leadership problems of the contemporary Papacy going back to the “reforms” of Pope Paul in the aftermath of Vatican II.
At about two hundred pages before its endnotes, this book is a quick but powerful read as the author is clearly well-informed about the background of Pope Francis and the Peronist roots of his protean political worldview and dictatorial behavior. The book consists of six chapters that detail the context as well as the behavior of the current papacy, beginning with a look at the justly maligned St. Gallen Mafia (1) of leftist European bishops who were influential in politicking for Francis in the aftermath of the resignation of Pope Benedict over his inability to enforce clerical and moral discipline on the wayward curia. The second chapter looks at the context of Francis’ own rise through first the Jesuit and then the regular hierarchy and the various enemies he made along the way (2). The third chapter looks at the absence of reform from Francis’ papacy given the expectations that were raised about this at the beginning of his reign (3). The author then turns to the crookedness of the path that Francis has taken and his generally deceptive and secretive ways (4). The author then discusses the abuse of mercy in refusing to seriously punish abusive and grossly immoral and corrupt priests and bishops who happen to be potential political allies (5) before closing with a discussion of the Pope’s desire to control the curia through living close to them rather than being isolated in the Vatican (6).
What are the takeaways from this book? For one, understanding Francis’ dictatorial ways requires a look at his own personal context as a Peronist, as well as his lifelong tendency to surround himself with mediocre talent whose moral failings make them possible to blackmail and coerce into following his will. In reading a book like this, one can see the great disconnect that exists between pious (or impious) ordinary Catholics and an unwieldy and immensely corrupt Catholic hierarchy under a great deal of pressure to tolerate gross corruption and immorality, including the attempt to use Catholic tithes and offerings to sway politics in favor of “progressive” candidates in elections. Whether one is an insider to the Catholic world or an outsider, one can have a great deal of empathy for Catholics while maintaining a great deal of hostility towards the contemporary papacy, and it is probably wise to do so at present. The author does not whitewash Benedict or John Paul II, but does indicate that they are to be praised for at least trying to fight against the corruption within the bishops and archbishops and cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, however difficult and unsuccessful that struggle to toe moral and doctrinal lines has turned out to be.
 See, for example: