“The Young Pope” Gives Clear-Eyed View Of How Vatican Consolidates Power

A great TV show which shows a tyrannical new Pope lusting for power.  The reviews have been really remarkable for this HBO presentation.  And who does not love Jude Law?

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The Young Pope is as compellingly watchable as anything else you’ll find on TV. Sorrentino intuitively understands that which makes Catholicism—with its crosscurrents of guilt and exuberant hope as well as the opulent pageantry of the Vatican—fascinating grist for storytelling. And he’s unafraid to go what seems at first too far in service of a story that finds the universal in one warped leader’s specificities.

Take, for instance, a scene in which Pius gets dressed to address his Cardinals. LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” plays, thumping and vacuous, as we see Law slowly try on his robes and his miter, adding various juicily colored rings atop his gloves. The camera eats up every bit of finery, fascinated by the pomp.

Though Sorrentino treats the subject without irony, we’re still inclined to chuckle, up until Pius is fully dressed. Then our Pope, all kitted out, stiffens his spine under his robes and orders his Cardinals to show “blind loyalty.” “Everything that was wide open,” he intones, “is gonna be closed.” That which the skeptics have feared has come to pass: Pius is proposing sweeping changes, including the end of forgiveness of sins. And yet he is so assured that they have no choice. One of the Pope’s greatest critics rises from his seat and kisses Pius’ elegantly shod foot. Led by an operator more enthralled by himself than by any work of man or God, one of the world’s greatest powers has been brought to heel. What authority does the institution have over the man who knows he’s right?

Our Broken Politics

The facts speak for themselves.

Voters in just 35 congressional districts, or 8 percent of the total, elected a House member from one party while preferring the presidential candidate of the other party — the second election in a row where the share of ticket-splitting seats was in the single digits. Before that, 1920 was the last time the number of such crossover districts fell below one out of every nine.

The voters’ monolithic behavior was even more historic in the results for the Senate. For the first time since 1916 — which was the second election with senators chosen by popular vote — not a single state divided its political preferences. Republicans won 22 contests, all in states carried by President Donald Trump. Democrats won the other dozen races, each in a state where Hillary Clinton prevailed.

The statistics are the latest, compellingly quick way to illustrate how dramatically the nation has divided itself into clearly delineated pockets of ruby red and navy blue — and how the places where the partisan true colors bleed together have become fewer and farther between. 

Separation Of Powers Is Real, Folks!

Most members of Congress had no idea the Muslim travel ban was coming, but a handful of congressional staffers helped the Trump administration write it? And they signed non-disclosure agreements so they wouldn’t even be able to tell their bosses (members of Congress, and, ultimately, US taxpayers) about the side work? And everyone is OK with this? The disclosure that staffers on Rep. Robert Goodlatte’s House Judiciary Committee worked alongside Trump aides on this order should be rocking Capitol Hill. It suggests that the administration was trying to work as quickly as it could and as quietly as feasible – a potentially troubling template for the future. If members of Congress aren’t troubled by this, they’re missing a big warning sign for the separation of powers.

The man most on the hot seat over the simply crazy arrangement,  Goodlatte, was in full-on cleanup mode. At a private GOP conference meeting he tried to calm fellow Republicans who were incensed to learn that some of his aides helped craft Trump’s immigration directive without telling him or GOP leaders or about it. Democrats, meanwhile have raised ethical concerns about nondisclosure agreements signed by the Judiciary aides, and correctly noted such work infringes on separation of powers.

This is all part and parcel of the large narrative I have been pressing on this blog.  In the days ahead, we’re going to separate the patriots from the politicians.  That goes for citizens, too.