The Fiend Skulking Behind the Crucifix

April 2005

Dear Friends,
One of the last absolute monarchs on Earth died last Saturday, April 2, John Paul II. Although he ruled over a tiny city-state, his empire circled the globe.

Praised as a great defender of freedom and democracy, John Paul II was actually an advocate of socialism and autocracy. It would indeed have been remarkable if an absolute monarch had been a defender of freedom and democracy, but John Paul II was not.

In the realm in which he held absolute power for 26 years -- the Roman Church-State -- there are no free elections, and John Paul II made no move to institute any. No Catholic congregation elects its own priest, and no diocese elects its own bishop. Priests are appointed by bishops, bishops are appointed by cardinals, and cardinals are appointed by the pope. Power flows from the top down, and it has for the past 1500 years, the entire history of the church. The Roman Church has no government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," but it is an autocracy ruled by an absolute monarch. No one should confuse it with the church
founded by Jesus Christ.

Rather, the Roman Church is a grotesque parody of the Christian church.

Christ told his disciples:

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).

On another occasion Christ warned his disciples about the religious leaders of his day:

"They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'

"But you, do not be called 'Rabbi,' for one is your teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on Earth your Father, for one is your Father, he who is in Heaven. And do not be called teachers, for one is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of Hell as yourselves" (Matthew 23).

Not only did John Paul II fall under the condemnation that Christ pronounced on the religious leaders of his day, but he did not preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Roman Church condemned Christ's Gospel at the Council of Trent in the 16th century, and no pope since then has disagreed with that condemnation. Through the centuries the Roman Church has persecuted millions of Christians, and that persecution continues to this day.

In my book, Ecclesiastical Megalomania: The Economic and Political Thought of the Roman Catholic Church, I detail the socialism and autocracy of the Roman Church in general and of John Paul II in particular. The Roman Church has been godfather to all sorts of totalitarianism, from the fascism of Italy to the Marxist Liberation Theology of Latin America. John Paul II himself quoted Gaudium et Spes, a document issued by Vatican II which attacked private property and asserted that "If one is in extreme necessity he has the right to procure for himself what he needs out of the riches of others"-- a thinly veiled encouragement of stealing. In fact, the pope encouraged violence on a massive scale, not merely individual crime, by saying in his 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, "Peoples excluded from the fair distribution of the goods originally destined for all could ask themselves: Why not respond with violence to those who first treat us with violence?" This was Hitler's rationale for starting World War II: Germany had been deprived of the goods originally intended for all.

As the world focuses it attention on the papacy, we ought to recall Lord Acton, the great Roman Catholic historian of the 19th century. Many have heard the aphorism, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely," though it is usually misquoted as "Power corrupts." Few who have heard it, however, know who its author was: John Emerich Edward Dalberg, better known as Lord Acton. Fewer still realize that Acton used the aphorism in opposing the papacy, the
absolute monarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

Acton's criticisms of the papacy and the Roman Church are some of most damning ever leveled against those institutions, and they are virtually unknown today. Yet to anyone seriously concerned about religious and political freedom, Acton’s views on the Roman Church, his own church, in particular his condemnation of the papacy, ought to be of great interest. Unfortunately, contemporary theological correctness has a taboo against criticism of Catholicism.

Acton kept a notebook on the Inquisition in which he wrote:

"[The] object of the Inquisition [was] not to combat sin – for the sin was not judged by it unless accompanied by [theological] error. Nor even to put down error. For it punished untimely and unseemly remarks the same as blasphemy. Only unity. This became an outward, fictitious, hypocritical unity. The gravest sin was pardoned, but it was death to deny the donation of Constantine. [The Donation of Constantine was a document forged in the eighth century in which the Roman Emperor Constantine willed the Western Roman Empire to the Pope. The Roman Church taught that the Donation was genuine, and the legal basis for the pope’s civil authority, for centuries. – JR] So men learnt that outward submission must be given. All this [was] to promote authority more than faith. When ideas were punished more severely than actions – for all this time the Church was softening the criminal law, and saving men from the consequences of crime: – and the Donation was put on a level with God’s own law – men understood that authority went before sincerity."

Acton believed that the Inquisition was the institution by which the medieval papacy had to be condemned or acquitted. Just as a man charged with murder is judged for a single act, though be may be kind to his mother and a great philanthropist, so the papacy must be judged for the Inquisition. To Mandell Creighton, an Anglican priest, Acton wrote:

"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more
when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.... For many years my view of Catholic controversy has been governed by the following chain of reasoning: 1. A crime does not become a good deed by being committed for the good of a church. 2. The theorist who approves the act is no better than the culprit who commits it. 3. The divine or historian who defends the theorist incurs the same blame.... To commit murder is the mark of a moment, exceptional. To defend it is constant, and shows a more perverted conscience."

Acton turned his attention to other crimes of the Roman Church as well. Beginning on Sunday, August 24, 1572, tens of thousands of French Huguenots were massacred by the Catholics. Overnight, thousands were murdered, and the murders continued for several months. The massacre began in Paris. The sign of the cross was everywhere, and the murders took on the air of a crusade, a holy war against the infidels. The banks of the Seine became a slaughterhouse. Men, women, children, and infants were stabbed or dragged by a rope around the neck to be thrown into the river. The murder, looting, and rape went on for days in Paris.

The Pope, Gregory XIII, reacted immediately to this Catholic Holocaust: He delivered a complimentary speech, and commended the King of France, Charles IX, who "has also displayed before our Most Holy Master and this entire assembly the most splendid virtues which can shine in the exercise of power. " The Pope commissioned a mural in honor of the great occasion; he ordered salutes fired for Charles; he had a commemorative seal struck; and in a horrible blasphemy he ordered a special Te Deum sung. Less than two years later, at the age of 24, King Charles died in extreme pain with blood oozing from his pores. His last words were pleas to God for pardon for the murders.

The massacre was a matter of controversy in 1868 when Acton wrote an essay in the North British Review. He concluded his long essay by saying that there was no evidence to absolve the Roman Church of premeditated murder. Acton argued that it was not only facts that condemned the papacy for this heinous crime, but the whole body of casuistry developed by the church that made it an act of Christian duty and mercy to kill a heretic so that he might be removed from sin. Acton
pointed out that only when the Roman Church could no longer rely on force but had to make its case before public opinion did it seek to explain away its murders. "The same motive which had justified the murder now promoted the lie," he wrote. A bodyguard of lies was fabricated to protect the papacy from guilt for this monstrous sin. Acton wrote:

"The story is much more abominable than we all believed.... S. B. [St. Bartholomew’s] is the greatest crime of modern times. It was committed on principles professed by Rome. It was approved, sanctioned, and praised by the papacy. The Holy See went out of its way to signify to the world, by permanent and solemn acts, how entirely it admired a king who slaughtered his subjects treacherously, because they were Protestants. To proclaim forever that because a man is a Protestant it is a pious deed to cut his throat in the night...."

For three centuries the Roman church’s canon law had affirmed that the killing of an excommunicated person was not murder, and that allegiance need not be kept with heretical rulers. Murder and treason were part of the Roman church’s official teachings. Charles IX was acting as a good Catholic, and he was highly praised by the pope for his murders.

In 1867 Pope Pius IX summoned a general council of the Roman Church to be held in Rome in 1870. It was the first general council of the Roman Church since the sixteenth century Council of Trent, at which the schismatic Roman Church had condemned all the truths of the Reformation. This time the Pope was determined to establish himself as the infallible sovereign of the Roman Church.

Acton thought that the time of the council would be better spent abolishing many of the "reforms" made by the Council of Trent, reforms which had perpetuated in the Roman Church a spirit of intolerant absolutism and "austere immorality." He opposed the doctrine of papal infallibility, because, as an historian, he knew the popes were not infallible. Acton wrote:

"A man is not honest who accepts all the Papal decisions in questions of morality, for they have often been distinctly immoral; or who approves the conduct of the Popes in engrossing power, for it was stained with perfidy and falsehood; or who is ready to alter his convictions at their command, for his conscience is guided by no principle."

After studying the history of the popes, Acton wrote:

"The papacy contrived murder and massacre on the largest and also on the most cruel and inhuman scale. They were not only wholesale assassins but they made the principle of assassination a law of the Christian Church and a condition of salvation.... [The Papacy] is the fiend skulking behind the Crucifix."

For those who are interested in an accurate description of the Roman Church-State, rather than the romantic fiction being purveyed by the mass media, please read these books and essays:


Christ and Civilization

Ecclesiastical Megalomania: The Economic and Political Thought of the Roman Catholic Church

Papal Power


Acton on the Papacy


The Attractions of Popery

Evangelicalism, the Charismatic Movement, and the Race Back to Rome

Forgotten Principles of the Reformation

Intellectual Dishonesty and Roman Catholic Apologetics

Justification by Faith: Romanism and Protestantism

The Roman State-Church: An Inside View

The Roman State-Church

Why Does Rome Teach What It Does About Justification and Salvation?


John Robbins
The Trinity Foundation
April 4, 2005