“The pope is not infallible.” When the newly elected Pope Francis utters this bold and unprecedented statement, he captures the attention of the world’s population. His reforms leave no corner untouched as he strips away the mask so long held before the face of the papacy. Bringing with him an open-minded candor rarely seen by public figures—he’s an inspiration to his followers—and a threat to those who oppose him.
The Franciscan begins with a tale of Vatican suspense and intrigue plaguing the new pope, orchestrated by a powerful evil and corrupt cardinal—plus sweeping reforms—place his life in grave danger.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
If I explained the entire story of a most profound spiritual phenomenon during my stay at a monastery over a three year period, many would consider me delusional, at best. When I retired, I hoped to write a novel called, Overlay (which later became my fourth novel). However,
when the monastery experience occurred, an idea for a novel took center stage in my mind, thus the first novel in The Franciscan Trilogy. About all I care to say about the event (unless pressured) is that five of the ‘dreams’ experienced by three main book characters were actual dreams I had (among others) during that three year span of time at the monastery. And the more I investigated/researched my Catholic heritage/faith—the more enthusiastic I became about writing and completing The Franciscan. I truly believe there’s a profound message lurking between the pages of this book.
When I penned this novel about a fictitious Pope Francis fourteen years ago, I never envisioned that a future pope would select the name, Pope Francis I. This novel’s Pope Francis is a bold and courageous pope whose sweeping reforms reversing ancient Vatican edicts place his life in grave danger from within. The world can only hope and pray that today’s Pope Francis, as bold as he is, will be fruitful in his endeavors and have a lengthy and healthy reign.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main characters are Cardinal Masone and Symon Carpenter.
Pope Francis I, Cardinal Domenico Francisco Masone, was chosen to be pope by a cardinal who had abused his authority for capital gain, and now pressured other cardinals to vote for the man he felt he could manipulate as he did with the last two old and feeble popes. He was sadly mistaken. Cardinal Masone is his own man, and proved to be a thorn in the side of the one who pushed for his election to the papacy. Pope Francis cloistered himself, along with a select group of Franciscan brothers, in the bowels of the Vatican Secret Archives researching evidence and proof to help him challenge long standing Catholic dogma.
Symon Carpenter, an ex-Franciscan, on a secret archeological dig in a remote cave in Turkey, is summoned to the Vatican to be his friend’s (Pope Francis) right-hand man. After the murder of a Franciscan brother, Symon goes undercover to find the assassin. Yet he yearns to return to his Turkish cave. Within the cave, he discovered evidence of the existence of a Babylonian priest’s three-volume History of the World from Creation to the Flood—known to have existed, and presumed destroyed in the great Alexandria Library fire.
A swarm of locusts couldn’t have devoured an acre of grain any faster than the Franciscans consumed their evening meal. Dom was hardly half through when the others were refilling their coffee cups, and Nathan stood to relate what was recorded in the archives on the subject of papal infallibility.
“Dom, my brothers, since we’re all more interested in what the newly elected pope has to say about this highly volatile and controversial theme, I’ll just hit the highlights of my research, omit lengthy commentary, and be as brief as possible.
“Linus was the first recorded pope, reigning from 67-76 AD. Peter, who was never considered a pope during his lifetime, was however bestowed the distinction hundreds of years after his death, making him the first practicing pope. We’re fully aware that Peter made numerous mistakes prior to our Lord’s crucifixion and after. If it hadn’t been for Paul’s intervention, Peter might have taken Christianity down the wrong path. In 1869, Pope Pius IX called for the first Vatican Council. They jointly declared a pope to be infallible. His edict didn’t end there. In disagreement with the fifteenth century Council of Constance’s decree that a pope is subject to the General Council, he further declared that the Church obtains its faith from the pope, not the General Council.
“Dozens, perhaps a hundred popes, contradicted one another in sundry ways, even charging a predecessor with heresy. For instance, Pope Formosus (891-896) was exhumed after he had been dead almost a year and accused by Pope Steven VII with being elected dishonestly. After the charge, Formosus’ body was tossed in the Tiber River, then retrieved and reburied. Now get this. Ten years later Pope Sergius III again exhumed Formosus, and censured him anew. He went for another swim in the Tiber, this time minus his head. Somehow the headless body was found and was reburied in St. Peters.
“In the early thirteenth century Pope Innocent III contended he was subject to no law, even if it was evil, because no one had the right to judge the pope. Later, Pope Gregory proclaimed the pope to be lord and master of the universe. Pope Boniface VII later declared; ‘I am pontiff, I am emperor.’ And as others had done before him, he made his nephews cardinals, bestowing land and precious valuables to his family. In fact, several popes had sons who became popes.”
Nathan was standing now, and begun to nervously shift from one foot to the other. “Sex seemed to be a preoccupation with many popes. Pope Benedict IX, in the eleventh century, abdicated in order to marry. The woman he loved was his cousin. She refused him, so he wanted the papacy back. Two popes I came across were murdered in bed by jealous husbands. Still another two were charged with incest.
“Early on, and for almost two hundred years, there were three dozen popes. Many were elderly and feeble, some in their early twenties; a few were teenagers. A number were banished for one reason or another; some murdered. Others were out-and-out fakes. In the tenth century, Pope Benedict V fled with the Church’s finances after disgracing a young woman. And, oh yes, he too was slain by an outraged husband.
“At the beginning of the eleventh century Pope Gregory VII enforced clerical celibacy, in effect making harlots of thousands of wives; severing husband from wife, father from children. It’s reported that hundreds of faithful wives took their own lives. His excommunication’s of kings for personal profit incited bloodshed throughout the world. He was accused with forging and altering Council documents to back his claims. It’s assumed many are included in today’s Canon Law. He proclaimed the Roman Church has never erred, nor could it ever. And that a justly elected pope is a saint by being Peter’s direct successor.
“Here’s another bit of evidence supporting the preoccupation with sex and personal fortune. It was Pope Julius II who pressured Michelangelo into making the newly constructed Vatican a grand piece of art. Another accomplishment was to father three daughters in spite of syphilis devastating his body. And for those of you unaware—Julius II was a Franciscan.
“Popes had many schemes for increasing their personal fortunes. Pope John XXII, (1316 and 1334), excommunicated eighty members of the clergy for not paying their taxes, including archbishops, bishops and abbots. And for the right amount of money, you could receive forgiveness for any crime.
“An early Synod in Rome condemned torture. Pope Nicholas I said torture was a violation of divine law. In the sixth century, in spite of Gregory ruling that a person’s testimony during or after torture should be discounted—torture approved by the pope was the norm for hundreds of years when dealing with those considered to be heretics. As we know, thousands of Christians considered heretics were slaughtered during the Crusades. Pope Urban II, in the eleventh century, declared that heretics were to be tortured, then killed. In the thirteenth century Innocent III had a reported 12,000 Christian heretics killed in one day. Soon after, Gregory IX created the Inquisition, proclaiming it was the responsibility of every good Catholic to find, torture and kill heretics.
“Here’s something you’ll all be interested in hearing. In the fourteenth century, an angry Pope John XXII said that if the Franciscans didn’t cease professing that our Lord and the apostles lived in poverty, they would be burned as heretics. In 1816, Pope Pius VII finally put an end to the practice of torturing heretics.
“We’ve now witnessed evidence of papal fallibility. In fact, several popes were themselves excommunicated for considered acts of heresy. But here’s proof positive of papal err. The 1546 Council of Trent advocated the writing of a new edition of Saint Jerome’s original Bible. Forty years later, Sixtus V decided to personally write the new edition. His version was to supersede all other Bibles. It was printed and distributed. Within two years, all copies were found and destroyed. The pope’s rendering of the Bible was error filled, and many passages were missing. It was re-edited and again made available.”
Nathan saw Dom’s right eyebrow twitch, his nose wrinkle, and thought it wise to wrap it up, and not tax his patience any further. “In conclusion—yes Dom, I’m about to conclude my briefing. Here’s what three popes said, who reigned between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, including a saint, regarding fallibility. Innocent III conceded he could be judged by the Church for any sin, even on the subject of faith. Innocent IV agreed the pope could err on the subject of faith. And Adrian VI also admitted a pope can err. St. Augustine once said that when a pope had made a decision, that was the end of it. Still, he disputed several pope’s resolutions, and when he failed to change their minds, called on Synods to resolve the situation.”
Nathan took a deep breath, made an audible sigh, and ended with a question. “I ask you all to decide. Was Pope Pius IX correct when in1869 he declared a pope to be infallible, or do the deeds of the popes we just unearthed speak for themselves? Please remember, I only disclosed a bit of past pontifical history. Dom, the floor is all yours.”
Dom refilled his coffee cup, and while others followed suit, took the now familiar seat atop the vacant picnic table. He ran his fingers through the mass of short dark curls, lowered his head in thought, pausing momentarily, then with a half erect head and upraised eyebrows, admitted, “I’m not in too good a company, am I? The evil, unacceptable and unjust actions of some can overshadow the virtues displayed by many righteous and charitable popes throughout our religious history.
“I say to all now, that within my own conscience, I cannot agree with Pope Pius’ claim. All the evidence is in favor of fallibility. I agree with Dante when he said that the papacy’s passion for power incited fracture within Catholicism. The pope’s claim of infallibility certainly fanned the flames of division. That issue we must very cautiously address, but need more time to study the possible consequences of announcing my opinion, pro and con.
About the Author:
Author, columnist, teacher, lecturer, past president of three advertising agencies, William R. Park, Sr. is nationally known and respected in the advertising and literary worlds—and a Member of International Thriller Writers, Inc. His past works include: The Talking Stones, Overlay, Fatal Incision, plus ten others, each backed by glowing praise from numerous bestselling authors.
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