In 1796, The Emperor Napoleon went to see Pope Pius VI. Like all who bore arms, Napoleon and his entourage were required to leave their swords outside of The Vatican City, but it was never going to make the slightest difference to the outcome of the audience. For 1500 years, the Vatican had ruled Europe with more power than any King within it. The last Caesars of Rome had long since realized that army’s could not always be defeated, but the fear of God was a much better way to keep a hold on their empires. Napoleon referred to it as ‘Rule by the fear of what might be.” and he saw The Pope as nothing more than a Caesar ruling the old Roman Empire by threat of God, rather than threat of military conquest.
He simply gave the Pope an ultimatum; He could remain the spiritual head of Europe, but in every other sense, the Holy Roman Empire was finished. The Pope could accept his terms, or they would burn the Vatican to the ground the very next day. From that day forward, the Papacy was gelded as a military power, and it would no longer have any military weight beyond the walls of the Vatican.
In the light of the Popes abdication, it might be worth considering how the last decade has seen the once omni-powerful Holy Roman Empire descend in to parody. Napoleon is often derided in English history, but any British military historian, or General, will tell you, he was very smart, very effective, and history has come to see him as a visionary operator of his time. Napoleon Bonaparte certainly had the megalomaniac faults of a vast ego, but once he dealt with the Vatican, the common folk of Europe were no longer being burned for heresy, or being disembowelled in public.
In the age of rolling news and 24 hour TV war, it is, I think, quite fitting that the two people who have since landed the rabbit punch to the back of the papal neck, are comedy writers. Not everyone is aware of Napoleon’s slam dunk, but you could argue that the Rocky IV moment came with Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews when they created Father Ted.
Of course it is just goofy comedy and cutting satire, but, in the last 15 years, how many of the quotes below have an ominous ring of truth to them? You could argue that Napoleon took the real power away from the Vatican, but Linehan and Matthews have been Shakespearian in their ability to create characters and situations that have endured over time, become loved, and serve to remind us that highlighting intolerance is important.
Ten Quotes from Father Ted, that ring true today
Rock a Hula Ted
“Not all Catholic priests are paedophiles. Let’s say there are 200 million priests in the world and 5% are paedophiles, that is only ten million.”
Are You Right, There, Father Ted
"The Catholic Church is not like the Nazi’s. The Nazi’s dressed in black and went around telling people what to do, where as the Catholic Church...”
New Jack City
"Young lads running around in shorts; you like that sorta thing, yer dirty feckers."
Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest
Ted: "What was it Jack used to say about the poor and the needy? He had a term for them."
Dougal: "A shower of bastards."
Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse
Bishop Brennan: "Don't you realise, I have an audience with the Pope tomorrow?"
Dougal: "Ah don't worry Len, they repeat those things all the time."
Tentacles of Doom
Father O’Neil to Father Dougal: “Do you ever have any doubts about your faith or vocation Father Dougal?”
Dougal: "Well, you know how Jesus is the son of God, and when we die, we will all go to heaven, and how before it was wrong to eat fish on a Friday, but now it’s alright; what happened to everyone who used to eat fish on Friday? Did they all go to hell?"
“That money was simply resting in my bank account before I moved it on.”
A Song for Europe
TV producer, Charles Hedges: "I thought the Catholic Church thought homosexuality was inherently wrong?"
Ted: "Don’t look at me; the Pope says lots of things he doesn’t really mean.”
Are You Right, There, Father Ted
"The Feckin Greeks! They invented gayness."
Father Jack Hackett: “Feck-Arse-Girls-Drink!”