Have Popes Really Claimed to be God?

Quotations (more properly, alleged quotations for the most part, as we'll see later) showing that popes have claimed to be God or equal to God are a staple of anti-Catholic polemics. I recently ran across such a list, and the results of my investigations are below. I suspect the list as I got it is rather old, as its most recent entry dates only to the late 19th Century. The continuing growth of materials available on the Internet has made it possible to shed some light on the facts behind these “quotations”.

The List

  1. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) wrote: “We may according to the fullness of our power, dispose of the law and dispense above the law. Those whom the Pope of Rome doth separate, it is not a man that separates them but God. For the Pope holdeth place on earth, not simply of a man but of the true God.” (1 Book of Gregory 9 Decret. c. 3)
  2. The Lateran Council addressing Pope Julius II in an oration delivered by Marcellus said: “Take care that we lose not that salvation, that life and breath which thou hast given us, for thou art our shepherd, thou art our physician, thou art our governor, thou art our husbandman, thou art finally another God on earth.” (Council Edition. Colm. Agrip. 1618)
  3. Pope Nicholas said of himself: “I am in all and above all, so that God Himself and I, the vicar of God, hath both one consistory, and I am able to do almost all that God can do... wherefore, if those things that I do be said not to be done of man, but of God, what do you make of me but God? Again, if prelates of the Church be called of Constantine for gods, I then being above all prelates, seem by this reason to be above all gods. Wherefore, no marvel, if it be in my power to dispense with all things, yea with the precepts of Christ.” (Decret. par. Distinct 96 ch. 7 edit. Lugo 1661)
  4. The RC New York catechism states: “The Pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth... by divine right the Pope has supreme and full power in faith, in morals over each and every pastor and his flock. He is the true vicar, the head of the entire church, the father and teacher of all Christians. He is the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and the judge of councils; the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by no one, God himself on earth.”
  5. The title “Lord God the Pope” - these words appeared in the Canon Law of Rome. “To believe that our Lord God the Pope has not the power to decree as he is decreed, is to be deemed heretical.” (The Gloss extravagances of Pope John XXII Cum. Inter, tit XIV Ad Callem Sexti Decretalium, Paris, 1685)

    Father A. Pereira acknowledged: “It is quite certain that Popes have never disapproved or rejected this title “Lord God the Pope” for the passage in the gloss referred to appears in the edition of the Canon Law published in Rome by Gregory XIII.”
  6. Pope Nicholas I declared that “the appellation of God had been confirmed by Constantine on the Pope, who being God, cannot be judged by man.” (Labb IX Dist.: 96 Can 7 Satis Evidentur Decret Gratian Primer Para)
  7. Speaking [in] the name of the Pope (a rhetorical device) Cardinal Manning said: “I acknowledge no civil superior, I am the subject of no prince, and I claim more than this, I claim to be the supreme judge on earth and director of the consciences of men, I am the last supreme judge of what is right and wrong.” (Sermon in the Pro Cathedral, Kensington, Tablet Oct 9, 1864)


Cardinal Manning

I can find no better place to start the responses than with the last-given “quotation” from Cardinal Manning. As we shall see, it is no quotation at all.

Rather than provide my own refutation, I would like to quote an anonymous (as far as I can tell) writer in the New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXIX, Issue 41, 10 October 1901, pp. 1-2. A scanned copy of the original article can be found online here.

The article deals well not only with the (fake) quotation in question, but with the tactics used to prepare the entire list given above. (In fact, I am not sure but that the “misquotations, garbled statements, mistranslations, at least one concocted ‘extract’--all secondhand--and ... marvellously complete and comprehensive ignorance of Catholic teaching” to which the author refers are not a response to the exact list we now have.) I commend the second paragraph to your particular attention in this regard.

Dr. Starbuck, an eminent American non-Catholic divine, seriously blames some Protestant controversialists, not for lack of honesty, but for being ‘slovenly and inexcusably ignorant’ in their ‘expositions of Roman Catholic history and doctrine.’ ‘The Pope, like the poor,’ he adds, ‘we have always with us, and whenever we will we can do him evil. Well meditated attacks on him easily take the place of knowledge, of cultivation, of good manners, of deliberation in statement, of justice, of charity, and of all other requirements usually supposed to beseem a minister of the Gospel.’ Recent attacks upon the Pope in Christchurch and Dunedin were based upon misquotations, garbled statements, mistranslations, at least one concocted ‘extract’--all secondhand--and on a marvellously complete and comprehensive ignorance of Catholic teaching, of which our assailants knew as little as Bettesworth did of law--and he knew thereof neither ‘text nor margent.’ Our readers will recollect that the late Cardinal Manning was alleged to have said (among other things)--speaking in the name of the Pope; ‘I acknowledge no civil power... I claim to be the supreme judge and director of the consciences of men’; and again: ‘I am sole last supreme judge of what is right and wrong.’[Footnote 1.] We were referred to the London Tablet of October 9, 1864, for these words. But no Tablet was published on that date. We learned by cable message a few days ago that in a discussion on the subject in Melbourne, the alleged doctrinal utterance of Manning was credited to the Tablet of August 6, 1859, but after a most minute examination of the Tablet of that date we can find no trace whatever of anything at all resembling the words attributed to that distinguished convert. Some weeks ago a writer in the Christchurch Press quoted this alleged Manning extract on the authority of ‘the Rev. Mr. Lilley,’ whom he described as ‘an able, eminent Catholic writer’--confounding a Presbyterian clergyman of that name in Arbroath with the distinguished Catholic layman, Mr. W. S. Lilly. When his statement was corrected, he simply sprang a somersault and gave Mr. Grattan Guinness as the authority for the Cardinal's speech!

Herein lies one of the difficulties of which Catholics experience in defending the fair fame of their Mother Church against the more noisy and ill-informed class of controversialists. A suspicious-looking ‘extract’ is quoted, with suspicious-looking vagueness, from (say) ‘a Catholic writer,’ or ‘a distinguished Catholic theologian.’ You forthwith make a request for name and chapter and verse. This is sometimes met with angry resentment, sometimes by an airy gibe, sometimes by a general statement to the effect that it is in Suarez (or Saurez, as a Wellington enthusiast called him recently), or Aquinas or Bellarmine or De Lugo or Liguori or some other noted Catholic writer--only that and nothing more, and you are left to toil through the 23 massive volumes of one author, or the 17 of another, or the 10 to 20 of the rest. More rarely there is a show of precise reference, but it is commonly found to be inadequate or deceptive--a mockery, a delusion, and a snare--as if one should refer you to ‘the seventeenth verse of the Bible’; or the ‘authority’ is non-existent, like ‘the Tablet of October 9, 1864.’ In the comparatively rare instances in which detailed references are given, you find that the alleged quotation is conspicuously absent, or that the author's words have been shamefully garbled or mistranslated, or--as in the case of an ‘extract’ recently attributed (in a Dunedin paper) to St. Thomas Aquinas--that not a line of it was ever written by him. If you persecute your opponents on one reference (as, for instance, the Tablet of October 9, 1864), they fly to another (August 6, 1859). You follow the direction indicated by the new sign-post only to find that you have been again chasing a rainbow. And the upshot of the whole thing is this: you find, in practically every instance, that the ‘quotations’ are secondhand or tenth-hand, that they have been carefully and deliberately lopped and chopped and pruned and twisted and contorted till they more or less seriously misrepresent the views of the authors to whom they are attributed, and you not unnaturally conclude that all these inadequate and misleading references are merely so many ruses--the side-jumps of the hunted roebuck--to delay or prevent the discovery and exposure of those discreditable bits of controversial trickery.

It is reasonable to judge a quotation as you would judge a man--by the company it keeps. And the alleged Manning quotation is in decidedly bad company, among a pack of ‘faked’ and concocted and ‘doctored’ extracts of an altogether disreputable kind. It has, moreover, about it a suspicious and guilty look. It is, for instance, set down as Catholic teaching which it would be heresy to deny. Yet there are portions of that precious extract which it would be heresy to maintain; and they differ vastly from the clear-cut expositions and the sharply defined lines between doctrine and inference--between dogma and opinion--which are to be found in acknowledged works of Manning, such as his Petri Privilegium and his Vatican Council. At first blush, therefore, the alleged extract naturally seemed to us, in all its circumstances, to be a fabrication. We, however, declined in express terms to maintain this theory, and admitted the possibility of its publication as the result of ‘a reporter's blunder and an editorial oversight.’ Despite the misleading references--which were calculated, if not intended, to baffle inquiry--we have at length succeeded in coming across the original report from which the alleged Manning quotation was taken. The report in question is that of a sermon by the late Cardinal on the Syllabus, and it appears in the London Tablet, volume 34, No. 1539, pages 601-602. Towards the end of his discourse Manning tells his hearers the sort of reply which, he fancies the Pope (Pius IX.) would make to the overtures of the advocates of divorce, godless education, endless devisions [sic] in religion, and ‘the absolute renunciation of the supreme authority of the Christian Church.’ The now notorious ‘Manning quotation’ purports to be a faithful transcript of one sentence taken from this part of the late Cardinal's discourse. But, as we expected, the extract has been grievously lopped and tortured by the enterprising individual through whose instrumentality it first got floated into polemics. (a) He follows the usual plan of tearing it violently away from its context, (b) He turns the one sentence of the report into three--a small matter in itself, but significant as an indication of the man's ideas of accuracy of quotation, (c) He takes the three vital clauses in the sentence, and, with the fullest apparent deliberation, completely alters their meaning--one by the substitution of one term for another, the other two by the cool omission of two all-important qualifying words. And (d) he tacks on to the end of the extract, as an integral part thereof, a misquotation from the Bull Unam Sanctam, of which not a trace is to be seen anywhere in the report. And then (e) forth steps the Rev. Mr. Gibb and informs all and sundry that this mutilated quotation is a statement of Catholic doctrine--with the rider that it would be heresy to deny it . Whereas, as a matter of fact, in the unmutilated report (for the accuracy of which, of course, we cannot vouch) the words attributed to Manning are not, nor do they pretend to be, a statement of Catholic doctrine.

The Rev. Mr. Gibb, for instance, makes Cardinal Manning, speaking on behalf of the Pope, say the following words: ‘I acknowledge no civil power.’ Now this statement is (a) absurdly contrary to fact; (b) it is untrue in point of doctrine; and (c) it is nowhere to be found in the report. On the contrary (d), Manning, according to the report (p. 601), said:

The civil Society or civil power was a thing sacred in itself. It came from God. It had God as its author, and it most be treated with great veneration. It ia sustained by authority, obedience, and equality--the three laws of the human family, which b¬ęgan with the first family--namely, the parental authority, the filial obedience, the fraternal equality. These three laws existed in human society. God was the author of them, and when families multiplied and combined into races, nations, and States, these three laws, which were domestic and private in the beginning, assumed the public and recognised character of what they called constitutions and kingdoms, from which came monarchies, empires, and civil order throughout the world. The sovereign authority which governed mankind was derived not from the consent of men, bargaining and bartering, and transacting and compromising together as it were in a market-place, but as derived from God Himself, and immediately given to human society. But the particular form in which society may be cast, and the particular person or prince, be it one or many, who bears the sovereign power, come not immediately from God, but mediately from human society. It was of this that St. Paul spoke [p. 602] when he said: ‘Let every soul be subject to the higher powers,’ though he was then speaking of a heathen Emperor. ‘For every power is of God. He that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and he that resisteth shall receive to himielf damnation. St. Paul says this of the civil society or political order of the world--of the Roman Empire, persecuting and pagan, as it then was.

And yet Manning is made, a little lower down in the very same discourse, to attribute to the Pope the false and un-Catholic statement: ‘I acknowledge no civil power!’

‘I acknowledge no civil Power,’ Manning is made to say, voicing what he conceives to be the opinion of the Pope. But Manning says no such thing. He says ‘I acknowledge no civil Superior [which is quite a different thing], I am the subject of no prince.’ In other words, the Pope, who is the head, in spiritual matters, of 250,000,000 Christians, is, by virtue of his office, free from civil subjection, and will not be the tool or puppet or hired man of any political ruler. And this, in brief, is the substance of his answer to those who call upon him to become the obedient subject and servant of the House of Savoy. ‘You ask me,’ Manning makes him say, ‘to abdicate, to renounce my supreme authority. You tell me I ought to submit to the civil power, that I am the subject of the King of Italy, and from him I am to receive instructions as to the way I should exercise my supreme power.’ The concocted statement as to the repudiation of the civil power by the Pope was set forth by the Rev. Mr. Gibb as Catholic doctrine, and our denial of the truth of his assertion was, at least by implication, denounced as an act of heresy. But, as a matter of fact, there is no question or statement of Catholic doctrine in the words reported as used by Manning, which are, in effect, merely a variant on what so strong a Protestant as Lord Brougham said in the British House of Lords when Pius IX. was an exile at Gaeta: ‘Stripped of that secular dominion [the independent temporal power], he [the Pope] would become the slave, now of one Power, now of another: one day the slave of Spain, another of Austria, another of France.... His temporal power is an European question, not a local or religious one; and the Pope's authority should be maintained for the sake of the peace and the interests of Europe.’

Cardinal Manning was also represented by the Rev. Mr. Gibb as to putting into the mouth of the Pope the statement that he (the Pope) is ‘the supreme judge and director of the consciences of men,’ and the ‘last supreme judge of what is right and wrong.’ And this, too, is set forth as a Catholic doctrine, which it would be heresy to deny. But (a) the quotation, as given, makes the Pope claim to be absolutely the highest judge in matters of conscience and right and wrong--even the Almighty Himself not being excepted; for there is no limiting or qualifying word or phrase. And this, so far from being ‘Catholic doctrine,’ is rank blasphemy. But (b) the report attributes no such sweeping statement to Manning : it simply makes the Pope claim to be in these matters the supreme or highest judge ‘On Earth.’ It is unnecessary to point out, even to persons of the most meagre understandstanding, what worlds apart is the statement attributed to Manning in the Tablet report, and that which is credited to him by the Rev. Mr. Gibb and his Orange and other ‘authorities.’ The suppression of the two vital words referred to above (‘on earth’) is rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that, on page 602, 22nd and following lines of the report, the position of the Pope is expressly stated to be, not that of one who is absolutely supreme, but that of the vicar, delegate, and representative of Another, and that his teaching and executive authority is not direct but derived, and is for ‘the Christian society’ which Christ founded ‘on earth.’ (c) We are unable to say whether Manning really used the words ‘supreme judge on earth,’ etc., in the connection given in the report. The terms there given are not happily selected, but we are not concerned, in any case, to defend them. They are by no means couched in the precise and careful language of Manning's works, and represent, at worst, one of those inexact oratorical statements such as slip with painful frequency from the lips of some of our critics, even when they speak--as the Rev. Mr. Gibb did--with copious notes and plenteous ‘extracts’ at hand. We suppose that even a learned Catholic prelate, speaking--as Manning did, in the fiery midst of a period of anti-papal religious and political storm and fury--may not unreasonably plead, as did the Rev. Mr. Gibb, that ‘in the heat of public utterance,’ he might ‘overstate his case’ and feel called upon to suggest that his audience ‘make a liberal reduction’ for ‘the fervor of the platform.’ But it is not true, as alleged by the Rev. Mr. Gibb, that Manning's reported words are, or profess to be, statements of ‘Catholic doctrine.’

(d) In addition to the grievous manipulations of the text mentioned above, the extract-rigger on whom the Rev. Mr. Gibb relies with a faith that is so simple and childlike, adds one other word to the ‘Manning extract’ that is not contained in the Tablet report, he subtracts three, and he alters no fewer than six! All this violence, be it noted, is done in one sentence of the report, which (as already stated) is at the same time broken up into three. The addition, subtraction, etc., last mentioned do not materially affect the sense of the extract, but they serve, in their way, to further emphasise the reckless manner in which the Rev. Mr. Gibb's vaunted ‘authorities’ are prepared to twist quotations to suit their turn. (e) Another curious instance of controversial ‘accuracy and scholarship’ is furnished by the concluding sentence of the Rev. Mr. Gibb's ‘Manning extract,’ already quoted in a footnote to the present paragraphs.

It runs as follows: ‘Moreover, we declare, affirm, define, and pronounce it to be necessary to salvation to every human being to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.’ This, as already stated, is a mistranslation of the concluding sentence of the Bull Unam Sanctam. It is given, within the same quotation marks, as a portion of the Tablet report of Manning's utterance. But no such words are found either in that or any other part of the Tablet report. They are simply flung in as a make-weight.

We are sorry for those of the extreme section of our fellow-colonists who have of late thought fit to make apparently concerted attacks upon us in Dunedin, Christchurch, and Wellington. The weapons which they employed were boomerangs which have returned and wounded the throwers. The wholesale scale on which sham and ‘faked’ and garbled and concocted ‘quotations’ have of late been used against Catholics in these countries tends to burn into our minds the conviction that the less educated and more violent class of anti-Catholic controversialists hold themselves to be dispensed from the ordinary obligations of truth and charity. We shall be glad to hear what explanation or defence the Rev. Mr. Gibb's Orange ‘authorities’ have to make for their mutilation of the report of Manning's discourse. As a matter of elementary fair-play, the columns of this paper are, of course, open to him or them, or to any responsible persons for such reply as they may desire to make. The vogue which the ‘Manning extract’ has of late acquired in these countries, in the mouths of our more violent assailants, is our apology for dealing with it at what may seem inordinate length. Our Catholic readers and our Catholic exchanges everywhere would do well to pigeonhole these paragraphs. The ‘Manning extract’ has proved itself a highly appreciated addition to the long list of Artful Dodger ‘quotations’ that constitute the chief stock-in-trade of the less instructed assailants of the Old Church. It is sure to go far afield, and, even after it has been fully exposed, it will be heard of again--for a period. It is a way that these ‘quotations’ have. When a branch was lopped off Virgil's inexhaustible tree, another sprung up in its place :

          Uno avulso, non deficit alter
Aureus, et simili frondescit virga metallo.

But pollard-willow or spreading broom or Californian thistle or Virgil's tree--they all give way at last to the patient chip-chipchop of the polished steel. Prompt and repeated exposure, plus the spread of education and training in exact methods of research will, in time, strew the path of the anti-Catholic quotation rigger with so many thorns and spikes and sharpened nails (with inverted divisors) that there will be very few to travel by it. And the cause of truth and peace and religion will be greatly served thereby.

Footnote 1: The full ‘Manning extract,’ as given by the Rev. Mr. Gibb at an Orange demonstration in Dunedin, is as follows:--‘In the Tablet of the 9th October, 1864, the late Cardinal Manning, speaking in the name of the Pope, is reportod thus: “I acknowledge no civil power. I am the subject of no prince, and I claim more than this: I claim to be the supreme judge, and director of the consciences of men--of the peasants that till the field and of the prince that sits upon the throne, of the household that lives in privacy and the legislator that makes laws for the kingdoms. I am sole last supreme judge of what is right and wrong. Moreover we declare, affirm, define, and pronounce it to be necessary to salvation to every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”’

Footnote 2: [Transcriber's note: I was unable to locate the footnote marker in the main text.] The Rev. J. P. Lilley, a Presbyterian clergyman of Arbroath, was cited by the Rev Mr. Gibb as evidence in support of the notorious ‘Manning extract’ quoted in another footnote to these paragraphs. But (1) in so far as the Rev. Mr. Lilley is evidence at all in this matter, he is evidence against the Rev. Mr. Gibb, for, on p. 235, of his Principles of Protestantism (T. and J. Clarke, 1898--the same edition to which the Rev. Mr. Gibb refers us) the Arbroath clergyman quotes Manning as follows: ‘Speaking in the name of the Pope, Cardinal Manning said: “I acknowledge no civil superior, I am the subject of no prince; and I claim more than this: I claim to be the supreme judge on earth and director of the consciences of man; I am the last supreme judge of what is right and wrong.”’ (The italics are ours.) Such is Lilley's quotation in full. The most superficial comparison between this and the extract given by the Rev. Mr Gibb will show how widely different they are, not merely in form, but in meaning. (2) Lilley, at least, did not (as reference to the italicised words will show) garble and alter the meaning of the reported utterances of Manning in the wholesale and shameless fashion that the Rev. Mr. Gibb's other ‘authorities’ did. But (a) he tore the words from their proper context: (b) he omitted, from the very middle of the extract--and without the smallest indication of such admission--no fewer than thirty three words: (c) he referred this mutilated extract to ‘Sermon, Tablet, October 9, 1864,’ which fell on a Sunday, and no Tablet, as we have shown, was published on that date. The Rev. Mr. Gibb vouched for ‘the accuracy and scholarship’ of the Rev. Mr. Lilley. But it seems clear that the Rev. Mr. Lilley's ideas of accuracy and scholarship either did not rise to the level of consulting the Tablet or of quoting it correctly. We have found his book fairly swarming in places with inaccuracies. Here is one which occurs a few lines above his version of the ‘Manning extract’: ‘By the constitution of the Church of Rome, the Pope is made the absolute lord of the individual mind and conscience.’ (The italics are ours.) As a matter of fact ‘the constitution of the Church of Rome’ does no such thing. The right of absolute lordship over subjects is correlated by the duty of absolute obedience on their part, and the most elementary acquaintance with Catholic teaching on this subject and on the papal prerogatives would have prevented the ‘accurate’ and ‘scholarly’ Mr. Lilley from making a statement so absurd in itself and so directly opposed to fact.

I note that the erroneous Oct. 9, 1864 date is still attached to the fake quotation, which is one of the points that leads me to think the author of the article above has in mind the very list of allegations that are the topic of this web page. Sadly, the anti-Catholic quotation rigger is still alive and well.

Addendum: Out of curiosity, I went looking for places that use this false quotation. It appears in Charles Chiniquy's alleged memoirs. More surprisingly, perhaps, Upton Sinclair uses it in his The Profits of Religion an Essay in Economic Interpretation. It shows up in several books written in support of Freemasonry. And, of course, it appears here and there on anti-Catholic websites. It does appear that this quotation is not used as frequently as some of the others on the list.

Pope (St.) Nicholas I, first entry

This alleged quotation is again no quotation at all. It is taken from John Foxe's Acts and Monuments, Vol. 4, and as far as I can tell contains no authentic papal statements whatsoever. Foxe was attempting to show what the list compilers are attempting to show--that the popes have taken upon themselves the place of God. He did this by creating a fictitious speech from a fictitious pope setting out all his claims. The “speech” is a series of quotations from various documents either about the papacy or by popes themselves, interspersed with what Foxe thinks the popes were thinking. It is somewhat easier to follow in his original than it is here; the person who compiled the extract for the list either didn't notice what Foxe had done, or didn't care. All the distinctions are gone, along with most of the footnotes.

And if we take apart the pieces of the alleged quotation, what do we find?

“I am in all and above all” are Foxe's own words, put in the mouth of his speaker.

The next part (“so that God Himself and I, the vicar of God, hath both one consistory,”) is not from a pope at all--here, Foxe is selecting quotations from other writers speaking about the pope, through the artifice of having his fictional mouthpiece pope speak of them with approval. I can't find the original reference (Hostensius?), so I can't provide the missing context, nor even check for accuracy of translation.

Likewise, “and I am able to do almost all that God can do” is not from a pope but from some other document speaking of the papacy. Again, I can't locate the “Summa casuum fratris Baptista”, so I can't provide context or check the translation.

We now switch to the part that is quoting actual papal documents (to his [slight] credit, it's not Foxe's fault that the distinction was lost--he makes it clear that he's switching).

“... Wherefore, if those things that I do be said not to be done of man, but of God, what do you make of me but God?” It's amazing what an ellipsis will hide. The context of this quote can actually be guessed from Foxe's reference, a decretal from Pope Gregory on transferring bishops. (Note that this is not the reference given in the list. More on that reference at the end of this section!) There was (and is) a train of thought in the Church that sees a bishop's relationship to his diocese as analogous to marriage--not the same as, but related to. Gregory is arguing here that he does have the power to move bishops, but only because he acts with divine authority. To top it all off, Gregory never said any of the material quoted at the beginning of this paragraph. That's Foxe putting words into the mouth of his fictitious pope.

As is this: “Again, if prelates of the Church be called of Constantine for gods, I then being above all prelates, seem by this reason to be above all gods. Wherefore, no marvel, if it be in my power to dispense with all things, yea with the precepts of Christ.” No pope said that. It's Foxe's own commentary on Pope St. Nicholas I's releasing men from oaths made under pressure while in captivity.

In summary:
Actual papal words quoted: 0.
Words quoted from actual Catholic documents: Few.
Stuff Foxe made up: Most of it.

And, ironically enough, that one reference we're given in the quotation as it stands in the list? It refers to a passage in Foxe's book that has dropped entirely out of the quotation as it now stands.

Lord God the Pope?

There's an excellent web page dealing with this claim. To summarize that page: the original edition of the Extravagantes doesn't contain that passage at all; it appears (allegedly; I have not seen a copy) in an edition printed 300 years later. The passage in question is in a gloss (commentary), not in the main text itself, so even if it were authentic, it would not have the force of law. And, finally, even if the phrase were in Canon Law, it would have no doctrinal force. Canon Law is not intended to present the teachings of the Church and does not do so definitively, though it sometimes repeats those teachings to give context to the canons. So all we have here is a quotation of unknown provenance, added to the text at a later date, that would prove nothing at all even if it had been authentic.

Fr. Periera was an 18th Century Spanish priest. I have not seen a copy of his work either, and the quotation given from it is originally taken from a highly polemical source. I hope the reader will understand by this point if I do not trust quotations taken from such a source. I do not know why Fr. Periera wrote what he is said to have written, nor in what context. But the opinion of one person, even if accurately related (which I doubt), proves nothing.

This, by the way, is easily the most popular of these quotes on the web. Google returns over 7,000 hits for "lord god the pope".

Pope St. Nicholas I, second entry

The actual Latin text of this entry read:

Satis evidenter ostenditur a saeculari potestate nec solvi prosus nec ligari pontificem, quem constat a pio principe Constantio Deum appellatum, cum nec posse Deum ab hominibus judicari manifestum est.

I translate that as:

It is shown clearly enough that the pontiff, who was called “God” by the pious prince Constantine, is neither loosened nor bound in any way by secular power, since it is manifest that God cannot be judged by men either.

The phrase “who being God,” as the original quotation in the list gives it, is a bad translation; one must twist the second clause (“quem constat ...”) pretty heavily to get that reading. Pope St. Nicholas is simply saying that secular powers cannot control the pope, who has his authority from God. The quotation from Constantine (which I have not been able to locate for further context) is perhaps meant to show that one of the greatest emperors deferred to the power of the Church.

Innocent III

The issue about which Pope Innocent III was writing was again the transferring of bishops from diocese to diocese, discussed under the John Foxe pastiche above. The pope is claiming he has the authority to do this not merely as a man and by human authority, but as God's representative. In other words, it's a limited claim, not a universal one. No Catholic should be ashamed of a pope's claim to govern in ecclesial matters with authority entrusted to him by God. That does not make the Pope God; it does not entitle him to worship; it does not take away his humanity; it says nothing more than does Luke 10:16

Lateran V

The list simply says “the Lateran Council”. There were five of them; the one in question must have been the fifth, which was indeed convoked by Pope Julius II, though he died not long after it began meeting.

The quotation is accurate but incomplete. I no longer have ready access to the book in which I found it (an account of the Council that includes not just a summary of the debates and speeches, but the speeches themselves); fortunately, I still have a copy of the relevant portion of this speech:

Ad te igitur supplex tamquam ad verum principem, protectorem, Petrum et sponsum accedo, quem oro, obsecro et obrestor, si quae corporis sunt, temporanea iura respiciunt, armis curasti, nunc quae ad cuiusque animum pertinent, non armis, sed sanctissimis legibus cura. Id namque lingue facilius agere poteris, quam quae hactenus egisti. Cura, inquam, pater beatissime, ut sponsae tuae forma decorque redeat et pulcritudo. Cura, ut grex tibi commissos optimis ac spiritualibus alimentis alatur et vivat. Cura, ut valetudo haec quae totum terrarum orbem invisat, abicedat. Cura, ut fluctanti naviculae, in alto a diris agitatae ventis salutis portus illuceat. Cura ne fruges cuius es cultor, prae nimia ariditate sicceiact. Cura, ut ovile unum fiat, quod modo est in partes divisum. Cura denique, ut salutem quam dedisti nobis, et vitam et spiritum non amittamus. Tu enim pastor, tu medicus, tu gubernator, tu cultor, tu denique alter Deus in terris.

The quotation given in the list covers only the last two sentences of the above. Here's how the whole paragraph reads:

Therefore I a beggar come to you as to a true prince, protector, Peter [or Rock], and spouse, whom I pray, I beseech and I [? This word is not in my dictionary; I assume it's a synonymn for the others], if those things which are of the body they provide for with temporal laws, and guard them with arms, now of those things that pertain in any way to the soul, you tend not with arms, but with the most holy laws. So much you are able to do more easily by the tongue than you have already done with arms. Therefore, most blessed father, take care so that beauty and attractiveness may return to the forms of your spouse. Take care so that the flock entrusted to you may be fed with the best spiritual food, and live. Take care so that good health may watch over the whole world, not depart. Take care so a port of safety may shine upon the wave-tossed boats, tossed about in the deeps by the agitation of fierce winds. Take care lest the crops whose farmer you are wither on account of excessive dryness. Take care, so that the sheepfold may be one, for it is now as if divided in parts. In short, take care that we lose not that salvation, that life and breath which you have given us. For you are our shepherd, you are our physician, you are our governor, you are our farmer, you are in short another God on earth.

In other words ... it's not a compliment. The speaker is chiding Julius for caring too much about other things. He's not flattering him. He's reminding him of the responsibilities he has to take care of souls by ruling and guiding the Church justly, a responsibility that belongs to Julius because he has the place of God on earth insofar as God has entrusted the care of souls to him. It's not flattery. It's not a call to worship. I don't imagine that Julius was all that happy to hear it.

The New York Catechism

The only answer I have to make to the alleged quotation from this source is if there is a Catholic “New York Catechism”, I have not been able to find it, nor any information about it. The only references I have been able to find to a document under the name “New York Catechism” talk about something prepared by an Episcopal bishop of New York, in an era when Catholicism was not at all popular. If the quotation is from that book and is authentic, it is most likely simply anti-Catholic propaganda. Absent any indication that there is or ever was something called the “New York Catechism” published under the auspices of any Catholic group, there is no way to assess this claim further, except to note that a claim based on a work that no one knows anything about is most unfirmly based.


Of the seven items in the list:

I hope that these responses will at least be of use to Catholics who find themselves challenged by this list, and I hope moreover that open-minded inquirers who came here for whatever reason will discover that, whatever arguments might be brought against Catholicism, honesty will not permit the contents of the list to be among them.