Pope Francis is no stranger when it comes to making headlines and making moves within the Roman Catholic Church. This is why I wonder if he’s ever seen the Godfather III. It is fascinating to be able to draw parallels to pop culture, even if it’s pop culture from 1990.
Pope Francis’ reoccurring refrain of “Who am I to judge?” has left mouths agape all over the world, while his removal of many entrenched religious officials is giving the Vatican a new, Pope Francis-like face.
Take the Vatican Bank for example, which just last week found its five-man oversight committee with four new cardinals. The Vatican Bank has been scrutinized for years due its lack of transparency, which has earned itself a reputation for being secretive. According to the New York Times, the bank is “amid suspicions that some accounts might be fronts for illegal interests.”
While I prefer not to delve into the politics of the Vatican Bank, the fact that Pope Francis is keeping a watchful eye over its activities is significant. His appointments of a direct liaison and a separate special committee to examine the bank are definitely steps towards transparency.
However, they are also transparently similar to the plotlines in the Godfather III. As I re-watched this movie over winter break, I couldn’t help but realize that the pope in the movie was reforming the church with such similarities to Pope Francis. I just had to write an op/ed.
For those of you who haven’t seen the classic Godfather trilogy, the last movie revolves around Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, and his final effort to make the Corleone family name legitimate. In Michael Corleone’s mind, making expensive donations to the church will finally absolve his sins; sins that expand from his family’s history of crime and corruption, to his own personal mistakes, which include ordering the murder of his own brother. It’s safe to say that Don Corleone has a lot to feel guilty about.
Anyway, after Michael seeks to buy stocks in a Vatican controlled company, he comes to understand that the Vatican Bank is $700 million in debt, mainly due to corrupt oversight. As the story continues, Cardinal Lamberto, a pious and well-intentioned priest, is elected Pope John Paul I. This pope is prepared to open the arms of the church and cause some big changes. He demotes some people, promotes some people, all while causing a bit of controversy along the way. Moreover, he attempts to tackle the sketchy Vatican Bank, as well.
Interestingly enough, these events actually occurred. The Godfather III, while fictional, incorporates the death of Pope John Paul I and the Papal banking scandal of 1981-1982. While the movie links these two events, there is no evidence that they are connected in real-life. By no means am I saying that recent events will result similarly to the closing events of the Godfather III, either.
Even though the Godfather III is just a movie, a fantastic one at that, it offers some important lessons for current events.
One, the Pope’s opinion certainly carries a lot of weight. As stated by Candida Moss of Politico, “He has persuaded the world he isn’t a politician and, in doing so, has become arguably the most politically influential man in the world.”
Two, change causes controversy. Pope Francis is transforming the tone of the church and many people are excited. It’s not often that a pope is named “Person of the Year” in both TIME Magazine and The Advocate, a prominent LGBT magazine.
However, as stated by Michael Corleone himself, “The Pope has powerful enemies.”
Well, that’s a little dramatic for anyone living outside of a mafia-centered film. However, by touching on delicate issues, like homosexuality and abortion, Pope Francis has undoubtedly garnered people who disagree with him.
Regardless, it is important that we as students of a Catholic institution stay aware of the evolving Roman Catholic Church. Incredible and groundbreaking change is staring at us head on.
We need to find a way to stay informed or at least curious, whether it’s by reading the newspaper, following people on Twitter, or watching an oldie, like the Godfather III.