I have been reading quite a few conspiracy thrillers of late and have noted that the Roman Catholic Church has become the perfect conspiracy-novel ‘bad guys’. When I say RC Church, I really mean the Vatican and its more sinister offshoots.
Now as an Englishmen, I am expected to be rather suspicious of Rome; after all, the Vatican has made serious attempts to exterminate us in the past. Indeed, there is much sword waving over Islamic terrorists but for most of my adult life it has been good Catholic boys who have tried to kill me. The Church has only just stopped praying for the conversion of England, probably because after five hundred years they have finally accepted that we are a lost cause.
However, I am somewhat bemused by Rome as the supreme conspirators and have mused over why this should be so. One reason is that the Vatican is old, the oldest continually active religious-political institution in the western world. The throne of England is the second oldest but is a bad choice for conspiracy theorists, with the exception of David Icke who thinks that Her Britannic Majesty is a giant alien Illuminati lizard from the constellation Draco bent on ruling the world or a certain London shopkeeper who thinks His Royal Highness Prince Philip runs relative-killing black ops units for MI5. As for the good old Church of England, well.... let us just say that no one believes that it could organise itself long enough to come up with a decent conspiracy.
The Vatican has a long history of interfering in politics and, because it was based in southern Europe, where gangsters, politicians, terrorists, businessman and priests tend to overlap to the point of being indistinguishable, some of that politics has been very exciting indeed. Look up the strange affair of Roberto Calvi, Chairman of Banco Ambrosiano of Milan, who was known as God’s Banker because of his Vatican links. Calvi was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in what looked like a ritualistic Masonic execution supposedly ordered by the Mafia on behalf of the powerful P2 Masonic Lodge. London’s Metropolitan Police Force – the best police force money can buy – rather bizarrely ruled that Calvi committed suicide.
As southern Europe has been somewhat northernised by the European Union, power in the Vatican has slipped eastwards to popes from places like Poland and East Germany. This further separates the Vatican from western culture. For example, no one in the Vatican seems to have anticipated that the appointment of an anti-Semitic bishop, who believes in the Protocols of Zion but not in the Holocaust, might be an issue.
The Vatican is authoritarian, demanding obedience because it is still politically based on a medieval political structure. It is also secretive, another essential requirement for a good conspiracy bad guy. The Vatican’s odder offshoots, such as good old Opus Dei, with its neo-fascist roots, add more grist to the conspiracy theorists’ mill.
So the poor old Roman Catholic Church finds itself the number one choice for any conspiracy novel whose plot needs an all purpose group of sinister manipulators. The CIA must be so relieved.