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Top 10 Papal Conspiracy Theories – 2020

by Simon Griffin
fact checked by Jamie Frater

With over 2,000 years of riches and 1.2 billion subscribers worldwide, the Pope is one of the most well-known, powerful, and influential people in the world. For all the benefits that fame, power, and influence bring, there is one downside that always follows, and that is unwanted attention. Sometimes it’s unwanted because you’re trying to hide things. Other times, it’s because it’s coming from an absolute lunatic. Either way, when you start getting that much attention, there’s a good chance you’re going to find yourself at the heart of a conspiracy theory or two.

Top 10 Most Wicked Popes

10 Benedict’s Book

As you likely know, there are currently two living Popes. Although this isn’t the first time in history that there have been multiple Popes, previous instances were more like power struggles over who the “Real Pope” was. When Benedict XVI stepped down, he was not declared illegitimate, which has led to a situation where we have two people with an apparent direct line to God.

Despite the fact that Benedict has repeatedly stated “there is only one Pope—Francis”, some of the more traditional factions within the church argue that Francis is illegitimate due to the fact that his predecessor is still alive. With Benedict being considered a conservative Catholic, and Francis a liberal, it was only a matter of time before the two Popes disagreed on an issue of morality, which came in the form of clerical celibacy.

Francis has recently been considering allowing an exemption to clerical celibacy for potential priests living in extremely remote regions, such as the Amazon. These “Men of virtue” would be allowed to marry, but also act as a priest. In response to this, Benedict co-authored a book with his right-hand man, Cardinal Robert Sarah, in which they implore Francis not to make the change. But when a 92 year old man, who retired 7 years ago due to “lack of strength of mind and body” and just so happens to be one of the most influential people on Earth, suddenly writes a book, suspicions are raised. Cardinal Sarah quickly found himself accused of coercing and manipulating a vulnerable old man. Although Benedict has said that is not the case, and they have removed him as an author, history won’t soon forget the time one Pope may have been used as a weapon against another.[1]

9 The Murder of John Paul I

A look back: 37 years ago, John Paul I was elected Pope

If there’s one thing we know that Catholic Church is good at, it’s cover-ups, so it should come as no surprise that one of the most shocking moments in the history of the church is alleged to be one. The death of a Pope is always a moment that sends shockwaves across the globe, but the death of a Pope just 33 days into his Papacy and 53 days after the last Pope died was particularly startling, especially given that John Paul I was just 65 years old.

It didn’t take long for people to start floating conspiracy theories, with the first major example coming in the form of “In God’s Name: An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I”, a book by a man named David Yallop. Yallop claims that John Paul was murdered by a group of Freemason plants in the Vatican. Yallop claims the Pope was taken out because he was about to expose major scandals involving the Vatican Bank and mafia money-laundering. Yallop‘s book is well-respected among conspiracy circles, with numerous authors building on his research since it was published. Other theories include that he was killed because he planned to reintroduce Latin mass, that he was assassinated by the CIA/KGB, or that the KGB was spreading conspiracies about what really was a natural death.[2]

8 The Know Nothings

America’s Forgotten Political Party: The Know-Nothings

“Know Nothings” is the name given to members of what began as a secret society, the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, and eventually became a political party, the American Party. Their nickname comes from the fact that, when asked about the group, members would reply “I know nothing”. Although briefly lived, the Know Nothings were a powerful nationalist force at a time when immigration was a major issue. Ireland was in the midst of a famine, and the German economy was lagging, both of which led to an explosion of European Catholics moving to the US.

In addition to the usual stereotypes you would expect, such as the Irish being nothing more than a bunch of drunkards, or the Germans being little more than a band of boozers, the Know Nothings used conspiracies to stoke up fear around these groups to win power. And an easy way to do that was to focus on their Catholic faith. In addition to a fraudulent undercover investigation, which apparently uncovered priests forcing themselves on nuns and then strangling the babies, the Know Nothings alleged that the flood of immigrants would drastically affect election results and change the landscape of US politics forever. Americans were already wary of European powers trying to control them, but according to the Know Nothings, it was much worse. The Pope wasn’t planning to run America from the Vatican. He was planning to move the Vatican to Mississippi.

But almost as quickly as they shot to prominence, the Know Nothings faded into obscurity. The Irish had their potatoes back, the Germans had an industrial revolution, and the nation was much more concerned about the issue of slavery. Fears that the Pope was taking over dissipated, and Mississippi realtors presumably slashed the prices of their Basicallas.[3]

7 The Attempted Murder of John Paul II

Ali Agca, “when I shot the Pope did not want to kill him, just hurt”

Given how rare it is for a serious attempt to be made on the Pope’s life, it is quite surprising that it may have happened twice in a row, to Popes with the same name. When John Paul II succeeded John Paul I, he took the same name as a mark of respect for the papacy cut short. Little did he know that his own papacy would come perilously close to the same fate.

On Wednesday, May 13 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca shot John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope was hit four times, and required emergency surgery for over 5 hours, but survived. Agca was apprehended at the scene, and police found a suicide note claiming he killed the Pope to expose “imperialism”. Agca had previously escaped from jail after assassinating a newspaper editor, and had sent a letter to another newspaper claiming the Pope was “an agent of Russian and U.S. imperialism”. But it doesn’t end there.

Agca first claimed to be a lone wolf, then the Messiah, then an agent of the Palesinian Liberation Organization, followed by the KGB/Bulgarian intelligence. The press ran with the idea that Agca was part of a larger group, and at one point, even a judge claimed he had help. After being released from jail, Agca brought flowers to John Paul II’s grave, and requested a meeting with Pope Francis. The request was denied.[4]

6 A False Prophet

James MacMillan – Tu es Petrus

While everyone already knows that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, it is worth understanding why this is the case, according to Catholic beliefs. Peter was one of the 12 Apostles, and according to Matthew 16, Peter is the “rock” upon which Jesus will build the Church, he would receive “the keys of the kingdom of Heaven”, and he would be given the power of “binding and loosing”, which means the ability to permit or forbid an action without question. This passage is the most cited in terms of legitimizing the Pope as God’s representative on Earth.

Of course, these days you can’t hold any position of power without some people believing you have sinister intentions. But when it comes to the theory that the Pope is the Antichrist, that belief can be traced back hundreds of years. Famed theologian Martin Luther made this accusation in 1537, explicitly stating “This teaching shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist”, a belief he based on the fact that the Bishop of Rome is elevated to a higher status than all other Bishops. This was followed by Archbishop Cranmer, who claimed the Pope was tricking people into thinking certain sins are okay. Even Isaac Newton jumped on the bandwagon, using some mythical math to connect the Pope with 666.

It would be incredibly easy to fill this list with blogs of theorists and clairvoyants who claim the Pope is the Antichrist. What makes this theory particularly interesting is that it stretches back hundreds of years, with every Pope since the 9th Century accused of being a fraud. Unlike most conspiracies, this is one that changed nations, caused wars, and dramatically altered the course of world history.[5]

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5 The Pope and The Nazis

Given that the Pope is meant to embody God and all that is good, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the Church were vocal and vociferous opponents of the Nazis. But you might be surprised to learn that that’s not true at all. The Vatican, which had become an official independent country in 1929, actually adopted a policy of neutrality during World War 2, and declined to disavow Nazism.

Pius XII became Pope 6 months before the war began, and remained in office throughout, meaning he was solely and exclusively responsible for the Church’s response to the ongoing atrocities. But while Pius did speak of the tragic loss of Christians, he never addressed the issue of Jewish victims. Despite receiving intelligence from the US, Poland, and the World Jewish Congress, the Pope just never found the time to speak about the etnic cleansing that was taking place.

Perhaps the treaty Pius had negotiated with the Nazis before he became Pope, the one where the Church promised not to be critical in exchange for preferrential treatment under tha Nazi regime, had something to do with it. Certain historians cushion this fact by stating that the Church only teamed up with the Nazis to defeat the Communists. Others claim the Pope was actually saving Jewish people, but in secret. And then there are those who believe it was just convenient to stay silent. With the archives of Pius set to be made public this year, we may soon know the answer.[6]

4 A Political Hitjob

Steve Bannon Takes Aim At Pope Francis | NBC Nightly News

Another important thing to remember about the Papacy is that it is an elected position. Sure, not many people get to vote in the election, but it is an election, and it is not immune from the kind of political games we see elsewhere. So when the most recent victor turned out to be someone who is seen as liberal, and who wants to reform the Church, conservative branches of Catholicism started pushing back. One such critic was Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S.

While Francis was on an apology tour to Ireland, where he apologised for the abuse carried out by members of the clergy, Vigano released an 11 page letter accusing the Pope of conspiring to cover up the abuse allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick in the US. Vigano is alleged to be part of a larger group hellbent on taking down Pope Francis, and apparently working with Steve Bannon. Bannon has been a vocal critic of the Pope, going so far as to tell the Italian Prime Minister that the Pope is “the enemy”, and currently has plans to build “a gladiator academy for the Judeo-Christian West”.

But, despite the devastatingly long list of sexual abuse scandals in the Church, the group only managed to draw a very tenuous connection to Francis. They also suffered from some infighting and splits, with clergy opposing Bannon’s political aims, while Bannon floated conspiracies about a gay lobby running the Church. While Vigano’s letter still may reflect badly on Francis, the Pope’s record doesn’t appear to come anywhere near the level of cover up or conspiracy that you would expect from the Church, so it is unlikely that this will really pick up speed.[7]

3 Forced Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation

We’ve already mentioned that some people believe that Benedict, not Francis, is the one true Pope, and according to this theory, that may include Benedict himself. The official reason given for Benedict’s resignation was that he no longer felt capable of executing the duties of the office. But it is worth remembering that his resignation came less than a year after the Vatileaks scandal rocked the Church. The leak contained letters and memos from the Pope himself, and painted a picture of a corrupt institution with a weak leader, which theorists claim was used to force his resignation. They point to his continued use of the title “Pope Emeritus” and white robes as subtle signals that he sees himself as the true leader of the church.

But wait, there’s more! You may have assumed that Wikileaks was behind the scandal, or at least church insiders, but you’d be wrong. As it turns out, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George Soros were the ones to end his conservative reign, as part of their plans for a “Catholic Spring”. While we are now seven years in and Spring does not yet appear to have sprung, if we know the Obama-Clinton-Soros machine, they are simply biding their time.[8]

2 The Zionist Pope

Pope Francis visits major sites in Jerusalem

Theories about election interference or regime change are nothing new, especially not when they involve Clinton, Obama, or Soros. What makes these theories so believable is that they don’t necessarily require conspiracy. You don’t have to meet secretly with your preferred candidate, but simply do all their dirty work from the sidelines. They may never have instructed you to do anything, but they never needed to.

But while many theorists believe that Benedict was forced to resign over his leadership (too radical, too conservative, or too weak, depending on who you ask), there are some who believe he was ousted to install his hand-picked replacement, Pope Francis. According to this theory, Pope Francis is a puppet Pope, “communist wolf”, who lives only to serve the Zionist wishes of George Soros. Although this is definitely a subcategory of the previous theory, and is held by far fewer people, there is a rabbit hole of books, photos, and articles that claim to validate it. But like so many Zionist conspiracy theories, this one is pretty much relegated to the darkest corners of the web.[9]

1 Third Secret of Fatima

Fatima your last chance: The Third Secret Regarding the Church – Fr Gruner

In 1917, three Portuguese children named Lucia Santos, Jacinta Marto, and Francisco Marto claimed to have received 6 visits from the Virgin Mary. The apparition, known as Our Lady of Fatima, is said to have given three secrets to the children: the first was a vision of hell; the second was a prediction that WW1 would end (at some point), along with the suggestion that the Russians convert; but the third secret was a secret.

Benedict XV was the Pope at the time of the apparition, and the secret was kept hidden by 5 successive Popes, until John Paul II decided it was time to share the truth with the world. By then, the third secret of Fatima had become a bit of a cultural icon, with the general consensus being that, whether you believe it or not, the secret foretold the end of the world. The Vatican had even stated that it was “most probable the Secret would remain, for ever, under absolute seal”. Even Lucia, who witnessed the apparition and held the secret, required written permission from the Pope before agreeing to write it down. So imagine the disappointment when it turned out to be a generic message about penance and salvation, and not a description of the destruction of the Earth.

Fortunately, the conspiracy didn’t end there. Once the disappointing secret was released, people began to claim it was a fake. To support this, the point to the fact that Lucia said she wrote a letter one a piece of paper. The document revealed was not a letter, and was on four sheets, with many claiming the writing style was totally different. As a result, there are still those who believe that the Vatican is hiding the real secret, which is either how the world will end, or how Satan will infiltrate the Church. You’ll just have to wait to find out which one it is.[10]

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About The Author: Simon can be followed on Twitter @simongireland

fact checked by Jamie Frater