Thursday, 16 September 2010

How evil is the Pope? An assessment

For those of you who don’t know, the Pope is currently in the UK. Some people in the UK aren’t happy about this. These people seemingly outnumber those who are pleased that he is here, so it’s weird how the latter group ended up with what they wanted. Perhaps it isn’t so surprising though, as those who protested the Iraq war would point out.

But is it fair? Should the Pope be as maligned as he is? In recent months the image of the Pope in general society seems to have crossed a line, going from a sort of ‘corrupt politician/leader’ to ‘fictional super-villain’. Is this fair though?

In a recent on-line discussion, I mentioned the whole ‘protecting child molesters’ thing the Pope does. An angry Catholic then called me a fool for ‘believing what your told and not looking at the facts’. When I regained consciousness after being hit by such a massive blast of hypocrisy, I decided I would address this ‘concern’ in the only way I know how; scientific analysis. So, just how evil is the Pope? Let’s see how he fares on the villain scale.


Every major villain seemingly wants power. It’s uncertain to what extent the Pope wants power because he clearly has power. ‘Pope’ is, in the real world, about as powerful a position as it’s possible to occupy. But obviously, he had to work his way up to this position. I’m not sure how this works with regards to the inner-workings of the Catholic church, but it can’t be particularly easy what with there being so many of them, even if you automatically disqualify all the women. To have climbed to the top the ancient and convoluted of the ancient structure that is the Catholic Church must have taken some considerable drive. And although it seems like he’s on top, many devout Catholics believe the selection of the Pope is made via divine influence. If this is the case then the Pope isn’t quite at the very top yet, and if he is truly power hungry we may yet see him try to dethrone God.

However, it could also be argued that someone with a genuine desire for power would use a medium other than religion, which has seen better days in terms of global dominance and has a pretty poor track record of producing doomsday devices. But this is largely a subjective viewpoint, seeing as it could also be argued for those who are Catholic that the Pope has control over their eternal existence, and the closest runner up to this is whoever controls the process for gaining entry into the USA.



Super villains are generally rather arrogant. Where it could be argued that a truly smart villain would perform their evil deeds anonymously so no blame or retribution can ever affect them, what’s the point of being powerful if nobody knows who you are? In order to differentiate themselves from your run-of-the-mill criminal or corrupt bureaucrat, super-villains tend to look or dress rather elaborately. Presumably, the fear and respect your image causes and the subsequent ego gratification this provides offsets the risk of standing out from a mile away (or any distance within the range of a standard sniper rifle).

The Pope, as it happens, is one of the most gaudily attired individuals on earth. With a signature (and massive) hat, more flowing robes than the bridal gown industry and a selection of jewellery that would embarrass even the most self-aggrandising princess, the Pope does indeed look ‘unique’. Points are lost, however, for wearing things which most people would regard as rather feminine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, unless you’re Catholic, which I’m reliably informed the Pope is. Whether or not he shits in the woods too is, as yet, undetermined.



Super villains are quite prolific liars. This would seem a logical necessity, as an honest super villain would be unlikely to get very far. “Hello, I’m evil. Will you give me all your possessions and obey my commands as I pursue my plans for world domination” is an opening conversational gambit that is unlikely to pass unnoticed at the UN. So your typical super-villain presents an acceptable public facade and says the right things while being a right bastard when no-one important is looking.

The Pope, already being a high-profile powerful public figure, seems to not feel the need for layers of deception in his dealings with people. If anything, he’s refreshingly honest about what he believes. He seems to relish in being abrasive by spouting his archaic viewpoints.

The Pope has, however, tried concealing the truth via the covering up of child molesters, and spread outright lies regarding the effectiveness of condoms in preventing AIDS, but these are very straightforward lies/concealment, the sophistication equivalent of a child breaking a vase and hiding the pieces, then denying it to his mother. Just swap ‘vase’ for ‘the mental and physical well-being of hundreds of children and the lives of millions of innocent people in the third world’



Every super villain needs trusted henchmen to carry out their evil deeds or help out with controlling the evil empire. One man cannot do it alone; they just don’t have the time. A trusted henchman is a must for any super villain. The Pope, the lucky beggar, has a number of choices available to him when he needs someone to go and be ignorant or affronted by something on his behalf. Most up to date example at time of writing is Cardinal Kasper, the crazy bastard.

The Pope appears to have gone for quantity over quality with his henchmen though. As far as I’ve seen, none of his Cardinals are particularly identified as a ‘right hand man’ sort of individual, and they all seem to be middle-aged to old men; it seems unlikely that the Pope could rely on any of them to give James Bond a good pasting if it came down to it.



Every super villain needs disposable minions in order to exact their will on the masses who may not really want to obey the instructions of a diabolical madman. Minions are needed in order to combat any groups which actively resist the plans of a villain. They means they are likely to take heavy losses if it comes to actual battle, so need to be loyal to their master but inconsequential enough in the scheme of things so that their demise doesn’t really mean anything to the overall plans, hence ‘disposable’. It could be said that the Pope could command the obedience of all practicing Catholics, which would certainly give him the advantage of numbers.

However, and this can’t be stressed enough, the vast majority of Catholics are undoubtedly decent, pleasant, well-meaning people who probably wouldn’t have the fervour to oppress others just because the Pope said so. The Swiss guards might count, but they are apparently loyal to anyone who employs them, and how useful are soldiers from a neutral country anyway?

When it comes to minions, the Pope can probably rely on the priests and missionaries around the world. This is still a decent number, but the Pope loses points for showing concern; a real super villain wouldn’t have covered up the deeds of the child molesters, but would have thrown them to the wolves and watched as they were torn apart, cackling all the while.



Every super villain needs a lair, or fortress, or hideaway, or base, or just somewhere where they can make evil plans and hoard their ill-gotten gains out of sight of the prying eyes from the world outside. The Pope has the Vatican, which almost fits this description perfectly. Thousands of years old, so giving it a mystique which helps give gravitas and impress the masses; vast and convoluted, housing the mind-boggling wealth accumulated from thousands of years of spreading the word in a way which is NOT AT ALL LIKE PLUNDERING! It’s architecturally impressive and intimidating, with even a perfect set-up for addressing loyal followers. The Vatican is even a country in its own right, so outside influence is minimised.

The Vatican loses points, however, for location. Whereas most super villain lairs are ‘secret’ lairs, the Pope has his smack bang in the middle of the Capital city of a developed nation, one that is a global tourist hotspot to boot. Plus, he makes no effort to keep people out, the closest thing to guards at the gates of the Vatican are the people selling refreshments or catholic souvenirs, and they surely can’t be trusted to ward off those who want a look around.



Whereas many super villains are just evil men with sufficient resources, in other cases they’re actually imbued with super/magical powers of their own, with which they can combat similarly powered superheroes who would challenge their evil plans. The Pope’s main powers seem to be based on his influence and control of the resources of the Catholic Church, which is nothing to be sniffed at. However, he also has some powers which enter into the ‘magical’. It is believed that the Pope is the representative of God, so has the power of Papal infallibility, which means the Pope never does or says anything wrong with regards to morality and faith. Catholics apparently believe this, non-Catholics look at the evidence and risk dying of laughter at the ridiculousness of this claim.

The Pope also has the power to abolish (and presumably create) metaphysical concepts such as Limbo. This could be said to be an example of the Pope having the power to create and erase entire universes, or just a mad man changing his mind about something that was never there in the first place. The Pope’s magical powers depend on who you are and what you think, and that’s not very powerful when you think about it.



As previously stated, the Pope’s main powers are based on the resources and influence of the Catholic Church. In a surprise twist, even the most overblown of comic super-villains can’t match the might of the Catholic church when it comes to pointless wealth and undisputed influence over others (unless we’re talking sci-fi or fantasy, where super-villains may have multitudes of planets under their control, but it’s all relative, as the equivalent of the Catholic Church in this situation would have 87 galaxies and solid platinum spaceships at their disposal, for no reason at all).

The Pope is clearly one of the most influential people on Earth, but his influence is limited to those who believe in Catholicism; he’s not really that popular with non-Catholics, for many reasons. His access to Wealth is also formidable, but he appears to be satisfied with using it for ‘bling’, rather than constructing some devastating space-laser. We should be grateful for small mercies, I suppose.



One way in which super villains gain power and influence is through their use of superior technology to oppress or overcome those opposed to them. As previously stated (again) the Pope gets his power form the Catholic Church, an institution which was only ever really at the forefront of technological developments for a few years in the 14/1500’s, in the field of torture implements. This is to be expected for a body which rewards scientific development or curiosity with imprisonment or ridicule and denial

The Pope’s main concession to technology appears to be the Popemobile which is some sort of armoured car/aquarium cross (shout out to my friend Stuart Vale for that one). This does suggest developments for anyone who needs to regularly transport aggressive fish across reasonable distances.



In order to get to the top and stay ahead of the game, super-villains tend to be smarter than average, or even super-intelligent. From Lex Luthor style scientific/economic genius, to the practical street-smarts of Proposition Joe to the warped view of morality of the Joker, most super villains have the advantage over others in at least one area of mental ability.

In contrast, the Pope seems like an idiot. And this isn’t some mega-cynical ‘anyone who believes in religion is an idiot’ crack, because that’s simply wrong (and quite hack these days), and clearly the Pope has to have some wits about him to rise to the top of a major and ancient institution like he has, but the Pope seems to have trouble grasping simple issues, e.g. ‘Children = liked, Child Molesters = disliked’, or ‘Sex = popular, AIDS = Unpopular’. It may be a pretence or face-saving act, but when the Pope makes statements or does things that will obviously be offensive to vast numbers of people, he and his cardinals seem genuinely shocked and angry that people get offended. This inability to grasp cause and effect is not particularly encouraging in an assessment of mental ability. But as George W. Bush demonstrated, this proves no barrier to having power over millions these days.



Most super villains don’t start out that way. If nothing else, it’s very difficult to form world-conquering plans when you’re too young to form memories or digest solids. Many super villains can explain their evil and twisted tendencies with some sort of traumatic or disturbing experiences in their past (e.g. Magneto’s time in a concentration camp).

The most commonly known fact about the Pope’s childhood is that he was in the Hitler Youth, which suggests it is likely that he was the traumatic event in the lives of other people (which is very much still the case, arguably). Many Catholics defend this rather worrying aspect of the young Pope’s life by pointing out that registration in the Hitler youth was compulsory at the time, and that we should not judge the Pope for something that those in authority made him do. This is a fair point, and it’s good to see that this traumatic experience has prevented the Pope from ever using overwhelming authority based on intolerance and nonsensical theories to control the lives of others. . . . . what?



Super villains are overwhelmingly male. This makes sense, seeing as self-aggrandising and dominating behaviour tends to be largely testosterone powered. The people who take them on are, invariably, male also. The whole heroes-villains thing is a very macho area. To take advantage of this, a super villain will sometimes employ a beguiling female to charm their enemies and possibly snap their necks once their guard is (or certain garments are) down. This is a questionable strategy as a particularly noble and charming (and unfeasibly well sculpted) hero can entice the female operative into changing sides, but your typical super villain should always have a sexy woman involved in their operations in some capacity, if only to keep the male minions distracted from what they’re actually doing.

At the risk of sounding alarmingly shallow, the Pope fails massively at this aspect of villainy. It is probably due to the Catholic churches utter contempt for women in general that seriously reduces their options when it comes to employing glamorous agents. If the Pope were in a situation where he needed to have a man seduced (how this would come about, I don’t know) then his only options seem to be send a Nun (some men like a challenge, but even the most sex-addicted male bozo would probably realise he’d have better luck elsewhere) or Ann Widdicombe (as seen above, and about whom you can make your own conclusions)



A villain isn’t really a villain without someone to test themselves against. If nobody objects to what you’re doing, how is that villainy? Every villain needs a nemesis to defy and scheme against. The Pope is head of the Catholic Church, which over its history has amassed a collection of people and things its fundamentally opposed to which would make even the most rabid sociopath feel embarrassed, and since his appointment the Pope appears to be adding to this list at a frightening rate. Thus far, the Catholic Church appears to have as its enemies; Protestants, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox Church, 7th Day Adventists, Muslims, Hindus, Socialists, Humanists, Atheists, Women, Homosexuals, Journalists, Education, Dan Brown, The British, Liberals, Environmentalists, Darwinism, Amnesty International, the Red Cross, Condoms, contraceptives in general, abortion clinics, ice cream adverts, scientists, secularism and the laws of reality itself.

For sheer belligerence alone, the Pope deserves a round of applause.


FINAL SCORE = 5.54/10

So there you go. The analysis reveals that the Pope can be regarded as a super villain, just not a particularly good one. This is arguably the worst of both worlds, so feel free to mock him all you want.

E-mail: Humourology (at)

Twitter: @garwboy


Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis (& funny, too). I would argue, though, that as the Pope is real, he should get a couple extra points vs. the fictional super-villains.
+1 for his face, which really does look evil.


Sian said...

Smart, funny, insightful, yet hugely depressing in its truth. If only Spitting Image's version of a previous Pope and Jed Bartlett really existed.

Nameless Cynic said...

While a relatively accurate assessment, I'd say you were somewhat conservative in some of your estimates, and the Popeman might actually have scored higher than you think.

"Power hungry," for example. Just because Joey the Rat clawed his way to the top of the heap, and doesn't have much higher that he can go, doesn't mean he didn't have to be fairly ruthless to get there.

Deceit: just because his lies aren't complicated doesn't make them more truthful. I'd go with at least two more points there.

Magic Powers? You mean, aside from control much of the world's money and having power in probably 75% of the world? You don't count simple temporal power? (Admittedly, you give him big points for "Wealth and Influence," but the two aren't entirely separable.)

Intelligence: Questionable; intelligent people are often fools about the reactions of others.

Troubled Past: Odd. You make my case for me, but still downgrade him.

And finally, "Sexy Lady Operatives." Really? Aside from the widespread nun fetish (and you are aware that the nuns aren't required to be in the penguin suit, right?), he has all the schoolgirls, too, including the ones over the age of consent (speaking of widespread fetishes).

I think some of your numbers are ripe for review.

Jim Roberts said...

Brilliant! Good as other Science Digestive posts are, this takes the biscuit.

Chris said...

V Good. Remember there is also a series of secret passages in and out of the lair which has previously been useful for smuggling former Nazis to South America.

1 extra point for using the lair for more than just pacing and pondering.

1 extra point also for self deception. Surely if he was infallible he would not need the protection of his bullet proof goldfish bowl. Where is his faith in his invisible protector?

Social Network sharing gubbins