Henry Sire says he wrote the book The Dictator Pope because he felt it necessary to uncover the “gap” between what he says is the media “facade” of Pope Francis and the “reality as it is known in the Vatican.”
In a March 26 interview with the Register (see video below), Sire says that Francis is essentially a “politician who relies on public relations,” a “maverick pope” who manipulates the media and falls short of acting in a collegial manner with bishops.
Pope Francis doesn’t deal with bishops “in a collegial spirit at all,” the historian says, despite the Holy Father’s often stated wish to make the Church more collegial and decentralized.
“They were treated much more collegially under Benedict XVI. No, as I say, Pope Francis is a dictator,” explains Sire, who is half Spanish and traveled to Buenos Aires to research the book.
Sire chose the pen-name Marcantonio Colonna, the famous 16th century admiral of the papal fleet at the Battle of Lepanto, when he published The Dictator Pope as an e-book last November.
He says he originally chose the pseudonym because the “regime” under Pope Francis is prone to “retaliation” and he wanted in particular to protect those “whom the Vatican might think associate with me.”
He has now revealed his real name to coincide with the book's new edition, which was published by Regnery on April 23.
Educated at the prestigious Jesuit school Stonyhurst College in England before going on to read history at Oxford University's Exeter College, Sire served as resident historian to the Knights of Malta in Rome for four years until last year. When his name was made public, the Order suspended him, a decision he is contesting on grounds it is illegal.
He says he wrote the book chiefly not out of any personal animosity for the Holy Father but because he is concerned about the wellbeing of the Church under Francis’ leadership, and hopes the book will help the College of Cardinals avoid electing a “completely unknown cardinal” at the next Conclave.
The historian also discusses in the interview the influence of Argentina’s former populist leader, Juan Peron, on Jorge Bergoglio, and the significance of the Kolvenbach Report — a 1992 research document the late superior general of the Society of Jesus, Hans Peter Kolvenbach, had made on Jorge Bergoglio to ascertain whether he was suitable to be appointed a bishop.
Asked why he chose not to write a more balanced book on the Pope, Sire says it was “intended to be an alarm call” for a pope he believes has “gone off the rails.”
“When you’re shouting ‘Fire!’ when the house is on fire, you don’t say: ‘Well actually the fire is doing quite good work cooking the chicken in the kitchen,’” he explains.
In 2015, Sire wrote Phoenix From the Ashes, a comprehensive look at the state of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. He views the Council as having objectionable elements, but believes it is up to a future Council to declare whether any of it was heretical.
He defends this approach to the Register, saying that if his views on the modern Church and the Council are considered extreme today, then Catholics up until the 1960s, most of whom upheld continuity and the Church's Tradition, would similarly be viewed as extremists.
Sire says the new edition of the book will include updated information on a variety of subjects, one of which involves Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the coordinator of the C9 Group of Cardinals advising Francis on Church and curial reform. Sire calls the cardinal's archdiocese one of the “most corrupt” in the entire Church, both in terms of “financial corruption and moral corruption.”
The Honduran cardinal has been embroiled in allegations involving sexual abuse by one of his auxiliary bishops and financial misconduct.
For an alternative view of Pope Francis, looking into his intellectual formation, see this new interview with author Massimo Borghesi which we have just published here.