My choicest political adviser is God who told me to run for the Presidency
Rev. Pat Robertson, quoted in the Church Times, March 1988.
When all countries lived under absolutist governments the Churches enjoyed a much closer relationship with the State than they do in democratic societies. Some of most cruel rulers in history were happily accommodated by the Church. (Vlad the Impaler was a convert to Roman Catholicism).
In recent centuries the Roman Church has always favoured authoritarian regimes that have allowed it privileges, while opposing liberal and democratic governments that have not. For example, in 1862 Pius IX concluded a concordat with the right wing Roman Catholic President of Ecuador, who had achieved power through a coup against the liberal government. Roman Catholicism was to be the only religion permitted and was to be given a dominant rôle in the country’s affairs. The Church was granted total control of education. This was the sort of arrangement that the Church would try to emulate wherever it could.
As it still does today, the Church felt itself competent to give direction on political matters. Pius IX forbade Catholics from engaging in Italy’s new democratic process, either as candidates or voters. Pius’s successor, Leo XIII (pope 1878-1903), was a keen critic of socialism, and of other political theories. The next pope, Pius X who reigned between 1903 and 1914, consistently criticised and suppressed liberal and socialist influences. On the other hand he was exceedingly tolerant of right wing groupings such as Action Française in France and Azione Cattolica in Italy. Pope Pius XI (pope 1922-1939) had equally clear ideas about the suitability of national governments. He was a fierce opponent of communism. Much more acceptable were the politics of Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco, all of whom were Roman Catholics.
In 1928 Pius reached an easy accommodation with Mussolini, under which civil divorce was not to be permitted in Italy. Under the terms of a Concordat the following year, priests in Italy who left the Church were to be penalised, for example by being precluded from certain jobs. Under the terms of the Lateran Treaty the pope recognised the state of Italy with Rome as its capital, getting in return the Vatican City as an independent state, an indemnity for the loss of the Papal States, and an undertaking that Roman Catholicism should be the state religion of Italy. Mussolini described the Pope as a “good Italian”, and the Pope declared that the treaty had “given Italy back to God”. Pius must have been highly impressed by Mussolini’s ability, since he encouraged him to use it by invading and colonising Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) in 1935.
Franco also enjoyed the most cordial relations with the papacy. The pope had denounced the separation of church and state in Republican Spain and supported Franco when he started the Spanish Civil War in 1936. For his part Franco felt himself to have been appointed by God, and considered the Civil War to be a Holy War. A devout Christian, he persecuted atheists and habitually carried around the mummified arm of St Theresa of Ávila. He even granted the Blessed Virgin Mary the rank of Field Marshal in the Spanish army. The Roman Church supported Franco throughout. When he won