“Inspired by true events” has become Hollywood’s euphemism for pure fabrication. Netflix’s The Two Popes begins with that statement, then proceeds to tell a tale wholly inspired by the left’s lies about Pope Benedict XVI and its hagiography of Pope Francis.
The movie is relentless propaganda for Francis-Catholicism, portraying Pope Benedict XVI as a reactionary misanthrope and Pope Francis as a beloved progressive. But the movie doesn’t bother to line up its lies coherently. In its fantastical rendering of an improbable friendship, it has Pope Benedict XVI urging Pope Francis to succeed him. Why would a reactionary misanthrope do that? At one point, Pope Benedict XVI, played by Anthony Hopkins, says to Jorge Bergoglio that he disagrees with everything “you say and do.” But then he muses in a later scene that Bergoglio is exactly what the Church needs. That makes no sense, and of course deviates from the record: Pope Benedict XVI told a journalist that Bergoglio’s election came as a complete surprise to him.
The movie overflows with historical whoppers. Determined to cast Francis as humble, it has him avoiding the spotlight during the 2005 conclave while Benedict campaigns for votes. What a joke. Benedict was the most reluctant of popes. He had asked Pope John Paul II several times if he could resign from his position at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and return to Germany. One of the reasons Benedict resigned from the papacy is that he never wanted it in the first place.
Bergoglio, on the other hand, is motivated by nothing if not power, as evident in his Machiavellian papacy. Yet the movie has him pressing Benedict to let him quit and become a lowly parish priest. The director wants us to see Bergoglio as a placid and retiring figure, for whom the exercise of power is a matter of indifference. He could take it or leave it, but mostly leave it. What he really wanted was to return to the slums of Argentina. Right. People who actually know Bergoglio say that he went into a funk after he lost in 2005 and only came back to life when he won in 2013.
The actors in the movie are miscast: Hopkins is too assertive and Jonathan Pryce, who plays Bergoglio, is too passive. Hopkins plays Benedict as a hopeless grouch who refuses to dine with others and insists that his guests eat the same awful Bavarian meals as him in separate rooms. Pryce plays Bergoglio as almost timid, a prelate so unassuming he thinks popes should book their own flights.
“Bergoglio is a bit of a schemer,” a Latin American priest said to me once. He told me about how Bergoglio would bum rides off people and then tell them to drop him off several blocks from his house so that he could be seen walking to it. As pope, he has pulled similar tricks, once chastising an aide for putting his briefcase on a plane, thus depriving him of the opportunity to be seen carrying it himself.
The movie revels in Francis-as-man-of-the-people propaganda. But in truth he is not so much popular with the people as the liberal elite. They make movie after movie about him, while attendance in the pews grows thinner.
The movie, of course, approves of his laxity while at the same presenting him as staunchly opposed to abusive priests. It even has him lecturing Benedict on this subject. Never mind that one of Bergoglio’s first acts as pope was to rehabilitate the rapist Theodore McCarrick and permit him to run around the world as a Vatican envoy. As pope, Francis has surrounded himself with problem priests, such as Gustavo Zanchetta, a crony of Francis’s who is now on trial for preying upon his seminarians.
By contrast, Benedict had a far better record on abuse than Francis. Benedict acknowledged the “filth” in the priesthood and made some efforts to clean it up. Pope Francis, whose signature line is “Who am I to judge?,” refuses to admit that a gay priesthood is even a problem. But no matter. According to the movie, he is the good guy, the liberal reformer who leads a curmudgeon to see the error of his ways — Hollywood’s idea of a happy ending.