“The Dictator Pope” is sometimes frustrating, but filled with valuable insights and information

The most valuable service provided by the author of The Dictator Pope is the psychological portrait of Pope Francis: manipulative, hypersensitive, and often downright vindictive—certainly not the cheerful populist that his supporters make him out to be.

The Dictator Pope is an important yet a frustrating book. Important, because it offers valuable insights into the character of the enigmatic Pope Francis. Frustrating, because the book’s approach virtually ensures that those insights will not be widely shared. The book is clearly intended to correct the wildly inaccurate public image of a “reformer Pope”—an image that has been nourished by sympathetic media coverage. But in order to substantially influence public opinion, the book would need to reach the general public.

Regrettably—for now, at least—the English-language version of The Dictator Pope is available only in an electronic format, as a self-published work. Lacking the support of a major publisher and the publicity campaign that comes with it, and unavailable in bookstores, the book’s readership will be limited to people with a special interest in Vatican affairs—people who, more often than not, already know the story that the book tells.

If the goal is to persuade, there are other problems with the presentation. First, the author writes under a pseudonym (taking the name of Marcantonio Colonna, an Italian admiral who gained fame at the Battle of Lepanto). Skeptical readers will wonder why he is reluctant to identify himself, and whether his reporting is credible.

This is unfortunate, because The Dictator Pope is the product of a great deal of solid reporting. Whoever “Marcantonio Colonna” really is, he clearly knows his way around the Vatican, and has excellent sources inside the Roman Curia. Whenever the author wrote about events with which I was personally familiar, I found his treatment accurate. The only factual errors that I discovered in the book were the result of haste or sloppiness: the sort of mistakes that might have been caught by a good copy editor (which is another argument for a major publisher).

However, when the book told stories that were new to me, I found the evidence thin. Too often the author relies on hearsay evidence, and when he cites other reporters, too often their work is based on hearsay as well. Worse, when he makes his most startling claims, “Colonna” offers no evidence at all. He makes the improbable claim, for example, that then-Cardinal Bergoglio had advance notice about the impending resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, when many of the former Pontiff’s closest advisers were taken by surprise. Later he makes the even more outlandish charge that Pope Francis used the proceeds of the Peter’s Pence collection to subsidize the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Very few readers will be ready to accept these claims without some persuasive evidence. By putting them forward as facts, without supporting them, the author encourages readers to wonder about the book’s other claims.

Again, this is unfortunate, because The Dictator Pope contains an enormous amount of solid information. Some will be familiar to readers who have followed Vatican affairs carefully during the last few years, and already know the sad tales about the manipulation of the Synod of Bishops, the destruction of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the takeover of the Knights of Malta, the intimidation of members of the Vatican staff. Pope Francis has encouraged young Catholics to “make a mess”; the book shows that he has followed his own advice.

And some of the book’s revelations will be new to any but the most attentive followers of inside Vatican news. The author reminds us, for instance, that Cardinal Bergoglio became prominent when he delivered a speech at the Synod meeting of 2001, after New York’s Cardinal Egan, who was scheduled to give the address, hurried home in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Argentine cardinal’s speech was heartily applauded by the prelates who heard it. What they did not know, Colonna tells us, is that Cardinal Bergoglio merely read a text that had been prepared by a Vatican staff member.

The Dictator Pope also gives readers samples of a highly critical memo by Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, then the worldwide leader of the Jesuit order, written in 1991 to explain why, in his opinion, Father Jorge Bergoglio should not be made a bishop. The memo is devastating, pointing to character flaws that are confirmed throughout this book.

Indeed the most valuable service provided by the author of The Dictator Pope is the psychological portrait of the Pope: a man who follows in the footsteps of Juan Peron, the demagogic Argentine political leader of young Bergoglio’s formative years. Manipulative, hypersensitive, and often downright vindictive, Pope Francis is certainly not the cheerful populist that his supporters make him out to be. For all the talk about a “reformer pope,” the rhetoric about decentralization, and the promises of reform, the net results of this pontificate to date have been a climate of fear within the Vatican, a tightening of control, and a resurgence of the “old guard” in Rome.

The Dictator Pope concludes with a plea that the College of Cardinals should recognize the damage that has been done and, when the time comes, derail the efforts of the liberal prelates like the “St. Gallen mafia” to elect another Pontiff like Francis. Even before the conclave, the author persuasively argues, ranking prelates should fulfill their duties, resisting the public pressure exerted by an authoritarian Pontiff. It’s a compelling argument. But it would have been more compelling still if the author of this book had set an example, defied the pressure, and written this book under his own name.

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About Philip F. Lawler 15 Articles
Philip F. Lawler is the editor of Catholic World News and author of the Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is Misleading His Flock, available now for pre-order.


  1. It is distressing that even such things as the assertion that Francis gave funds to Hillary Clinton’s campaign can’t be dismissed as absurd because absurdly out of character. Told that Benedict contributed to John McCain, we’d ask “What’s the punch line?” Maybe someone in the Vatican would do that, but certainly not Benedict. Francis’ character could encompass such a thing and that’s the problem: not that it happened, but that the man seems eminently capable of it.

    • PDamian is wrong. When an author aims to expose evil, and when he is not in any immediate danger of his own or his loved ones’ physical punishment for such exposure (indeed, even if he is in this danger), he hurts only himself if he uses a pseudonym.

      Consider Solzhenitsyn, the greatest hero of the 20th century. Of course The Gulag Archipelago would still have been a valuable chronicle of communist horrors, even if it had been issued under a pen-name.

      But would The Gulag Archipelago have been the overwhelming testimony to the cosmic power of objective truth that it is, if the author had been too much of a poltroon to identify himself? No, it would not.

      Solzhenitsyn, unlike “Colonna”, lived for decades on end – both while in the USSR and while an American resident – in daily fear that the Soviet terror state would kill him. Yet still he gave his true name. “Colonna”, by his failure to do so (as well as his general failure to undergo copy-editing more generally, a lack specifically cited by Dr. Lawler), has destroyed his own credibility.

      • “Destroyed” is a pretty strong word in this context. Having read the book, I’d say that it, especially as a record of this pontificate’s many problems, stands on its own strengths and weaknesses. In a way, actually, using a pseudonym might end up being a smart strategy, as there are credible reports that Francis’ allies are seeking to “out” the author. That, I think, will bring much more attention to both the book and to the tactics employed by Francis and Co.

        • What evidence, if any, can you show to support your claim Pope Francis or those around him seek to “out” the author? Your animus for the Holy Father is saddening.

      • “The Vatican is reportedly seeking your true identity. Why did you use a pseudonym? And are you afraid of reprisals?

        Sadly, what emerges in the book is Pope Francis’ tendency to vindictiveness. The present-day Curia lives in a state of fear that any criticism of the Pope will lead to dismissal, as it did in the case of three officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who were summarily dismissed by Francis without explanation. Those who wish to tell the truth are therefore compelled to anonymity, to protect not only themselves but those around them.”


        When dealing with the current Pontificate and its gang of goons in the Curia, one can’t be too careful.

      • ‘Asked whether he thought his anonymity would last, Colonna said: “Under the present Pope, the Vatican machine has taken espionage to a new level, and I have little doubt that they will unmask me eventually, perhaps after a few more false casts. But they will need to ask themselves whether it is at the cost of giving me more publicity.”’


    • I agree. The psuedonym is more of a way for Colonna to protect and maintain trust of high ranking Vatican sources rather than cowardice or untrustworthiness on the part of Colonna. If you read the interviews attributed to Colonna over the past few days, you will see that he seems to be o.k. with being discovered, but appears to prefer to maintain trust of sources with anonymity. He might need to write a sequel, hopefully soon, exposing the Lavendar Mafia in the Vatican, fully active as is evidenced by Pope Francis’s inclusion of a mostly nude man in his blasphemous 2017 nativity scene.

      • I agree with PDamian that is. Pseudonym is minor quibble and helpful for investigative purposes to shine light on the evils of this pontificate and co.

      • Clearly it is impossible for Mr. Olson and I to reach agreement on this issue. I have not read the book; and if the author will not put his real name to it, I have no intention of doing so. (Surely his defenders cannot have forgotten how Rolling Stone was permanently disgraced – only three years back – by its editors’ naïve trust in sources who would not give their real names?)


        It will be remembered that St. Edmund Campion had far more danger to his own person than “Colonna” is ever likely to undergo. Such danger, of course, eventually brought about the saint’s appalling death. Yet in unfailingly courteous defiance of the totalitarian Elizabeth, he called his credo “Campion’s Brag”. Strangely enough he did not call it “John Doe’s Brag Because Edmund Campion Doesn’t Want To Be Outed.”

        Really, the very title of “Colonna”‘s book is an Americanist giveaway. There is nothing inherently wrong with a “dictator pope.” Popes are meant to be, ultimately, dictators. A pope so in love with human respect that he fails to be a dictator is worse than useless.

        The trouble with Bergoglio is not that he is a dictator. Dictatorship, in and of itself, would be an almost unimaginable improvement on the spectacle currently inflicted on us. Rather, the trouble with him is that he perpetually and cravenly seeks accommodation with the Adam Weishaupt / Jacques-Réne Hébert / Alexandra Kollontai / Alfred Kinsey / Eric Gill / Hugh Hefner / Allen Ginsberg ideology of cultural terrorism, more especially sexual terrorism.

        As one whose own capacity for earning an authorial livelihood – or pretty much any other livelihood – was destroyed by this ideology in its über-feculent Australian forms, I need no pious lectures from anyone who (and obviously I am not for a moment including Mr. Olson here) hides online behind the coward’s castle of pseudonymity. Pseudonymity might be warranted if “Colonna” was, say, a North Korean defector. He isn’t.

        • Is this fair? If Solzhenitsyn’s ability to document the nature of the Soviet state were dependent on his contacts in the Kremlin I doubt he would have made his identity known.

          I’d add that since the book came out first in Italian it probably wasn’t written by an American. Also, in present-day speech “dictator” doesn’t mean Cincinnatus. It means despot or tyrant, someone who rules without regard to standards higher than his own will and interest.

          Still, anything any of us can say on this topic is speculative. Each of us can only do his best. So far as I can tell “Colonna” is like the rest of us in that regard.

        • I don’t agree that a Pope is or should be a dictator. The original meaning of “dictator” comes from the Roman republic. He was given complete power in a situation of dire danger for the Roman republic. Such as the case of Quintus Fabius Maximus when Hannibal had invaded Italy and has destroyed several Roman armies and Rome was in danger of falling into the hands of Hannibal. A Pope is far from being a dictator and e is restricted in many ways, but especially in doctrine.

          As for the matter regarding the Vatican giving money from the Peter’s Pence to the Clinton campaign, Colonna responds to this is an interview published, as far as I can recall, in the Catholic Herald. He states that he got it from a reliable source in the Vatican. One can hardly expect him to reveal such a source. He also seems to have a source within the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. I have read several reports in Spanish which indicate that Cardinal Bergoglio had not a few opponents in Argentina. some of whom he removed when he became Pope, as was the case of the Archbishop of Rosario, one of the major cities of Argentina. Colonna also states that he is sure that he will eventually be unmasked and I understand that the anonymity is intended to protect his sources in the Vatican. I consider the comparison with St Edmund Campion totally out of place.Obviously, Colonna doesn’t have to fear for his life, but from what Cardinal Muller has revealed, the atmosphere in the Vatican is not exactly very propitious to those willing to report on PF’s foibles. Besides, if he got the information having promised to keep the sources secret, he has to do that. Another report mentions the fact that someone in England was harassed by people from the Vatican thinking that he was the author of the book.

          I don’t see that the fact that it is in digital form that great a handicap, as anyone can get the Kinlde app and download it to a cell phone. It costs less than 7 euros.

        • “Coward’s castle of pseudonymity”? Why all the verbal pomposity and hostility? The sheer virulence of your attack puts your own comments far deeper in question than anything Colonna did.

        • I disagree, but can see both sides. Yet, I am fascinated by the names of the men you reference as leaders of the school of sexual terrorism. I’d love, Mr. Stove, to hear more of your thoughts on this school and how PF is connected as he accomodates its ideas.

  2. Well…the pope by his very words and actions has been and continues to be “manipulative, hypersensitive, and often downright vindictive.”

    There is no doubt that such a book will not find its way via mainstream publishing. The progressive world loves this pope who they believe will change infallible doctrine. And Pope Francis acts the part and comes across as a prelate “of the world.”

    How long the Good Lord allows this is “depressingly” unknown.

  3. You would think that the major publishing houses would be eager to publish such a book, because they often thrive on scandal and trashing people. The fact that the author does not use his real name would usually cause Mr to dismiss the book out of hand, but reliable people like Phil Lawler and Robert Royal say it rings true to a large degree. But it appears it can not be relied on in all cases.

  4. The title is unfortunate if the actual content IS true… too heavy-handed by half, so it will fail to get many people even to open it. Instead they’ll dismiss it as ‘fake news.’

    • Having read it, I’d say that much of it, in some form or another, has already appeared on CWR (and CWR is cited in several instances). In my estimation, about 10-15% of the book is speculative or overreaches, or is hyperbolic. However, the author is very careful in most cases to qualify statements; and he dismisses some of the more “out there” accusations and theories about Francis. While it isn’t always evenly sourced, it has a lot of citations. Put simply, it isn’t sensationalistic in any sense of that word. It certainly isn’t “fake news.” Also, much of the more speculative materials includes things I’ve heard from other sources, including from Rome. So…there you go.

  5. The book speaks for itself. Even the “unsupported” assertions are entirely credible. There is nothing in the character of Bergoglio–a man who can’t get enough hugs and kisses from abortionists, trannies, and gay couples–that casts even a shadow of doubt on the claim that money from Peter’s Pence went to Hillary.

    One of the greatest gaps in the book is any investigation of the relationship of Bergoglio and Gustavo Vera.

  6. The word Pope derives from the Greek Pappas. Father. A benevolent term. Then is a Dictator Pope an aphorism, a metaphor, a contradiction, an enigma. Or someone who needs to return to the etymology of his title.

  7. If only Pope Francis wasn’t “too heavy-handed by a half” in regard to his purposeful confusion and march towards formal heresy concerning the reception of the Holy Eucharist, capital punishment, “irregular” unions, and his love of “change” in doctrine as he related in an address to clergy.

  8. This is a book about a vindictive pope. So it makes eminent sense that it would be written anonymously. And besides, progressives love to make the person disagreeing with them the enemy by engaging in character assassination which serves only to shift the focus away from the topic at hand.

  9. Of course Pope Francis is a dictator. When you believe- as he believes – that reason and faith DO NOT go together – then you are left with one thing only…which was pointed out by the faithful Catholic Sophia, a CWR reader from France, who stated this just a few months ago in this website: you are left with FORCE.

  10. Who needs to know the author’s name?
    As Carl Olson has pointed out, much of Colonna’s information already has been reported in, among other places, CWR and Rorate Caeli. The chief merit of this book (which I have not been able to get my hands on yet), as I see it is to put a useful construction on Bergoglio’s acts.
    It’s time to stop pleading “confusion” about what he’s up to. He is a power-oriented personality who is bent on using his power to transform the Church and its moral doctrine and liturgy. Tradition and canon law are the merest of obstacles to full-throttle exercise of power. Dictatorship is an abuse of authority and pastoral solicitude. But that’s what we have with Bergoglio.

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