“I Put No Stock in Consensus”: The Young Pope and the Progressive/Conservative Cleavage in Filmic Narrations of Papal Power

Part of the Culture and Religion in International Relations book series (CRIR)


When the lives of popes are narrated in films, the pope’s main characteristic often appears to consist in being either for or against secular modernity. This suggests that the question “are you modern?” is crucial for the public understanding of the papacy. The series The Young Pope can offer an interesting case for rethinking papal agency beyond the established dichotomy. The fictional Pope Pius XIII is characterized not as being for or against secular modernity but as seeking to use his power to shape an alternative modernity. The series offers different scenarios of how the pope can stage himself as a public actor and what papal power as an agency sui generis could look like. Based on four of the series’ speeches, the chapter discusses the examples of conventional, ultra-progressive, ultra-conservative and authentic papal rhetoric and staging.


Pope Film Young Pope Modernity Conservative Progressive 

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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Religious Studies and Inter-Faith TheologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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