A key element in John's identification of the woman astride the beast is the statement that she is a city which reigns over the kings of the earth. We have carefully documented the fact that papal Rome fulfilled this prophecy and that she alone meets all the other criteria as well which John presents for identifying the woman astride the beast. We challenge anyone to find any other city beside Rome and its successor, Vatican City, which meets all the identifying characteristics set forth in Revelation 17.
Undoubtedly Christ's revelation to John that a religious body professing to be the bride of Christ would enter into unholy alliances with kings and even reign over them is one of the most remarkable prophecies in all of Scripture. Several books in their entirety could be filled with evidence that this prophecy was fulfilled in the Roman Catholic Church. However, we can only take space to present a small amount of additional documentation for those who may be interested.
Judge of All and Judged by None
Pope Leo X (1513-21) forbade the courts in every country t( try anyone for a crime from which they had been absolved b3 the Church in payment of the fee set for each offense. If an3 judge tried to circumvent this dictate, he was summarily excommunicated.
To be put out of the Church meant loss of citizenship as well, inasmuch as the civil authorities were required to accept the Church's decrees.
Pope Paul IV (1555-9), inquisitor par excellence, unrivaled torturer of Christians and persecutor of Jews, was so foulmouthed that his expressions could not be believed except as sworn to by witnesses. He quarreled constantly, even with the only two friends of the papacy at that time, Kings Charles V and Philip II, because in his mind a major purpose of the papacy was "to tread under foot kings and emperors."4 Just before his death in 1559, in response to the growing Protestant schism, which by now had reached alarming proportions and threatened to invade the Congress of Cardinals itself, Paul IV issued the bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio.
As "Roman Pontiff, Vicar on earth of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, holder of plenitude of power over nations and kingdoms, judge of all men and judged by no one in this age," Paul IV declared that he had unlimited power to depose every monarch and to take anyone's possessions without legal process. Anyone trying to assist those thus dispossessed would be excommunicated. His decree stated:
[A]ny persons whatsoever who shall be detected, acknowledged or proved to have departed from the Catholic Faith. .. or fallen into heresy, or have entered into, fomented or ordered schism, shall incur the aforesaid penalties [excommunication and dispossession of property], whatever position, rank, order, condition or preeminence they may enjoy, even if they ... possess the worldly authority and honour of a Count, Baron, Marquis, Duke, King or Emperor....
It is permitted to no man to challenge this statement.... But if any one should presume to attempt this, let him know that he will incur the anger of Almighty God and of His blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
Given in Rome at St. Peter's, in the year of the Lord's Incarnation 1559 on the fifteenth day (before the) Kalends of March, in the fourth year of our Pontificate.
Pope Sixtus V (1585-90), who rewrote the Bible to conform to his own peculiar ideas, declared that he had not only religious but civil jurisdiction over all kings and princes and that he could "appoint or dismiss anyone any time he pleased, including emperors." This was no idle threat. In those days it was commonly believed that outside the Roman Catholic Church there was no salvation. Thus to be threatened with excommunication by the pope made emperors tremble, for it was tantamount to being sentenced to eternity in hell.
Pope Clement XI in his 1715 Bull, In Coena Domini, excommunicated all who failed to obey the Holy Father and especially all who did not pay him their taxes. The bull declared that the pope held supreme authority over all men (including sovereigns) and their affairs, secular or religious. Subsequent popes reconfirmed this dogma. Rome has never abrogated it.
Maintaining Papal Dominance
The Vatican has been called "one of the world's most magnificent repositories of art" and "the most remarkable treasure house in the world." Part of that treasure is now on world tour (including Michelangelo's Pieta), a tour which began in Denver, Colorado, to coincide with Pope John Paul II's visit there in August 1993. Next on the tour was Buenos Aires. The treasure is not expected to return to the Vatican until the year 2000, "in time for the celebration of Christian millennium." One of the treasures being displayed is the tiara of Pope Pius IX, convener of Vatican I. Its description includes:
The crown is the symbol of the sovereignty of the papacy.... The tiara is adorned with pearls and precious gems and is inscribed in Latin, which translates as: "To the infallible Vicar of Christ; To the Supreme Governor of the world on earth; To the father of Nations and Kings."
Such claims to "reign over the kings of the earth" fulfill John's vision, as we have seen, and have never been annulled by Rome, which still sees the popes as the ultimate monarchs who rule the world for God. The demise of monarchies, however, left the popes with no more kings to rule. The succeeding republics and democracies put government in the hands of the people and gradually (in most countries at least) gave equality to all religions. We have documented the fact that, as the popes saw their power in danger of eroding, they did everything they could to undermine the new governments. Their consistent suppression of basic civil rights is an undeniable matter of record.
Past papal power has not, however, diminished as much as would appear at first sight. The Roman Catholic Church continues to teach its subjects (some 980 million around the world) that loyalty to her comes first and that she can absolve any of her subjects from loyalty to civil rulers. This fact and the dangers it posed for civil governments was recognized by the State of Missouri more than 100 years ago. As a consequence, the State Constitution of Missouri was amended in 1864 to "require that all clergymen take an oath of loyalty to the State of Missouri and therefore to the United States. At this crucial moment in the Civil War, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis sent a pastoral letter to all his priests condemning the required oath" and encouraging them to defy the government.
On September 20, 1870, General Raffaele Cadorna's forces of a newly united Italy broke through Rome's Aurelian walls at Porta Pia. The pope's forces under General Hermann Kanzler could do little more than put up token resistance. Not only Rome but what was left of the papal states was now taken over by the new Italy. Savoring their long-sought independence, the citizens' attitude became openly hostile toward the Church which had, so long ruled vast territories with an iron fist. When Pius IX (who had rammed papal infallibility through Vatican I) died a few months later and his casket was carried with great pomp through the streets and up to St. Peter's, mobs of Italians filled the square, throwing stones and shouting:
Death to the Pope! Death to the Priests! Throw the pig in the river! Throw the beast in the Tiber!
Only the police prevented the mob from making good its threat. This antipapal attitude on the part of the man in the street had been developing for some years in response to the suppression of basic freedoms under papal rule. Five years before the First Vatican Council opened, the pope had issued his infamous encyclical Quanta cura in which he denounced "the proponents of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion ... [and] all those who assert that the Church may not use force."
The papacy had ruled by force for centuries and the popes were fearful of the new winds of freedom that were bringing a desire for basic individual rights. Such an atmosphere was repugnant to papal pride and ambition. The pope had been certain that the dogma of papal infallibility, officially decreed by a council of bishops from around the world, would have put an end to such nonsensical dreams of freedom. As one highly regarded nineteenth-century historian explained:
The pain of death for offences against religion was [still] part of the penal code; to the Church was still permitted the relic of medieval lawlessness-the right of asylum for criminals; to the parish priest were left all civil registers; to the Jesuits the right to penetrate everywhere-to rule the royal household, the private homes of citizens, the public institutions, the schools, etc.; so that the country was absolutely subject to the priestly power.
In reading the astonishing record of papal power and oppression executed through its clergy one marvels how thoroughly it was accepted as part of life, not only by the ordinary people (who were helpless to oppose it) but by civil rulers as well. Nor did the obvious evils and injustices perpetrated for centuries by the Church seem to cast any doubt upon the validity of papal decrees. Von Dollinger gives this astonishing picture:
God's Vicar upon earth, it was said, acts like God, who often included many innocent persons in the punishment of the guilty few; who shall dare to contradict him? He acts under Divine guidance and his acts cannot be measured by the rules of human justice....
Paradoxical as it may sound, it is an historical fact that the more suspicious and scandalous the conduct of the Popes ... appeared to pious men, the more inclined they felt to take refuge from their own doubts and suspicions in the bosom of Papal infallibility ... [having] been taught from youth that the Pope is the lord and master of the Church, whom none may contradict or call to account....
Peter Cantor, as early as the end of the twelfth century ... [acknowledges] that the Papal corruptions [have] no scriptural justification ... but then it would be sacrilegious to find fault with what the Pope does.
The false doctrine of papal dominion over kings may be summarized in these words written to the patriarchs of Constantinople by Pope Innocent III: "The Lord left to Peter the governance not of the church only but of the whole world."" Nor has the Roman Catholic Church, by papal bull or concilliar declaration, ever backed away from that position.