Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Pope and "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." 
I was just listening to a lecture in which is was pointed out that Lord Acton said this in regard to the question of whether the Pope has the power of infallibility. Sorry to say, I don't have any documentation to back this up, as it was only a passing comment in a lecture. It's interesting, if true, as I always thought this quote was in regard to secular rulers or political sentiment.


RPV said...

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.


It is from a reply to ArchBishop Mandell Creighton after Acton had reviewed his History of the Papacy and Creighton wrote him.
He Doesn't have good things to say about Calvin or any great man, but as a romanist, he did oppose Vatican I and the infallibility of the pope.

Ken said...

That is what I understand where the phrase comes from.

It is documented in Gary Wills' book - Papal Sins on page 8 (Image Books, Doubleday, 2000)
( I realize this is a secondary source) I also realize that Wills is considered a liberal and he is liberal on other moral issues that we Protestants would also disagree with him on; but he questions a lot of Papal claims and writes about their mistakes and sins.

He gives the reference as Lord Acton, Essays, edited by Rufus J. Fears (Liberty Classics), volumes II and III, 1985. (2.383) = I guess that means Volume 2, page 383.

Ken said...

I see RPV beat me to it.

Ken said...

Wills documents how both Ignaz Von Dollinger (the greatest Roman Catholic historian at that time) and lord John Acton opposed the papal infallibility dogma of Vatican I in 1870.