For more than thirty years, Paul Collins has been His Holiness’s loyal opposition. Absolute Power is the latest round in his spirited debate with the Vatican, the government which has the largest constituency of any in the world.
Collins’s interest, in fact obsession, is in the nature and limits of that licence to govern – except that he would question whether the notion of government should come into it at all. The crucial text for his case is Christ’s rebuke to the squabbling apostles: ‘Anyone who wants to become great among you, must be your servant ... For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.’ But this is a tricky text. Christ, as the incarnate God, remains boss. So the pope may be referred to as ‘the servant of the servants of God’. But any monarch, whether tyrannical or benevolent, serves a people by calling the shots for them.