Remember Joseph Stalin's nasty and dismissive line, one version of which goes, "The pope? How many divisions does he have?”? Or maybe he actually said, “How many divisions does the pope of Rome have?”
Hard to say. Both versions are floating around the Internet.
No matter. The implication is clear in both instances. The Vatican long ago lost a considerable portion of its worldly power that once allowed it to impose its will not only on the preponderance of Roman Catholics, but on much of non-Catholic humanity.
This should be obvious to GetReligion readers. Should you require evidence, however, the recent vote legalizing same-sex marriage in once staunchly traditional, Catholic Ireland should serve as a clincher.
The Vatican's diminished influence is also obvious in much of the general media's coverage of Pope Francis' environmental encyclical, Laudato Si -- notwithstanding all the headlines it generated.
Francis emphasized the moral challenge he believes is key to slowing human-influenced climate change and to furthering a sustainable global environmental policy that fosters economic justice. His moral argument -- a harsh critique of rapacious capitalist practices and unbridled consumerism -- warned of the negative consequences of current policies for all the world, but, in particular, for the poor and powerless.
But get past the lede of most renditions of the story -- most prominently in the follow up coverage -- and you find that the Vatican's message was not the dominate theme.