Inside the Vatican – Worldly grandeur but no Gospel

Inside the Vatican
Oxford Films, 2019, 1h 54m
Originally broadcast on PBS April 28, 2020

1 Star

(Note re: single star: While the production standards of this documentary are quite high, the false “spirituality” it promotes is deadly)

I noticed an advertisement for this 2-hour, PBS documentary, but wasn’t able to watch the entire production the night it was broadcast on April 28th. I’m pretty strict about my “lights out at 10 p.m.” policy. However, I was able to watch the entire documentary the following day via the PBS website (see link at bottom).

Evangelical Vatican-watchers will find this “inside look” at the Vatican somewhat interesting as well as grievous and disturbing. The Vatican, of course, is the home of the pope and the central administration headquarters of the Roman Catholic church, with a population of 800 residents and 4600 employees working within the walls of this 120 acre, city-state (roughly the size of Central Park in NYC).

The filmmakers focus on several of the Vatican departments and individual employees including members of the following:

  • Diplomatic corps
  • Ushers aka “sediari” or chair-bearers
  • Choir
  • Preservation/maintenance workers aka “sanpietrini”
  • Groundskeepers
  • Social Media
  • Language translators
  • Security

Interspersed with these examinations of the Vatican’s various working departments are adulatory segments devoted to pope Francis. The pope is portrayed as a high-minded, progressive reformer (an admiring journalist says he’s no less than a “radical”) determined to neutralize the conservative and traditionalist opposition within the church. We see Francis as the enemy of clerical privilege; Francis as the protector of children from predatory priests; Francis as the champion of the planet’s environment; Francis as the benefactor and sponsor of immigrants, the homeless, and the incarcerated.

This documentary is a Francis “puff piece” on a grand scale. A couple of Francis’s conservative Catholic opponents are interviewed (a journalist and the founder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute), but they’re merely a few gnats in this very pro-Francis ointment. Many conservative and traditionalist Catholics rue the day that Francis was elected pope and pray for a quick end to his tenure. Francis views his doctrine-bending reforms as pragmatic necessity in order to maintain the church as a relevant world institution while conservatives view his reforms as heterodoxy and even heresy. The film points out that Francis has been busy “stacking the deck” by appointing like-minded cardinals to ensure the next pope shares his progressive views.

Some off-the-cuff observations while watching this documentary:

  • There’s plenty of “impressive” pageantry and ceremony at the grandiose Vatican, but the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone is nowhere in sight. The Roman Catholic church teaches a false gospel of salvation via sacramental grace and merit.
  • In close to two hours of watching this documentary, with all of its recorded religious pageantry and spectacle, I did not hear the name of Jesus Christ mentioned one time. Jesus Christ and His apostles would have had nothing to do with this grand-scale pomp and ostentatiousness. This documentary doesn’t delve into church history, but the Roman bishops adopted the Caesarean imperial model including the pursuit of wealth, territory, and political control. The regal trappings of the papacy outdid those of European monarchs. “But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” – Acts 3:6.
  • One of the featured personalities, Mark Spyropoulos, a lead vocalist in the Sistine Chapel Choir, reluctantly admits on camera that he’s an agnostic. The chorister speaks for hundreds of millions of “cultural Catholics.” For those Catholics who say that they do “believe” in God, what they actually believe in is their obligation to merit their salvation, as their institutional church teaches.

“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:2-4

I would recommend this documentary only to evangelicals who are curious to see the worldliness of the Roman Catholic religion.

Video availability expires 5/26/20.

28 thoughts on “Inside the Vatican – Worldly grandeur but no Gospel

  1. Hi, Tom! I will watch this today! Thank you SO much for sharing this!!!! Love and prayers for you and your wife! (If I may ask, what is your wife’s name? I know that God knows but I like to pray for people by name, not trying to be rude, pry or intrude!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mandy! Thank you for the encouragement in the Lord! This documentary does show to a degree how the RCC is focused on the temporal. It’s also valuable for revealing some of the infighting between the pope and his progressive allies and the conservatives and traditionalists.
      My wife’s name is Corinne. Thank you and have a blessed day!


  2. The documentary is not available (probably) in my region. If what you observed, Tom that Jesus Christ’s name was not mentioned at all in the entire “puff piece” documentary, then it is high time to be alarmed for readers of your blog that is Catholic, practicing or not. JESUS is the “cornerstone” and centerpiece of our faith. He is the banner and battle cry in our evangelizing or spreading the good news and in our battle against the “prince of this world”, the evil one. Probably, the fault was on the scriptwriter and editor [two winks for this sentence alone]. In relation to Colossians 3:2, sad is an understatement but I don’t want to discuss what is already obvious to us years ago. I would rather focus on strengthening my faith in Christ alone, where “my hope is found, my light, my strength, my song.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 👋🏻 My day was real busy shuttling my wife to get an x-ray and then the dog to the groomer and then writing the Friday apologetics post for May 22. We got some disturbing news today. Light snow is forecasted for Friday night!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow the world really fawn over their favorite pope didn’t know there’s another documentary out there by PBS as I thought they have done one before from recent memory? I might have confused it with other documentaries

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, the world absolutely loves this pope. Hmm, I don’t recall a recent PBS documentary on the pope. Maybe you’re thinking of “The Two Popes” docu-drama that came out on Netflix last November that I reviewed?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I would be blessed to write a guest post for your blog. I haven’t written a “general” post in quite awhile. I will pray for an idea. [As I was typing that last sentence an idea came to mind!]

      Liked by 1 person

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