NPR

'The Pope' Tells The Tale Of A Roman Catholic Church With Coexisting Pontiffs

In his new book, soon to be a feature film, Andrew McCarten examines Popes Francis and Benedict XVI — and how having two living popes, for the first time in 600 years, has weakened the papacy.
Pope Francis meets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI prior to the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 8, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. Source: Vatican Pool

As the successor of St. Peter, a supreme pontiff should speak with authority. But our recent popes have seemed all too capable of questionable judgment, all too easily proven wrong, all too human.

Never was that more clear than in the aftermath of the stunning decision of Pope Benedict XVI in Feb. 2013 to retire. The subsequent election of Pope Francis meant that for the first time since 1415, Roman Catholicism found itself with more than one pope — in this case, one emeritus and one active. They had conflicting views on Catholic teaching at a time when the Church desperately needed to provide clarity.

It is this extraordinary circumstance that fascinates Anthony McCarten in McCarten is a novelist and playwright (his screenplay version will soon

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