The Vatican and Terran Catholic Church
The Terran Catholic Church is, essentially, the future version of the Roman Catholic Church. Given that humanity has spread across the solar system in the third and fourth millennia, the “Roman” became a bit limiting. It also would have been a bit of a misnomer after the Conflagration (see Major events and technological breakthroughs page), as much of Italy was turned to rubble, in particular Rome and Vatican City. With the rise of the Catholic Church in the Renewal Period (see Historical Timeline page), the Vatican set its central operations in a vast city built in the Yucatan called Nova Roma. The Terran Catholic Church is a wholly religious institution.
The Catholic Union, on the other hand, is a vast nation spanning two entire continents, much of a third, and some miscellaneous other areas. It is, in fact, the largest and most powerful single nation in the entire solar system.
The Vatican is like an overblown version of what we know of as the Vatican today. It controls both the Terran Catholic Church and the Catholic Union. As such, the Vatican is both a religious body and a governmental one. It has mastery of both spiritual matters and secular ones throughout the Catholic Union and, at least in spiritual matters, in some areas outside the Union.
The Leaders of the Vatican
The Vatican is run by three human popes and the artificial intelligence system known as the Godhead, which contains the memories and personalities of all popes who have held office since he was created, merged into a single personality.
The three human popes are known as the White Pope, Black Pope and Red Pope. They serve for life, but it is rare for any man to be chosen to serve as a pope who is younger than 150.
The White Pope (currently Pope Eric Vergosian, age 291), is in charge of medicine/healthcare, public health, agriculture, environmental issues, diplomacy and related areas throughout the Catholic Union, a well as the high-level legislative bodies, such as the Senate.
The Black Pope (currently Pope Paresh Chopra, age 223) is in charge of matters related to the military branches, espionage, interrogation/inquisition, criminal prosecution and criminal legal defense, most penal institutions and related areas, as well as the high-level political administrative offices like governorships.
The Red Pope (right before of the start of the events of the novel and before his untimely and suspicious death, it was Pope Tommis Rendquist, age 215) is in charge of social welfare matters (law enforcement, civil and criminal judicial matters, education, social services, moral standards, etc.), as well as a few select penal institutions.
Note that the popes have always been male and there is no sign that women will ever be allowed to hold the office. In addition to being a doctrinal and patriarchal matter, there is also concern that uploading the memories and personalities of females into the Godhead would destabilize it, since it has a male persona. However, in the timeframe of this novel, women are allowed to be deacons, priests, assistant pastors, underbishops and even chief stewards of popes.
Some Benefits of Being a Pope
Papal Infallibility – A matter of dogma in the Terran Catholic Church that matters of faith and behavior handed down from a pope are the infallible will of God, even if they contradict previous edicts. In most cases, on matters of faith and dogma, the three popes will consult with each other to come to consensus, then consult the Godhead for his opinion, and then the official stance is usually announced by the Godhead himself to the faithful.
Behavioral Dispensation – The doctrine a pope is virtually incapable of committing a sin, despite the fact his actions might be considered sins among others. It is a matter of dogma in the Terran Catholic Church that a pope’s actions are either preordained by God or help to advance God’s plans, or both. Behavioral dispensation generally extends to those in a pope’s immediate circle. Plots or acts of violence against another pope or the Godhead, or an act that would damage the Terran Catholic Church itself in some severe form, are generally considered sins outside of the protection of behavioral dispensation, as they are considered blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the only kind of sin that Jesus declared unforgivable.
Prior Absolution – The act of a pope granting absolution for actions in advance. For example, if an agent of a pope will need to seduce enemies of the Vatican, the pope will grant prior absolution for the sins of fornication and adultery. Prior absolution can be rescinded by another pope, but this almost never happens. And even a pope who has himself granted the prior absolution will rarely rescind it, though it is fairly common to modify the terms of that absolution at various points.
Every six months, each of the three popes uploads his memories to the Godhead. The Godhead, in turn, integrates these memories into itself. The Godhead began with its own core personality, but the acts of uploading the memories of sitting popes (which also includes uploading parts of their personality) means that the Godhead’s personality, while it never undergoes a drastic, sudden change, is always being updated, modified and expanded.
Honor Among Popes
It is common that tensions may exist between sitting popes, particularly when jurisdictions intersect on some important matter, but there is almost never any actual scheming or plotting of one pope against another. One reason is that running the Catholic Union alone is not an attractive option, so eliminating the other popes is not generally desirable. Also, because the popes upload their memories to the Godhead twice each year, any plans to overthrow or damage another pope would quickly become known. Since this one of the very few sins not covered by the doctrine of behavioral dispensation, no sane pope would seriously consider such activities. Only once has such an issue come up, when Haruld Ischenia was named White Pope. The next day, when he did his first cognos upload, it was revealed that he planned to have the current Red Pope harmed; Pope Haruld was executed immediately by the Godhead himself during the cognos upload.
Economic/Political Approach of the Vatican
The Vatican’s approach to economics and politics is interesting. As far as politics go, the entire nation of the Catholic Union is essentially a totalitarian state, particularly as regards issues around sexual activity, contraception/abortion, marriage and conception/childrearing. In addition, citizens of the Catholic Union are sharply limited in their ability to travel outside the union’s three major regions. But at the same time, there are elected officials at local and state levels, so there is also a legitimate democratic element regarding areas of life that are not as critical to the Vatican as those noted above.
Economically, the Vatican operates the Catholic Union as a capitalist free market. But at the same time, it has long been the majority shareholder of most of the largest corporations in the union (Usually a 55% shareholder). So, it exerts a certain de facto control over business and financial dealings when those corporations might do something that would upset the societal balances the Vatican wishes to maintain. Also, as a government entity, the Vatican collects taxes from business too, meaning that in many cases, it is taxing a company and receiving financial dividends from the company as a shareholder. Not surprisingly, this is why the Vatican is wealthy enough to maintain its top-heavy bureaucratic systems.
Essentially stewards are somewhat analogous to what we know today as nuns/sisters or monks/brothers.
At the highest echelons are the stewards of popes, and these stewards hold great power indeed, often acting on behalf of their popes and being given great latitude at times to do so. Each pope has only one chief steward but also one or a few chief understewards who can wield considerable influence themselves. Stewards at that level must take vows to an appropriate order.
At the lower echelons are the stewards and understewards who serve executive and administrative officers in various orders—and these stewards serve more like office managers, executive assistants and the like; however, they also serve as liaisons between the officials they serve and the Vatican and as such, they are expected to keep watch on those they work for and report suspicious activities to appropriate Vatican channels. Lower-echelon stewards often don’t take official vows to an order, and thus retain their family names and the ability to marry and have children. However, if they serve in a particularly important post, such as serving a xec-level official, they must take “provisional vows,” which allow them to retain their name but prevent them from marrying.
Vows of the Order
To attain actual supervisory positions within an office of the Vatican, one must take vows to the appropriate order. These vows can vary from order to order, but all of them include vows of chastity; to pursue the highest levels of authority in the Vatican bureaucracy is to forego marrying or building a family. As divorce is forbidden by the Vatican, anyone who is already married may not take such vows. Those who are widowed, however, may.
Upon taking the vows, the person relinquishes his or her family name and takes on the name of the order as their surname. From that point on, the person will, if he or she rises in the ranks, get additional appellations to add in front of their new surname, beginning with man- (at the minor managerial level) and progressing to sup- (at the major managerial or supervisory level) and then ultimately to xec- (administrator or executive level). Interestingly, officers in the military don’t take religious vows, give up their names or forego families, even though the military is part of the Faith Militant; however, the civilian officials who ultimately oversee military personnel must take vows to rise to higher levels of advancement.
Some of the Vatican Religious Orders
It is interesting to note that certain orders are repeated in the offices of different popes. This is done to denote a certain similarity of duties but in no way does it indicate divided loyalties. A xec-Juris in the Office Templar, for example, outranks a sup-Juris of the Office Inquisitorial and can make assignments to that person if they work in the same department, but the inquisitor sup-Juris must answer to his or her inquisitor supervisors as a priority and is bound to the Black Pope, whereas the templar xec-Juris is bound to the Red Pope (this is seen clearly in the case of templar liaisons of the Office Inquisitorial, who work as interrogators and intelligence operatives for templar officers but also act as internal affairs agents to keep watch on and apprehend dirty templars)
Order Juris of the Office Templar (Red)
The templars are the elite police force of the Catholic Union. Most rank-and-file police work at the local level is handled by civilian constabularies, but all such constabularies ultimately report to and answer to the Office Templar.
Order Juris of the Office Inquisitorial (Black)
The inquisitors represent the intelligence/espionage forces of the Catholic Union. They also handle high-level interrogations.
Order Litigia of the Office Templar (Red)
Consists of attorneys who are solely devoted to defending or prosecuting individuals who have taken vows to an order, whether in criminal or civil court.
Order Litigia of the Faith Jesuit (Black)
Criminal defenders and criminal prosecutors who deal with the general citizenry (those who haven’t take vows to any order) belong to this order. (Attorneys who handle civil court matters for the general citizenry or handle business law, immigration law, etc. do not belong to any Vatican order)
Order Martiale of the Faith Militant (Black)
Although military officers don’t take vows, the Catholic Union’s equivalent of the U.S. Pentagon—the non-military personnel who actually control the military administratively—is part of the Order Martiale and so its highest-ranking members must take vows.
Order Consul of the Ministry of Trade (Red)
The top economic, finance and business development leaders of the Catholic Union are part of this order.
Order Academie of the Faith Cardinal (Red)
This order is focused on education, both secular and religious, throughout the Catholic Union. Teachers and professors rarely take vows, but administrators of schools, colleges and universities almost always are required to take vows.
Order Cardinale of the Faith Cardinal (Red)
This order, the members of which are known as cardinals, is focused on matters of religious doctrine and biblical interpretation.
Order Administrum of the Office of Regional and National Administration (Black)
One of the purviews of the Black Pope is to oversee governors and other high-ranking administrative political figures. They belong to this order.
Order Hippocrate of the Faith Medical (White)
Although not all medtechs are required to take vows, all fully certified physicians, regardless of specialty, must take vows to this order.
Order Preventis of the Faith Medical (White)
Most public health officials don’t take vows, but those who lead public health departments and hold supervisory positions belong to this order.
A Few Other Notable Vatican Organizational Entities
Ministry of Advanced Automation
This is one of only two Vatican bodies that doesn’t have any specific orders attached to it and that is overseen equally by all three popes, as its most important task is the maintenance and protection of the Godhead.
Papal Advisory Council
This is the other Vatican body that is independent of any specific order and overseen equally by all three popes. It is a large collection of cardinals, archbishops, archdeacons, and other high-ranking religious and political figures who provide support, advice and administrative support for the papacy.
Orbital Navy (part of the Black Pope’s operations)
As impressive as the various ground-, air- and sea-based military branches are in the Catholic Union, the military space fleet, the Vatican Orbital Navy, is the military’s pride and joy—by far the largest military spacefleet in the solar system. Much to the relief of those whom the Vatican dislikes, the vast majority of the vessels are used in a purely defensive posture to prevent serious assaults against any of the Catholic Union’s three regions, and to monitor citizenry in those regions.
Dry Sisters / Benevolent Sisterhood of St. Portia (part of the White Pope’s operations)
For a bit more about the Dry Sisters, click here to see the appropriate glossary page.
Most people who have had direct dealings with the Dry Sisters, or who know anyone who has, would almost certainly find the use of “benevolent” in the name of their order to be ironic at best—though it is unlikely they would admit it out loud in public. St. Portia was a Mother Theresa-like figure who lived during the Renewal Period and used a variety of psychosocial and punitive tactics to arrest the spread of disease and to stamp out illnesses before they became epidemics or pandemics. The Dry Sisters are a semi-militant group that is dedicated to serving in areas where diseases are a serious problem (including addiction to illicit drugs). There are currently three large Sistercamps on Earth in the three major hot zones, and numerous other smaller camps that move around and deal with less drastic problems. Each Sistercamp, is, at its core, a massive mobile building complex that can launch and relocate to a new area if and when that becomes necessary, and temporary buildings are generally set up around that core to make the Sistercamps even larger.
The Sistercamp in the LA Region, located in Capetown, is focused on reining in the disease known as CAIN syndrome, which is approaching epidemic levels, and in preventing the rise of the disease known as succubus, which got its start in the LPA region. The Sistercamp in the LPA Region, located in Porto Lima, is focused on two separate but sometimes related problems: widespread addiction to the drug RaptureX and an epidemic of succubus. The Sistercamp in the UPA Region, in MiamiDade, is primarily devoted to keeping the emophage nanovirus contained and is the smallest of the three Sistercamps.